Menatone’s The King. Review – Best “Marshall” Distortion Pedal?


Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On December 15, 2015
Last modified:October 21, 2016

Summary:

Menatone-The-King-Review-Best-Marshall-Distortion-Pedal-01

I’ll never forget the first time I first played a Menatone pedal. I was at Rudy’s Music on the famous “Music Row”, a strip on 48th St in Manhattan once lined with music stores. This store in particular was the place to go in NYC for boutique guitar pedals. After trying a bunch of distortion and overdrives, a shop employee recommended I try a few Menatone pedals. One of them was the King of the Britains, a roaring “Marshall-in-a-box” style distortion that was full of the exceptional tones you’d expect from such a pedal that does the job right. Fast forward to now, and I was recently surprised in the best possible way to learn that a new heir was inheriting the Menatone throne: The King.

“Menatone’s The King.” (yes, with a period at the end, although I’ll refrain from using it unless at the end of a sentence) is the latest and perhaps ultimate evolution of the flavor of dirt Menatone has tweaked over the years in various iterations of the King of the Britains. No this isn’t exactly another King of the Britains pedal, per se; it’s an all-new circuit that collects upon Brian Mena’s nearly 20-years of experience crafting pedals and is inspired by his favorite British amp designs. Think classic Marshall JTM45 & Plexi Super Lead tones to raging modern distortion. The King, if anything, just might be Menatone’s final word in Marshall flavored dirt pedals.

Features:

Controls:

  • GAIN: adjusts the overall gain in the preamp
  • DRIVE: sets the character of the distortion. set low for vintage ‘60s gain, middle settings will yield more ‘70s bark, and high settings will get you huge modern levels of gain.
  • MID: think of this as an overactive mid control, from 0-5 it acts as a normal amp midrange, from 5-10 it bypasses the EQ for a flatter response
  • HI: this increases and decreases the treble frequencies
  • LO: sets the tightness of the low end. turn past noon for a woollier fatter tone, turn below noon for a tighter more modern sound

Internal Controls:

  • EQ Shaping Trimpot: variable from 60’s ear, 70’s era, to modern era tones and anywhere in between
  • Modern/Vintage Switch: Selects between a modern sound & a more vintage tone. Use in conjunction with EQ Shaping Trimpot for best results

Power:

  • 9V battery or 9V power supply not exceeding 200ma, battery access is through the four screws on the back plate
  • Power Adapter: Negative Center – Positive Ring. After many years of repairing damage from mediocre power supplies, Menatone now only recommends Voodoo Lab Pedal Power supplies. Use all other supplies at your own risk!

Menatone-The-King-Review-Best-Marshall-Distortion-Pedal-02I want to make a few brief “The King vs King of the Britains” comparisons in terms of features and construction. The King of the Britains has been released in many iterations. (There are 4-knob, 5-knob, 6-knob, & 7-knob versions of the KotB!) Each of these different pedals elaborates on the theme, but all except the compact 4-knob version are pretty bulky in comparison to the featured-packed The King. Therefore, this pedal seems to one-up the previous “Kings” in terms of how much tone-shaping control it offers from its 6 surface knobs, internal EQ trimpot, and internal Mod/Vint switch while remaining relatively compact in size.

While the King of the Britains pedals are known for being point-to-point wired, The King uses a PCB with through-hole mounted components. This greatly contributes to why Menatone was able to condense this pedal to its compact size and fill it to the brim with features for maximum tweak-ability. This also allows Menatone to more easily hand-build these compact pedals while still keeping end user cost as low as possible. Basically, this is a good thing for Menatone and an even better thing for consumers.

Visit Menatone for more info about The King.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

After spending a little time with The King I realized that to simply try to judge this pedal in comparison to a particular amp’s sound is to sell this pedal short of what it does. Sure, I’ll summarize now by saying that The King’s tones do indeed fall into the realm of the classic Marshall amps that inspired this pedal. But there’s so much more to what makes this pedal special than that.

