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Which is the Right HM-2 Style Pedal for You - Choice Alternatives at Different Sizes

BossDecibelicsDistortionKlirrton ManufakturKMA AudioMetal DistortionXIX Tech FX+-
2020GPXMiniMaxHM2Style700.jpg

This post is to a large extent triggered by the recent launch of the new V2 Decibelics Angry Swede Distortion - with added Blend control. This has for a significant time been my favourite straight-up HM-2 Heavy Metal replica favourite - and is an even better proposition now.

 

Of course if you want more extended-range alternatives - I have listed out my preferred candidates at the different enclosure sizes - Mini, Compact, Medium and Large. Since the last time I did this exercise I’ve decided to bring the discontinued original back into the frame - just for a more complete sake of comparison. I’ve also gone for different alternatives at the larger sizes.

 

Almost as new as the Angry Swede V2 is the Klirrton Kohlekeller Grindstein - you really have to be dedicated to the HM-2 craft to yield that much space to this particular voicing - however awesome it is. My medium choice on this occasion is the excellent 4-Band EQ KMA Audio Wurm - which is quite probably my next likely acquisition in this area. The previous incumbents were/are the still excellent Lone Wolf Audio Left Hand Wrath 7-knob Edition and Dunwich Amplification Modded HM2. I just fancied a spruce up in this area - I will probably eventually end up with some sort of Left Hand Wrath too somewhere along the way!

 

My extended-range compact choice still remains the Russian XIX Tech HMD-1 which still appears in occasional batches on Reverb.com - well worth snapping up. There are others at the compact enclosure size that impress - including the Pepers’ Pedals HM-Too, while I still feel that the HMD-1 has a slight edge.

 

Of course this would not be fully complete if I did not include mention / reference to my HM-DLX prototype mockup - a slightly over-the top idealised compact edition :

PT 2

You can find further alternatives in my HM-2 Considerations and Alternatives feature from a while back - possibly I need to do another updated extended piece too - surely depends on demand - requests!

 

Here follow the usual details and deliberations :


Decibelics Angry Swede V2 Distortion (with Blend) - €150 w/o tax, €179 inc. VAT (Decibelics.com)

This is still the pocket power champ and will take on most full-size alternatives in this area. This is an exacting circuit replica - which behaves and sounds exactly like the original - albeit with a significantly lower noise-floor, and now with added Clean-Blend-knob on the side. HM-2 aficionados already know to dime / max out all the controls for that core saturated Swedish Death Metal tone. This time around if you want to temper that slightly - you can just dial back the Blend knob a fraction. Otherwise it's exactly as you would expect it to be - with identical core controls. This is the ultimate in pedalboard-friendly Heavy Metal deployment. It is beautifully hand-wired with the very finest components available and occupies the tiniest of footprints. It still surprises me how potent it sounds when you stomp on it - this is now in every way superior to the Boss original - while giving you that exact same richly textured tonality. The most recently released batch is alas sold out, while there will be a new one coming around mid-June - you need to act fast as these pretty much fly out. Note as Dominik says in the above demo - that there is very slightly more bass on the V2 edition too - or around a difference of 4dB - which was a deliberate refinement. The vast majority won't detect any difference - it just shows up fractionally differently on the scope.


Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal Distortion - discontinued - around £400-£500 for Mint MIJ examples via Reverb.com

So this is obviously the OG Swedish Death Metal signature pedal - but people forget that these originals require 12V power supply, and have a pretty high-level old-school noise floor. Pristine Made in Japan examples are increasingly difficult to pin down - there is currently only one such on Reverb - going for a princely some of near £500. I also have it on good authority that Boss is highly unlikely to re-issue these in any way - which means that you need to be looking increasingly at alternatives - particularly if you don't want that significant hit to your pockets. Most of the other examples being currently touted as Excellent condition on Reverb.com are rather Very Good at best if you're being generous - there are a lot out there which are really quite battered but going for a significantly inflated price. I always thought I wanted the sense of completion with having an original variety of this pedal in the collection - but I've not come across a single one at the right level / balance of condition and price - to make it worthwhile. I am resigned really to buying more of the alternatives - which I'm pretty fine with really.


