This 50-watt, dual-channel head conjures everything from ’80s metal to ’90s grunge and acres of heaviness in between. The Premier Guitar Fuchs Mantis 89 review.
Great build quality. Very convincing ’80s and ’90s Marshall-inspired rock tones. Surprisingly good plexi-style sounds.
Switching between channels can make the amp too dark or too bright at some shared EQ settings.
Fuchs Mantis 89
Ease of Use:
Andy Fuchs’ New Jersey-based amplifier company broke through in the early aughts on the strength of excellent Dumble-inspired designs. But subsequent amps that satisfied the thirsts of heavier rockers were hits, too. The original Mantis 100 of the early 2010s was one such creation: a fierce, fire-breathing beast that ranged from gut-thumping, American-voiced sounds to all-out scorch-and-burn.
The new 50-watt, EL34-powered Mantis 89 reviewed here roars with equally raucous attitude, yet it takes its sonic cues from the other side of the Atlantic. The “89” refers, obliquely, to its primary inspirations—the Marshall JCM 800 and 900 series, and it’s configured as a 2-channel amp that can switch between 800 and 900-style sounds.
Panel for Gold
Though its punching power suggests bigness in every respect, the Mantis 89 is a stout and relatively compact bulldog of a head. It measures 18.5" x 11" x 8.5" and weighs 38 pounds. The black vinyl, brushed-gold control panel, gold-tipped knobs, and white piping all nod at Marshall’s influence. But the circuit isn’t just a slavish reproduction of the British heads that inspired it.
A shared 3-band EQ stage keeps the multi-functional control panel down to a tidy nine knobs, which admirably perform the two-amps-in-one duties required here. The 800 and 900 channels each have dedicated gain and master volume knobs, but they share controls for thrust (a bass frequency control often known as “depth” or “resonance” on other amps) and presence, which tweaks the high and high-mid frequencies at the output stage.
The back panel is home to a few essential features. Three speaker outs offer options for 4-, 8- and 16-ohm cabinet configurations. There’s a TRS effects loop send/return jack (meaning you’ll need a TRS Y-cable to tap it), and a jack for the included two-button footswitch, which also features a preset boost function. The standby switch is also on the back panel, although the main power switch and indicator light are on the front.
In addition to the EL34s in the output stage, the amp uses three 12AX7s for preamp and phase-inverter duties. The circuit itself is built around quality components hand-mounted on a thick, sturdy PCB. A fan mounted behind the output tubes helps keep the big bottles cool. It can seem a little noisy when you’re up close, but playing at even low volumes obscures the sound of the fan whirring away.
The Mantis 89 lays down a fast and wide track to a range of arena-rock tones. And while you can summon distinctly ’80s and ’90s-style high-gain tones, there are many available sounds that sound classic and not at all dated.
Fuchs doesn’t specify which JCM800 the 800 channel is derived from, but it sounds great. It’s no one-trick pony either: You can easily get sounds that evoke more “classic” Marshalls like the 2204 Master Model circuit and the 1987 plexi. In general, when you reduce the gain and roll the master volume up, you get chunky edge-of-breakup plexi tones. Crank the gain, though, and the classic-rock lead tones get sizzling quick.
The 900 channel, on the other hand, is all fire and brimstone, and an utter blast when those moods strike you. It can be dialed back for mild crunch, but that’s not where the 900 channel feels most natural. Instead, it’s happiest cranking out hair-metal saturation, classic ’90s shred tones, and more contemporary high-gain grunge textures. And there’s plenty of crispy high-end crackle, midrange grind, and low-end thump on tap that you can use to tailor those textures for your own creative needs.
I found the boosted setting particularly delectable on both channels. In addition to the added gain (or perhaps because of it), it delivers an increased sense of size and saturation at the same time that never collapses into a compressed mess. The very effective EQ section gives you a lot of frequency shaping power, too—which is enhanced by the capable presence and thrust controls. And to my ear the thrust control actually helps the Fuchs generate more low-end oomph than either of the models that inspired it. The master volume controls work well on each channel, too. And it’s not inconceivable that you could use the amp in a 50-seater club, if necessary. The powerful EQ does make the otherwise convenient act of channel switching tricky at times. Identical settings that are ideal for one channel may not be completely suited for the other. And a few settings I liked either made the 800 channel too dark or the 900 too bright for my tastes. A bright switch for the lower-gain 800 side might be a good fix.
Like every Fuchs creation I’ve experienced, the Mantis 89 is extremely well built and well thought-out. It’s a super-functional reinvention of two heavy-rock-staple amps, and there’s more than enough power here for big gigs. But the extremely usable master volume controls keep it sounding fat and fierce at club volumes. And while I’d love to see some footswitchable means of brightening up the 800 channel independent of the hotter 900, there is, otherwise, very little to fault in this superb amplifier.
Watch the Review Demo:
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DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
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Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
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About Mystery Stocking
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Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.