Menatone-The-King-Review-Best-Marshall-Distortion-Pedal-03On the surface you’ll find a typical amp-like “Hi/Mid/Lo” EQ section with familiar Gain & Level controls as well. The Drive knob is of special note as it seems to be a sort of ‘bias’ control that adjusts the overall headroom and gain output of the pedal. It’s used in conjunction with the Gain knob for dialing in the character of your sound and general response of the pedal. Lower drive settings are good for ‘cleaner’ tones as you’ll have less gain on tap from the Gain knob. But it’s important to note that the character of the Gain knob changes depending on where the Drive is set. Also, with the Drive set lower, the clean tones will be fuller and warmer sounding. If you crank the Drive and lower the Gain, the clean tones will be thinner but very articulate. If you max the Gain and experiment with various Drive settings, you’ll discover everything from classic overdrive to more modern distortion sounds.

Menatone-The-King-Review-Best-Marshall-Distortion-Pedal-04When you pop off the backplate, things get really interesting. The trimpot allows you to span an even wider range of sounds Menatone has labeled from 70’s through Modern to 60’s. Then there’s a Vintage/Modern switch, not to be mistaken as a general “hi-cut” switch as it also seems to affect the overall tonality and response of the pedal. These controls open up a whole new range of options for expanding the sounds of The King. The intricacies and sweet spots are near infinite, and it all comes down to your guitar and amp of choice. Personally, I’m digging the trimpot towards the 70’s area with the switch set to Vintage for my humbucking pickup tones. For single coils I usually roll the trimpot all the way to the 60’s extreme and leave the switch set to Modern. I’ve tinkered with these controls for hours, and these settings happen to work for me. But I’m with Menatone in saying that “there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ settings. Let your ears tell you what works for you.” Words to live by right there.

On that note I’ll emphasize that I especially dig using The King with single coils. My American Fender Strat seriously loves this pedal. Tone is such a personal preference, and you rarely find a single pedal that works well with such a variety of instruments as does The King. You often need different tools for different jobs, be that guitars, amps, or pedals. But The King is just a beast with single coils and really beefs up your sound. Quite frankly, it’s been taking my Strat into the territory that I usually call on my Flying V or SG for, so this pedal gets added points for thickening up a Strat for raunchy rock rhythm playing. But as I mentioned previously, all manner of clean or thinner tones can be found. A kingdom of great tone awaits your exploration.

An observation that I have to point out is that the Drive knob and internal controls are settings that you’ll typically find absent from most distortion & overdrive pedals. These seem like the kinds of values that a builder might preset in the circuit design to create the particular voice of a pedal. But for The King these parameters give the guitarist the final say in how the pedal sounds and feels, and they’re crucial to using The King most effectively. Its entirely possibly that a few guitarists could plug in and dismiss The King if they don’t find the sound they’re looking for immediately. For example, while I prefer the 60’s trimpot setting with my Strat, the default value was 70’s. Basically, this pedal is a sandbox of tone that you can tweak to suit your needs if you’re willing to get acquainted with it. Doing so is recommended as the greatest rewards are found with a little tweaking.

I have a few last things to mention. The mid-gain levels are particularly good if low to moderate overdrive is called for. And definitely try stacking it with an overdrive in front. Think Tube Screamer into a Marshall, and you know where I’m going with this. I find it particularly pleasing to dial in a moderate gain sound and kick it over the top with an overdrive pedal. Also, while I like The King’s higher-gain settings as well, the level of articulation you achieve will depend on your overall combination of the various parameters with your choice of guitar & amp. The versatile EQ makes this pedal a killer option for use as a tone-coloring boost as well. And The King will clean up well when you roll back your guitar’s volume knob just as any good tube amp does. The only real fault is that I wish the internal options protruded from the sides of the pedal (in knob & switch form) to allow adjustment without needing to remove the backplate. This would make it easier to alter the sound and response of the pedal for use with different guitars (assuming you don’t find a one-size-fits-all setting for your own needs).

There’s really no denying that The King is one of the best Menatone pedals released so far. Let’s see the final result.

