Master Effects Martyr Review

A Marshall Valvestate 8100–inspired amp-in-a-box is versatile beyond pure metal applications.

Super-responsive. Huge clean-to-super-saturated gain range. Powerful EQ and contour controls. High-quality build.

Some solid-state harshness lingers at clean settings.


Master Effects Martyr


For many fans of '90s metal, Marshall's masterstroke was not a plexi or Super Lead, but the Valvestate 8100, an inexpensive, hybrid amp that remains a sonic cornerstone of several metal subgenres.

Master Effects—who brilliantly recreate many otherwise ignored building blocks of '80s, '90s, and contemporary metal tones—effectively built the preamp from the 8100 into the Martyr pedal reviewed here. The sounds are, not surprisingly, immense. But it's the lightning-fast response that will put the Martyr in the sights of metal players and anyone else who seeks a direct and savage line between pick and speaker.

Recorded with Fender Telecaster Deluxe with Curtis Novak Wide Range humbuckers through black-panel Fender Tremolux (volume at 5, treble and bass at 6) to Universal Audio OX using black-panel-style 2x12 cabinet and UA-610B preamp simulation to Universal Apollo Twin to Universal Audio Luna.
  • Rhythm track is initially OD2 mode with gain at 2 o'clock and master volume at 11 o'clock. Cleaner segment at 1:25 is OD1 mode with gain at 2 o'clock and master volume at 1:30. Contour is at 10:30, treble at 11:30, middle at 12:30 and bass at 12:30 for each segment.
  • Lead track is OD2 mode: gain at 3:30, master volume at 1 o'clock, contour at 2:30, treble and middle at 1:30, bass at max.

These days, many players beyond metal look for the textures and response that the Martyr delivers. It's easy to see why. Though the uninitiated might expect either harsh transient response or hyper-compressed saturation, the Martyr can feel exceptionally fluid, lyrical, and open. The powerful EQ section and contour control are precision scalpels for shaping the pedal's response to match your own picking approach. But the gain range is also unexpectedly huge. The lower-gain OD1 channel can be dialed back to near-clean for round, low-gain tones that could convincingly stand in for a tube Marshall in a mix. OD2 ranges to the opposite extreme—proffering super-saturated and fast-response dynamics that will make even jaded metal rippers salivate. Indeed, the Martyr is a beastly high-gain tool, but the impressively wide spectrum of tones renders it worth investigation by any experimental, fusion, or heavy-psych player interested in imparting a sharp, white-hot edge to their sonic profile.

Test Gear

Fender Telecaster Deluxe with Curtis Novak Wide Range humbuckers, '68 Fender Bassman, black panel Fender Tremolux, Universal Audio OX with Marshall 4x12-style cabinet emulation.

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