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Best of Mini, Compact, Medium and Large HM-2 Clones

DecibelicsDistortionDunwich AmplificationLone Wolf AudioMetal DistortionXIX Tech FX+-
2019GPXMiniMaxHM2Style700-min.jpg

As covered on a number of posts on this site - I’ve been a long time fan of the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal - which alas has been out of production since 1992. In the meantime a whole host of pedal-builders have stepped up to fill the gap as the number of pristine HM-2 pedals becomes ever more scarce. In fact I’ve not seen a properly ’Mint’ version on Reverb.com for a long while - too many sellers misuse that term in any case as Mint means pedal is actually and literally like new - probably unboxed and once displayed, but it cannot be used - a used pedal cannot be described as Mint - it can be ’Near Mint’ or more accurately in ’Excellent’ condition. Right now on Reverb.com the going price for a relatively decent condition version is around £250 equivalent, while some are being listed at £480 and near £800 - which is not good value in the slightest.

 

So the choice is to stalk Reverb.com and Ebay in the hope of getting a half decent Boss original of questionable provenance - you cannot know how exactly the pedal has been used and abused before you get it. Or else you spring for one of the many high quality boutique clones available. Those tend to fall into 2 quite specific categories - exact tonal replicas or extended range versions. I covered off all the key usual suspected in my Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal Pedal Considerations and Alternatives article. And more recently added the brand new Decibelics Angry Swede as a fantastic mini contender to all the ones previously covered.

 

In my usual way of selecting the very best candidates at different enclosure sizes - some of these have/had more competition than others, where certainly at the larger levels I could have made a number of different choices. In my HM-2 alternatives article I also mentioned how the Keeley Filaments got you well into the ballpark, but not quite exactly - so there were some significant head-to-head scenarios here that had to be investigated - with probably the most competition at the medium enclosure level - but still a rater obvious winner!

 

Of the above pictured awesome foursome I have both the Angry Swede and XIX Tech HMD-1 pedals already in the collection and each is a great example of exact replica and extended range. If you want exactly the HM-2 circuit in its most compact configuration and made with highest quality through-hole components - then your one and only - and indeed fantastic choice is the Decibelics Angry Swede - you of course run it with all knobs dimed for that classic signature Death Metal Sound. By contrast - the XIX HMD-1 is my favourite compact version and this gives you a little bit more - a full 3-band EQ, and a Focus dial - which allows you to EQ-shift the famous HM-2 ’Twin Peaks’ up and down the frequency spectrum. With the six dials of the HMD-1 you can get into very significantly extended range and this can produce an enhanced soundstage for many players - if you really like the HM-2 sound - but want to EQ / balance it slightly differently.

 

I mentioned that there was plenty of competition at the medium enclosure size - with the Abominable Electronics Throne Torcher, Earthbound Audio Throat Locust, KMA Audio Wurm, Walrus Audio Red, and Wren and Cuff HangMan-2D all providing suitable alternatives to one of the best known clones of all - the Lone Wolf Audio Left Hand Wrath. In fact you can get the Left Hand Wrath as such in 4 different versions - 3 medium and 1 large - or One Knob Wrath (c£120), simpler 6-knob single footswitch Left Hand Path 2019 ($200/£155), the enhanced 7-knob dual-footswtich version pictured (£189) and the mega 9-knob dual footswitch Deluxe version (£249). Of all those Lone Wolves I would still probably go with the one I selected - the 7-knob version!

 

At the larger enclosure size it’s really a 2-way between the 9-knob Left Hand Wrath Deluxe, and the above selected Dunwich Amplification Modded HM2 ($220). I felt for reasons of balance I would go with the Dunwich one - but some may prefer the dual-footswitches of the LHW Deluxe.

 

Pedals are obviously listed in ascending order of enclosure-size.