Menatone-The-King-Review-Best-Marshall-Distortion-Pedal-05

 

Overall-Rating-5.0

“Menatone’s The King.” is a well-rounded overdrive, distortion, & boost pedal and one of the most versatile pedals chasing the “Marshall-in-a-box” sound. It’s overflowing with options for shaping your sound from EQ’d cleans to mild and heavier overdrive to all-out Marshall-inspired roar. I particularly recommend trying this pedal with single-coil pickups as it made me not want to put my Strat down. Fortunately, this pedal is tweak-able enough to pair with any guitar & amp combo thanks to its extra voicing options under the hood, essential parameters for making the most of this pedal. Pair it with an overdrive for a match made in heaven. There isn’t much this pedal can’t do. For many guitarists it will prove itself appropriately named. Hail to The King.

That concludes our “Menatone’s The King.” review. Thanks for reading.

 

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252 COMMENTS

  1. This is the ‘Swiss Army Knife of the Marshall sound. If you have a fav dirt pedal then the very worst this can come out against is in second place,
    Seriously. Maybe keep one other dirt pedal to do your few solos on but not having this is just plain nuts. There are a lot of tunes you do with a dirt pedal that even if you have 2 or 3 they will not do that tune tune justice.
    I love my dirt pedals. No bull…I have 14. If I lost them all I would have no other choice to make but get one of these first so I could do my gigs
    This pedal in one word is quite simply …’REMARKABLE’.

  2. Oh man, what a great amp in a box.
    I’ve been eyeing old JCM 800s on craigslist, but this might save me some money.
    Especially if I won one. *wink wink*

  3. I could really use some added dirt! I started my electric guitar life with a Fender 65 Twin Reverb. Clean as a whistle and no effect loop. I like the dirt that the King offers while not drowning other effects in the chain. Nice choice for a review.

  4. This pedal is what my SG absolutely needs! The 60’s vintage mode makes me think of the legendary Bluesbreaker Tone that I really really love and that’s what I’m looking for a long time… Hope to win!
    Greetings from Italy! :)

  5. seems like it has a pretty decent range and enough control to accomodate single coils and humbuckers without sacrificing possibilities

  6. Sounds amazing! I’d love to win this pedal as I play through a Fender amp and I love those sounds but I’d like to add some great Marshall tones too without adding another amp. Thanks for the review!

  7. Does anyone know what the best way to use this with a Vox AC style amp would be? I’ve tried a few Marshall style drives but I can never seem to figure out if the amp should be EQ’d flat and clean or if I should put it into an already driving amp or what I should do! Maybe I just don’t like playing with the sound of a Marshall amp, but I love it when I hear other people use them. Anyone else had trouble using Plexi-style pedals into a Vox? (This pedal looks heaps rad, especially with that three band eq, might give it a try if I can find one locally)

  8. Commenting because I can’t remember if I already commented. Please disregard this comment if I previously commented a comment.

    Plus, this looks like the most useful overdrive/distortion pedal ever created, so there’s that.

  9. Drive, level, gain AND AN EQ

    YOU GUYS ARE SPOILING US.

    So many tonal possibilities in one box. sounds great on the demo (good guitar playing too)

  10. That’s a nice sound. But ye shall not mock the genuine King of the Britains. The lady of the lake showed me Excalibur. That’s why I am your king.

  11. As a self professed overdrive junkie, I am really interested in this pedal. I love the VFE Pale Horse, the Airis Savage Drive, and the EQD Palisades. I find myself always wanting to try new OD pedals – I really like how my 5150 III responds to the preamp getting slammed with a high level of volume and a bit of grit. It just brings my tone to life. I’d love to give this pedal a try.

  12. That bottom end sounds so nice with some gain on it!!! I am madly in love with any drive/boost that can maintain the low end or even boost it, and this pedal offers that and some. Awesome stuff.

  13. Seems like one of those blue collar pedals. Not so exciting at first , than u end up using it all the time. Sign me up for it

  14. The moment I can play music that sounds like Uncle Acid and the deadbeat’s is the day I will be content with myself. Too bad I’m a comically poor student, because that seems like a killer pedal.

  15. I’m generally in favour of deposing monarchies and dynastic powers by revolutionary means but here’s one king I’ll support!

  16. I’ve already got the Blue Collar from Menatone and it is a very well voiced, thick and creamy pedal when it’s time to take a lead.
    Well crafted pedals from Brian, surely looking forward to be able to play with The King!

  17. I’m looking into getting a new overdrive, and it’s currently down to this, the Dirty Little Secret and the Wampler Plexi Drive.
    This thing looks pretty good, but I do wish that they’d kept the fully ladened swallows on the box.

