SOUND: Overall this pedal has great sound; a boutique-quality pedal developed by an amplifier company, which says a lot. The tones it produces are wide and varied, due to the range of both the Drive control and the EQ. If keeping the EQ flat and Drive all the way down, the MTN-10 is a literal clean boost. Most supposed ‘clean boosts’ on the market tend to add a bit of gain or color in the signal, but the MTN-10 all the way down does not, which is impressive. With the Drive a touch up and toward 9-o’clock there is a nasty bit of hair in the signal, that dirty overdriven tone ideal for vintage Rock and Rockabilly. Once around 10-o’clock and upward of 12-noon and there is a solid crunch gain tone. When turning the Drive to 1-o’clock and beyond that overdriven sound has more of a distortion quality – a fine grain that cuts well through the mix. The EQ knobs are touch-sensitive and vary greatly (particularly the treble). Back off the midrange slightly with a hint more bass and treble and you get a great sounding scooped tone. Crank up the midrange and it becomes very heavy and modern. Overall, this is one pedal that has a bigger range than most – from an actual clean boost to Bluesy swamp rock to punchy high-gain tones that lives in the realm of Stoner Rock and Doom Metal. Best of all, the MTN-10 is rather responsive to playing dynamics, and also very transparent as it brings to life an amp’s underlying characteristics (which means this pedal will sound different with different platforms).
BASIC OPERATION: To achieve a truly clean boost, simply set the Drive all the way down and the Volume around 12-noon (this may have to be increased or decreased, depending on your amp’s setting and how the MTN-10 behaves with your amp). The EQ likely will all be turned to 12-noon or possibly a bit of tweaking (depending on the boost sound and tone coloring desired). How much Drive you want to add to the mix depends on what sound you want, but also whether working with a clean or dirty amp. The MTN-10 has an aggressive Drive when low to moderate, and so combining it with a dirty amp likely will not require anything more than the pedal’s Drive set at 10-o’clock (and I suspect less with truly high-gain amps). With a clean amp there is far more flexibility, with some modest dirt at low settings, crunchy Rock toward the middle and more high-gain distortion (almost thick fuzz-like at full bore) thereafter. The EQ knobs make a big difference with just a slight turn in any direction, ideal for finding your signature sound or to accommodate short-comings of your gear. Begin with everything at 12-noon and adjust from there.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Karma is known for hand-wired amplifiers, and with such craftsmanship remaking and improving a classic pedal from the 80s (the Ibanez Mostortion), you’re in for several surprises. True bypass, the MTN-10 utilizes the original CA3260 chip, albeit with upgraded parts throughout. Unbelievably flexible, the MTN-10 delivers clean boost, gritty Rock tones and even fat Metal distortion. The wide-ranging EQ may be useful for sculpting some very unique and varied tones, but also serves to brighten up dark amps/pickups or to tame bright, harsh ones. At $199 USD this is a typically priced pedal (neither low-budget nor boutique ridiculous) and you get a lot of tones and quality at that price. Seriously the MTN-10 works for Country music as well as Hard Rock… and beyond, and I suspect Karma Guitar Amplifiers wanted it that way and to accommodate guitar players from different walks of life and different music genres.