Decibelics Angry Swede - c€175/£152 (Reverb.com)

I was lucky enough to be a beta tester for this pedal - you can read more about it in my original 'Angry Swede Feature' - where I also provide a picture of the pedal's beautifully arranged interior. This is a miniaturised HM-2 clone made True-Bypass and with superior Through-Hole components - about as exact a tone replica as you can get - certainly with no other equivalents at this level of engineering. It is an exact functional clone in every way - bar a significantly reduced noise-floor - to get those fantastic Swedish Death Metal tones - you of course dime every knob - just as on the originals. It is something of a wonder that you get the tone, texture and volume from something quite to diminutive - this is a proper pocket rocket if ever there was one. For journeymen Heavy Metallers - this is your perfect touring pedal - as it is the lightest / smallest you can get away with, and is hardy and pristine and priced at exactly the right level - makes much more sense to get one of these than and over-priced HM-2 original of dubious provenance/usage history.


XIX Tech HMD-1 - £167 (Reverb.com)

I came across this pedal when I did my main HM-2 Alternatives piece last October. At the time there was one of these in stock on Reverb.com, but I moved too late and it was gone before I could pull the trigger. I then had to chase up Dmitry Trofimov via his Reverb.com store front to make me a copy - as batches of these appear very few and far between. This is though my favourite extended range HM-2 - coming as it does with full 3-band EQ, and the also incredibly useful 'Focus' dial which allows you to shift the 'Twin Peaks' up and down the frequency scale. Anyone who knows the HM-2 will be aware that the frequency profile consists of two peaks in the high frequencies and lower mids - these are the key HM-2 signature that produce that tone and texture. With the increased tone-shaping controls you have here you can significantly change/enhance the signature HM-2 sound - to tune it more to your liking as such - taming or boosting specific frequencies to better accommodate your particular rig or preferred tonal palette. This is quite a different beast to the Angry Swede above - which is a faithful replica of the original, while the HMD-1 gives you quite a bit more tweakability.


Lone Wolf Audio Left Hand Wrath - £189

Original version of these had just 6 dials - 3-band EQ, Presence, Level and Gain - with Silicon/Germanium clipping switch and dual footswitches - Modern & Vintage. While newer versions have an additional unlabelled knob in the middle - which is actually a Dry-Mix/Blend dial. The versatility and tweakability is raised slightly further here from the medium enclosure offerings as there is more real-estate here to play with. These clones are of course widely celebrated and relatively widely available now too. I will likely end up with one of these too, and then call it a day on my HM-2 obsession - unless Boss finally releases an HM-2 Waza version as is fairly widely anticipated too.


Dunwich Amplification Modded HM2 - $220/£170 (dunwichamps.bigcartel.com)

As mentioned - at the larger enclosure size there are two equally celebrated HM-2 behemoths - the Left Hand Wrath 9-knob Deluxe, and this simply known as 'Modded HM2' from Dunwich Amplification - featuring 6 knobs and twin clipping toggle-switches. There are pros and cons of each version - but for sake of inclusiveness and balance here - I've selected the fantastic sounding Dunwich HM2 - which seems to be always out of stock when I check on their website. Likely these are being largely built to demand - much like the XIX HMD-1's above.


Final Thoughts

Whichever one of these you spring for - it is highly unlikely you will be disappointed - providing of course that it is the HM-2 sound you are after. There are lots of great 'Metal Pedals' available nowadays in all kinds of tonal configurations - and probably the duo from REVV is currently amongst the strongest propositions. But if you are specifically after the Swedish Death Metal Sound - then you really cannot go wrong with any one of these.

 

It largely depends exactly what you're going for - if you want as near as exact a replica as possible - then you will find the Angry Swede mini is totally up to that task. If you want some more tone-shaping - then it's a case of how much pedalboard space you have available / are willing to sacrifice as to which of these is your perfect complement.

 

I feel that the XIX Tech HMD-1 is the perfect mix for me of tone-shaping and form-factor - while the larger pedals here can of course give you a little more. Personally though I'm not that dedicated an HM-2 fan that I would give over my pedal-board real-estate over to one of the larger pedals here. I am very happy with the Angry Swede and HMD-1 I own now - for sake of completeness though I will likely add a 7-knob medium-enclosure Left Hand Wrath at some stage and then call it quits for a while at least!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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