  18. Once again a stellar review of a menacing pedal. Thanks for keeping us all tuned to what’s new and great. The King lives. All hail the King.

  19. Wow – that sounded way better than I honestly expected it to.
    Would love to play around the vintage settings.
    I think a lot of pedals get judged by their artwork.
    I’m digging it.
    Jonathan

  20. It really looks and sounds like this pedal would be an excellent addition to my youth outreach program as it would enable them to accurately model or recreate the tone and music from any era they choose. Plus this pedal would help to inspire and empower the youth to forge and create their own unique sound. This pedal quite possibly could become a major tool in our efforts to provide a way for the youth to redirect their time, energy, and efforts towards creating, living in harmony, and being a part of something real instead of being on the streets as a destructive force that the gang and street life mentality brings which is fostered by the absence of hope and the lack of opportunity that abounds in the inner cities and more in the crazy world today. Nice review! I do need to find the time to stop by more frequently and learn of more effects that we could incorporate into our project. Thank you for your time and efforts in doing the reviews and building this site as it is appreciated.
    Peace!

  21. It is very lovely, I would be so happy if I win the pedal. it would be a very great help to my music. Bestguitareffects you are the best, thanks for making me smile. God bless your good heart.

  22. This one has been top of my list for MIABs for awhile. No one around here has one to try out, so thank the GODS for bestguitareffects and their demos! I have a great “natural breakup” amp, but it just can’t get that mid-to-high-gain JTM sound that I crave.

  23. Given that I have a great clean amp and no experience with Marshalls, I would certainly be overjoyed to get “that” sound with this intriguing pedal!

  24. This sounds great, I’m looking for a different OD/DS pedal for the last spot on my board. This one sounds intriguing and would provide the tones I’m looking to get out of my rig. Yes Please!! :)

  25. I feel fairly safe in saying that in the World of Effects, “dirt boxes” are king. Whether this is due to being one of the FIRST actual “self contained” effects developed in the early ’60’s, or guitarist’s primal love of overdriven and distorted guitar, there’s certainly NO other class of effect that can match the overall mind numbing number of overdrives and distortions currently available.
    Most guitarists have multiple units: I’m personally up to 15 and counting. I’d consider Menatone’s “The King.”, being a “Marshall-in-a-Box”, would be competing with my Boss DS-1 Distortion, MT-2 Metal Zone, Marshall “Guv’ner II”, and a Joyo “Ultimate Drive”. “The King.” sound’s great here; at least as great as anything could through my computer’s Logitech two 2-1/2″ satellite L-R speakers and a 6-1/2′ cube sub.
    So this is where I pose the “fly in the ointment” critical question of running anyone’s “Amp-in-a-Box” style O.D./Distortion pedals: I primarily run Fender tube amps, so exactly how much can I expect the Menatone to make it sound like a Marshall? Would it be better running it or, for that matter, ANY of the others out there through a F.R.F.R (Full Range/Flat Response) system? I’ve yet to see any of the Guitar magazines or websites address this and I’m curious.
    In the meantime, and if by chance I can win this pedal, please send it posthaste so I can try and answer my own question; an inquiring mind needs to know! :)

  26. I’d love that pedal, it sounds from the review that it has everything I would need in a pedal. I think it would pair nicely with my Orange amp and cabinet in sound. I love that vintage sound combined with overdrive, distortion and boost, I love a multipurpose pedal of that design. I’d love to win this pedal and play around with it, for hours if needed to get the perfect sound out of it, especially that vintage sound. Anyone can buy a pedal and get a sound of today but that deep vintage sound is what I’m after. Good luck to all and I hope I win!!!!

  27. It has that sound of two elf-made swords grinding together. It whisks you away to a place where dragons kiss princesses and Presidential elections are between two very electable people, thus ushering in positivity for all. Eargasms aplenty is my prediction if I am fortunate enough to acquire this weapon.

  28. “Variable from 60s ear”? I heard what you said but I knew what you meant (As the salesman said when the young lady asked where she could get felt).

    As someone who bought a Boogie for it’s sound this pedal falls at the first hurdle in the ‘do you think I’m plexi?’ stakes, but it nontheless looks interesting purely as a do-it-all fuzz/overdrive/gain pedal.

