Amptweaker FatRock and TightMetal Pro

GP's Art Thompson reviews the latest offerings from Amptweaker: the FatRock and the TightMetal Pro.
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A fundamental element of Amptweaker’s approach to effects design involves taking user ideas and folding them into new products. The “you talk, we listen” motivator for the FatRock ($200), for example, was to make a warmer sounding version of the previous Tight-Rock—essentially one that would work better with single-coil pickups. The controls and features of the two pedals are basically identical, but Amptweaker founder James Brown gave the FatRock a preset “fat boost” at the front end to tame the overall aggression, tweaked the Tight and Tone controls for extended low-end response, adjusted the PlexEQ circuit to reduce top-end bite, and improved the Gain Boost circuit for less signal coloration. Even the selectable noise gate (which automatically tracks gain settings) was modified to work better with the Fat Rock’s thicker sounds.

The results of all this are readily apparent, as the FatRock has a meaty distortion tone that proved easy to dial in with single-coils by keeping the Tone knob on the low side and turning on the PlexEQ switch. This has the effect of slathering butter on the sound by rolling off highs, smoothing the upper mids, and making the feel a tad squishier. The Gain control allows for plenty of sustain from single-coils too, and the Gain Boost switch is there to deploy if more is needed. The tones get noticeably edgier when the gain is revved toward maximum, which is cool for thrashier styles, but the non-boosted mode is sweeter sounding and better suited for blues, rock, and fusion—at least when using single-coil pickups.

The FatRock’s full-time effects loop is handy for adding a delay, reverb, or other effect (a switch lets you put it before or after the distortion circuit) and the SideTrak jacks provide a secondary loop that is active only when the pedal is bypassed. This is useful for instantly adding effects to your clean sound or switching to a different amplifier when you click the FatRock off. All told, with its beefed-up distortion sound and abundant connectivity options, the FatRock deserves serious consideration.

Kudos Thick sounding. Tons of gain. Smart features. Rugged build.

Concerns None.


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Just as the FatRock evolved from the TightRock, the TightMetal Pro takes DNA from the previous TightMetal and bolsters it with a number of improvements to increase its viability for metal players. These include a footswitchable Boost section with independent Volume and Gain controls, a Mid Boost switch (works in the Boost circuit to let high-gain solos cut through better), and a Smooth Edge switch to reduce high-end sizzle. The TightMetal Pro also has a High-Gain switch that toggles between classic- and modern-metal gain, 3-band EQ (Low, Mid, High), and a Mid Thrash switch for deeper scooped-mid tones. The noise gate features a Chomp switch for tighter gating (an internal trimmer adjusts sensitivity), and there’s an extra gate with a separate internal adjustment. Two internal Fat switches can also be activated if you need warmer tones. As Brown explains, “While designing the TightMetal Pro, I made sure to ask guys who didn’t like the original TightMetal why they didn’t. The Fat switches and Smooth Edge switch were things that came from those discussions, as was the 3-band EQ, which allows it to work well with different rigs, whether in front of a clean channel or straight into the power amp”

A signature feature of Amptweaker pedals is their effects loops, and the TightMetal Pro sports three: one that’s always active, another that activates when you hit the boost switch, and a SideTrak loop that activates when the pedal is off. This can be used for bringing in effects that you only want for your clean sound, or to switch to a different amplifier. The TightMetal Pro can run on battery power (the slide-out drawer can hold one or two batteries for 9- or 18-volt operation), and a power on/off switch on the front lets you shut off the battery juice when the pedal isn’t in use. The knobs illuminate when a power supply is connected, and an 18-volt supply (not included) can be used for increased headroom.

Sonically, the TightMetal Pro is a formidable pedal that delivers convincing amp-like tones with massive amounts of gain and output. It’s easy to get into the thrash metal zone with this thing: Crank the gain, activate the Mid Thrash switch, adjust the EQ to taste, and you’re there. The Boost Volume and Gain knobs can be set to deliver more punishment at the click of a switch, and the Tight knob lets you dial in the response for a tighter or looser feel. The net result of it all is intense metal tones with gobs of harmonics, great dynamic feel, and plenty of gain for searing tones with single-coils. With the Chomp switch activated, the noise gate cuts the high-gain hiss to practically zero, and works very smoothly as it ramps down to cut-off. With the Chomp switch off the noise level is higher, but notes fade out naturally and/or go easily into controlled feedback

An outstanding pedal both sonically and features-wise, the TightMetal Pro has all the bases covered for metal while providing the flexibility and tube-style warmth that make it suitable for other styles as well. For all it does, the TightMetal Pro earns an Editors’ Pick Award.

Kudos Intense distortion. Amp-like response. Excellent features. Rugged as hell.

Concerns A bit chunky at over 2.5 lbs