Fender Australia | Price: $159
Fender knows tone. They know how it’s made from perfectly-wound pickups, but they also know how imperfect, overwound, and underwound pickups can also produce unique tones in the right hands, and with the right woods, hardware, and guitar design. They also know amps and understand tubes, their biassing, preamplifier circuitry, and cabinet designs.
Fender are responsible for a long line of equipment that has been used, trusted, and refined for a rapidly-approaching century in the industry. Their goal has always been to serve the player, and consistent conversations with musicians, along with their unparalleled technical engineering knowledge has birthed arguably the most widely-used guitars and amps in history.
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What Fender are becoming increasingly well known for are their pedals. Fender has decades of experience in amplifying signal, so if anyone can be trusted to add a little more between your guitar and your amp, it’s them. Enter the Hammertone Metal, one of the more high gain pedals available as part of their Hammertone range. Hammertone Metal is a four-knob drive pedal with controls for level (output) and gain (input/internal gain), low, and high EQ control to boost either end of your tone. You can also think of this as a massive scoop in the mid range. Finally, the Hammertone Metal has a bright blue LED that can easily be seen on stage.
The Hammertone Metal is a four-knob distortion housed in an aluminium hammered box. It has a simple input and output located on the top of the pedal, and can be powered by a 9V battery or adapter. The 9V input is also located on top of the pedal for easy integration into your pedal board. Like the rest of the range, the Hammertone Metal is true bypass so it’s a giver, not a taker, assisting further in retaining the dynamics of your tone. For the spec-heads, this pedal has a 500k-ohm input and 470k-ohm output and will draw a negligible 24mA from a power supply. The ‘low’ EQ seems to boost in the low mids, around 200Hz, while the high acts somewhat as a shelf that introduces frequencies progressively upwards of 4-5k.
The Hammertone Metal is, in a few words, a super usable distortion. While the branding and name of the pedal place it in a certain category of pedal, the gain knob offers a super wide range of tones from subtle, tubey breakup to all-out American-sounding distortion. Somewhere in the middle gives you a little British rock, and most tone-hunters can find a home somewhere among these options. What makes the Hammertone Metal especially handy is how quiet it is, meaning you can dial in some subtle drive, then push the output hard into your amp and create even more unique tones without introducing too much noise. Guitar players will feel right at home with the clearly laid out dials, as well as the sounds roaring from that output. It can offer familiar tones that resemble tubes screaming, or more high-gain tones more associated with amplifiers with two or three rectifiers, all while retaining clarity and punch and never introducing mud. Other pedals within the Hammertone range are equally focused on their own niche of gain, and the Hammertone Metal reproduces every tone that influenced heavy metal in one way or another. From a subtle amplifier push that was used in the ‘60s to a bluesy warmth, before increasing levels of gain exposed our pick attack and shaped an entire genre.
Using the Metal to boost specific frequencies makes it a really handy and unique tool in your arsenal. The high section of the EQ brings out attack, snarl, and the transients of your playing and can help drive them into your amp for tube saturation of those frequencies or solid-state transistors depending on your preferences. The other end of the spectrum allows you to boost low-end punch into your amp for warmth or impact, more clearly defining chugs and giving those speakers that ‘womp’ that makes simple open riffs so good!
All in all, the Fender Hammertone Metal is a pedal that could give every player something they’re looking for. It takes up minimal pedalboard space, uses minimal power, and what’s more – the input and output are even located in a super practical place. While the ‘metal’ branding may conjure up a certain sonic imprint, the Hammertone Metal is much more than that. It’s a drive pedal that is low noise, powerful, and simple to use. EQ controls allow us to shape our tone further than most pedals, and the gain introduced is as aggressive as you need it be, while being super clean and pairs perfectly with a loud amp for minimal noise and maximum bite.
Fender are experts in tone, having invented, shaped, inspired, and refined it for longer than anyone else in the rock game, and the Hammertone range is no exception. The Hammertone Metal is just one example of a big range of more affordable pedals in the Hammertone series, all of which are equally robust, road-ready, and quickly being scribbled on my list of Fender gear to buy.
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