    Currently, for me, it would be a nice pedal to win but I wouldn’t pay for it. Some lowlife stole my effects bag (May the droppings of a million sheep descend upon their head every time they step through a door) and boutique pedals are out for me, I’m busy scouring Reverb and Ebay for cheapo cheapo generic pedals, but had I the cash…

    As I said, it sounds interesting, but I think I’d want to try comparing it to other pedals, maybe a King Of Tone for instance, and if the Boogie continues getting heavier at its current rate I may well switch to a lightweight clean transistor amp and really need this pedal to give it some guts (Does the effect back off when you back off the volume?), but right now it’s nowhere near the top of my list.

  29. As a Marshall user of many years,I can’t fault their tone-but boy are they heavy!This pedal seems to offer a lot of versatility and handle the tricky lower gain sounds,and it is a little bit smaller/lighter than a stack.

  30. zillions of marshalls in a box out there…
    but some make me more curious than others!
    this one give us more control over the tone.
    Must be great

  31. Holy Moly! I can finally have the tone I have been looking for, without having to spend $2000 for my dream amp. Thanks so much for this opportunity

  32. Man, that’s a sweet pedal! I love that it handles anything from vintage, over-driven stacks to modern, face-melting, over-the-top distortion!

  33. Looks like a nice pedal. Needing a drive/distortion pedal so I’ll be looking into this more. Thanks for the content.

  34. The King sounds great to me! I can hear that stackability! I lvoe stacking distortions, and would love to try this pedal, probably first into a full bore metal, or using a OC clone into it! Of course it sounds awesome by itself, which is most important. Thanks !!!

  35. Music says things that words cannot. And tone says things to the player that allows the player to convey musically; what those words cannot, but in the tone of angles. This pedal get you there!

    Tone chasers, audiophiles, tone snobs, you know who you are. There are those pedals that you hear every now and again that captivate you, grab your attention and bite into the vein of “your sound!” And just fit.

    I only allow so many pedals on my board, they have to be part of “my sound”. If they don’t play well with others they’re gone in a month. I borrowed one for on my tour pedal board 7 months ago, I’m not giving it back, so yeah been its worth every cent..

  36. That’s genuinely awesome sounding. I’ve been looking for a way to get great Marshall tones without buying another amp for a while, but nothing has really resonated with me yet; this might be it!

  37. Has a great distortion /fuzz shape. From Hendrix and Credence to a Dire Straits more modern tone. Would be great for leads or rhythm. A must have in your train.Fantastic!

  38. Hmm, played a couple of the famous “marshall-in-a-box” pedals, would be really interested to try this one :) Really appreciate the full EQ, adds a lot of versatility

  39. Great review. One can never have too many overdrive pedals. With this demo, I especially love the funky tone achieved a little ways past the 6:00 mark. Makes me wonder how this would sound stacked with my ‘Timmy’ on my main board, or even the ‘Soul Food’ on my “grab and go” board.

  40. I’d love to try it … but the right to left hi > low knobs might drive me crazy. Destined to sit upside down on the pedal board!

  41. Very versatile pedal. One of my primary requirements in a pedal is adjustability, and this one certainly fits the bill.

  42. Amazing pedal! Always wanted a great overdrive and glad to hear there are those out there that produce amazing pedals. Awesome!

  43. Looks like a pretty cool, versatile pedal. If they could find a way to let you tweak the 60s/70s/Modern settings without popping off the back plate, it would be even better, but that would probably make it bigger and more expensive.

  44. Never played on but this review made me want to try. I’m typically a Fender guy but I’d love to try out some Marshall sounds.

  45. Awesome pedal. I would like to add this one to my board! Since I can’t afford a Marshall amp, this is the best alternative!

  46. I’ve never had the chance to use this incredible pedal yet, still every single review tells me I have to get one. Amazing sound, beautiful design, real Royal quality. Love it.

  47. This pedal seems very versatile within the sound they are going for, lots of options with the EQ and even with the gain set low you can get a nice overdriven crunchy tone or even some smooth blues leads with that saturated sound. I also love how tightly controlled the distortion is when the gain is turned up, the notes and chords really stay well defined and don’t just become a fuzzy mess of tones. I also dig the metal housing and the overall look of this box, very simple and classy design. What more would you need in a box offering a range of Marshall like tones?

