If you’re anything like me, you can’t have failed to have noticed that there are a number of fairly similar pedals doing the rounds as such - which I keep bumping into. I will confess that I wasn’t initially particularly familiar with the Ibanez Mostortion - MOSFET Distortion, but have become increasingly more so of late. And I have really grown to love that harmonic chewy character.
The original MS10 Mostortion was part of the celebrated Ibanez 10 Series - also known as the Power Series and which included a number of only fairly recently properly rediscovered and revered pedals - like indeed the John Mayer-supported TS10. Those two green pedals - the TS10 and MS10 are part of Ibanez’s enduring pedal legacy along with the TS808, TS9, and 850, and for an extended period both have been fetching rather high prices on Reverb.com. This is partly to do with the fact that the MS10 was rather short-lived - and only manufactured from 1990-1993.
To me the original enclosure somehow reminds me of a frog - it’s not the most aesthetically appealing or sleek pedal from any angle - but does have a certain quirky charm to it. A cursory glance on Reverb.com yields 18 listings ranging from circa $325/£254 equivalent for a ’Good’ condition version, while the priciest is a ’Mint’ edition at circa $567/£443. Considering those prices it’s quite evident why there may be a market for Mostortion clones, and why so many alternatives are available. I have settled on the 4 most commonly in circulation - while there are also a smattering of custom clone pedals around - like Mike’s Custom Pedals Empty Tin.
Interestingly, if you search for Mosfet Distortion you get endless results for the DOD Gunslinger, EHX Glove, Fulltone Full Drive and I’ve seen one or two results for the XTS Winford Drive - albeit I’m not sure what the gain stage on that is. Needless to say - none of those is based on the Mostortion, and so won’t be taking any further part in this process!
The one I’ve come across most often in recent reviews and exposure is the Karma MTN-10, while I believe the 3RD Power Electronics Roosevelt Drive has been around since mid 2017. The Cascade Pedals Hosstortion was launched in the Autumn of last year, and the latest release - the Danelectro Roebuck Distortion is still forthcoming for April sometime!
Obviously the purists will want to save up for an original - while I’m rather more practically minded than that, and the one that at least initially appeals the most is the Danelectro Roebuck as we shall see. There is no point really to define the knob values for each - all are some variation of Drive/Distortion with Level Control and 3-Band EQ. Only the Danelectro Roebuck is in anyway significantly different as it inverts the patter of knobs and includes a 3-way toggle-switch clipping selector :
There still seem to be plenty of takers for the original - surely Ibanez will wake up to the possibility of a re-issue? As getting a pristine unit for $350/$400 is probably a little much. I'm not overly enamoured with the enclosure - I don't mind it particularly, but possibly I would be more motivated to seek out an original if the aesthetics of it were a little more elegant - I note that several of these were actually re-housed in more elegant enclosures! While being launched in the early 90's, aesthetically it looks very 80's derived - fine I suppose if you go for that sort of thing - for me it's not entirely my cup at tea - so I'm not going to go out of my way to pay double the price for what it's proper face value is. No doubt at some later stage the notion will overcome me that I must have the original too - so I always keep an eye out for bargains. Note that as per the demo video there seem to be some modded variations out there in the wild too - although none currently that I could spot for sale. The key component is the incredibly rare and almost impossible to find now Harris CA3260 MOSFET OpAmp! It's not clear which Mosfet these others are or how truly 'authentic' they may be. I guess part of the price is paying for that super rare component.
I only become aware of this one fairly recently - and was surprised to see it had been around since mid 2017. There seem to be lots of different knob-versions of this one, almost with no two alike. However my preferences is for the pictured original black anodised aluminium knobs. That is for sure the version I would seek out, it sounds great, but is not one of my preferred choices from this selection.
This seems to have been launched last autumn - and I must say I'm somewhat taken by the design homage to the original - some cool details in play here - and I really like the sparkly dayglo paintjob. For one of the more straightforward clones - the pricing and looks on this one would make this a cool preferred choice. While it's not my overall winner here.
I kind of knew I wanted this one from the moment I glimpsed it - I already have the excellent Breakdown PreAmp/Drive/Distortion and Eisenhower Octave Fuzz from the same Danelectro Vintage Pedal Range. These are deliberately relic'd pedals with really cool 60's style bakelite looking knobs and made from premium components. There are three in the forthcoming April batch - this Roebuck, the 3699 Octave Fuzz and Back Talk Reverse Delay - and I pretty much want all of them! I love the colour choices and attention to detail here - and I like that the Roebuck comes with a few extra clipping options - which is always a bonus. So this is likely the one I will settle on first. I've not heard to many demos yet - waiting for RJ Ronquillo to get his hands on one. Much depends on the chewy harmonic character of the breakup - it needs to have just the right degree of saturation. I'm sincerely hoping these sound as good as the Ibanez originals - and I would love to know what OpAmp is used here.
The Karma Guitars and Amps MTN-10 really did the rounds during the tail end of last year. A tweaked and refined version of the Mostortion circuit which was very favourable reviewed by all and sundry, but for me does not appeal as much to all the senses. I never discount entirely a fairly plain looking pedal, but then again I don't tend to bond with those types particularly readily / rapidly either. For me it has always been a marriage of aesthetics, functions, tones, practicality and playability. But much like ever lead guitar player ever you start by finding something you like the look of, and then you try to figure out how to make it sound decent. There's much to like about the Karma MTN-10 - but visually I dare say I would prefer even the frog-like looks of the original. Mini pedals are currently being made with beautiful machined aluminium knobs - there's really is no reason to skimp on the details!
I think most will be satisfied with any of these really - they all look and sound sufficient decent an authentic, and have largely the same performance characteristics and feauture/functions. Obviously components and circuit makeup will vary, and some will prefer the sound of one over another. It depends how much you trust the ears of the pedal engineer. I already have 2 Danelectro Vintage Range pedals and know that those sound stellar - so I'm somewhat well predisposed to adding a third from that range. The fact that you get additional clipping options just underlines the Roebuck Distortion as my preferred choice.
If I could get a genuine original Mostortion pedal in pristine condition and around the same $225 median pricing level - that would probably be my second choice option. Failing to secure one of those I would go with the vibrant modern enclosure of the Hosstortion.
There will be players for whom pricing is a critical factor - and the best least cost option here is the Hosstortion, then the Roebuck - my two frontrunners really. The Karma MTN-10 has actually just come down in price recently which kind of puts that level pegging with the 3RD Power Electronics Roosevelt Drive - I much prefer the aesthetics of that, and I'm familiar with the brand owner Dylana Scott - while I also like what I hear from the Karma MTN-10, it just somehow doesn't grab me to the same degrees.
So there you go - five different choices with largely the same outcome - which one would you pick?