XIX Tech HMD-1 - £167 (Reverb.com - when available)

Much like many of the pedals featured here these come and go very rapidly - so you need to have your feed alerts set up for when the next batch suddenly appears. I acquired mine from the second batch of release - in fact I chased up Dmitry direct via the Contact Seller function on Reverb.com. In the absence of the materialisation of my HM-DLX (ha ha) this is still my preferred compact choice. It benefits from extended range courtesy of 3-band EQ - and a specialist Focus control which allows you to shift the position of the 'Twin Peaks' in the frequency profile - the element which is largely responsible for the particular tonality of the HM-2 style. I've not come across anything better at this size - while there are a number of near alternatives - which I covered in my HM-2 Alternatives piece a while back. This one is well worth the effort to hunt down - while batches tend to be fairly sporadic - so you need to keep your radar on high alert.


KMA Audio Machines Wurm Distortion - €225

There are a fair few decent propositions in the medium-vertical form factor - and the 4-Band EQ Wurm - with Highs | High Mids | Low Mids | Lows is one of the best at dialling in extraordinary HM-2 tones. In previous years I've pushed the more obvious Lone Wolf Audio Left Hand Wrath - which in some ways has even more tone-shaping ability - yet the Wurm is still one of the very best heavyweight contenders in this genre any many players' favourite - in addition to being one of the options that is typically more available and accessible. I've been a little late in getting fully onboard with KMA Audio - and I really owe it to Enrico Preuß to try to get up to speed. This is my most likely next HM-2 style acquisition - I'm just waiting for all the planetary forces and pieces to align!


Klirrton Manufaktur Kohlekeller Studios Grindstein Dual Distortion - €319 (Klirrton.com)

This is yet another micro-batch production where you need to move quickly to secure one. Right now the Klirrton.com site is taking pre-orders and advising on a minimum 2 week production cycle. This might very well be the be-all and end-all of HM-2 style pedals - coming in a large scale enclosure with 9 highly interactive knobs - plus a phase toggle-switch. The pedal is actually composed of two shapable and complementary circuits which fill out each other's frequency profiles and balance a tight punchy modern distortion with the classic Grind of the HM-2 core of the circuit. The HM-2 circuit / side is named the Chainsaw, and the second complementary circuit is called the Bottomshaker - which kind of explains its relative frequency profile position too. You get 3 EQ bands for the Chainsaw and 2 for the Bottomshaker - where you then use the central 'Mix' control to balance and blend those two circuits together to get exactly the right profile of distortion you are after. I've said before that with such a large enclosure I always feel that just a single footswitch looks wrong. I would always want an additional 'Sizzle' mode or else some sort of dampening switch to bring everything down a notch. I feel that the above Wurm Distortion could probably do with a second footswitch too - which the Lone Wolf Audio Left Hand Wrath certainly takes good advantage of. This is in every way a monster HM-2 style distortion.


Final Thoughts

I continue to stipulate the significance of pedal size - considering easy accommodation in your rig - how it impacts your touring / fly-rig setup etc. and how much of a focus and real-estate you're wanting to give over to this particular voicing.

 

Obviously the bigger enclosures give you more extended range and additional options that aren't practical further down the scale. While the tiny Angry Swede is actually a superior proposition to the original HM-2 in most ways - smaller footprint, lower noise-floor, added blend-knob, a tiny bit more bass - same legendary tones!

 

I will reference my HM-2 Alternatives article one last time - where you can see other suitable alternatives. There are of course many more out there - at all sizes - but hopefully I have captured most of the interesting ones.

 

Do let me know if you feel I've overlooked any significant examples and I can review further for the next entry.

 

For now - if you genuinely love the Swedish Death Metal sound - I don't think you would be disappointed with any of these - they all do the job superbly and mostly more-so! Do let me know which your favourites are here.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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