  48. Menatone has been doing the amp-in-a-box thing for so long that you really need to consider their offerings–they know what they’re doing.

  49. This is hands down one of the best – if not the very best – “marshall in a box”-style pedal on the market. All the Menatone pedals are great, but this one really grabs my attention! Super tweakable and super toneful.

  50. Awesome demo; I agree with Brent J that it is a versatile pedal. I guess it also helps to have someone who knows how to play.

  51. This is exactly the kind of Marshall in a box pedal I’ve been looking for my 70’s style Ibanez stratocaster to run through! Also saving up to replace the stock pu’s on my Samick Greg Bennett Torino II (SG style guitar) with some Lücking ’59 True Vintage (vintage PAF inspired) pu’s, could imagine that sounding awesome through this gritty quality pedal top! You should really check out Lücking pickups, they are handmade in Denmark and sound awesome!

  52. This pedal looks good and sounds good. It seems to have a wide variety of options, some of them hidden under the hood, to once tailored to your individual.needs set and forget, i.e. Vintage/modern switch and 60’s/70’s/mod pot.

    My fingers are crossed now the competition has been entered.

  53. I like the sound of that! It would work great as a preamp on my board, and i would like to hear what it sounds like with my A/DA gcs-1

  54. Enjoyed the videos I’ve seen on Menatone’s The King. Has a lot of character and versatility. Would be great to own and play.

  55. whoa…I have a Blog Stomp Box Steals. It has is over 10,000 strong and growing. The King. has got the most hits of any pedal in the history of the Blog.The pedal is the best box i have heard since the Klon.
    Like the Klon the guy is a one man show. So buy the pedal. or one day he will get fed up and quit and you will end up on eBay trying to find one for less then a thousand bucks.
    The thing is that good.
    What dirt box do you know can do a clean sound like Hendrix got in the ‘Wind Cries Mary’ or a dead accurate chunky light OD sound that was used on all the old Stones records.
    Listen. A pedal that is based on these dead clean sounds creates its distortion from the sound of an actual amp …not their imagination.
    That is quite an accomplishment..
    You will buy and sell other OD’s from time to time. But this one is a keeper.

  56. I have been looking for some time for an overdrive / distortion pedal to og with my 50’s stratocaster, a Fender Blues jr. and a Catalinbread Echorech pedal (also a nice pedal). This may be the one. I mostly play 50’s and 60′ Music, like Shadows and surf-music, and sometimes find the sound from the Blues jr. a little soft. I especially like the sound of the vintage mode sound for this pedal, and I do think it could be a nice part of my gear.

  57. I love all the features of this pedal. Especially the vintage and modern switch. You can get a lot of tone from this pedal and If I owned this I would use it all the time.

  58. Hi Gabriel,

    Thanks for the great review of Menatone’s The King. What an awesome pedal! I’m looking forward to the video demo and I know you will do an excellent job with it.

    I have a question about the review…at one point, you recommend using a 9v power supply “not exceeding” 200ma.

    I have always heard that it’s important to use a power supply rated “at least as powerful” as the stated rating. I’ve heard that using a more powerful suppy does not hurt the pedal because a pedal will only draw as much power as is needed. But if one uses a supply with TOO LOW of a rating, that is when the pedal can be damaged.

    So I am curious to know if The King pedal is an exception to this basic principle. Or perhaps what you really meant was to “use a 9v power supply rated “at least” 200ma. Enquiring minds want to know!

    I really appreciate your excellent reviews and videos! Thanks so much for your great work. I enjoy reading and hearing the pedals and rely on them to get the real scoop.

    All the best to you and keep up the great work! – Gary

    • I’ve got a Big Zed compressor/overdrive twin pedal which works fine off a battery, but when plugged into a 1.7 amp power supply, hisses like a crazy hissy thing. I was online and searching for a Hush pedal when it occurred to me that it might be the PSU causing the problem, so I tried it with a 100mA supply and it’s fine, so I figure this pedal may have a similar problem.

      What I want to know is, if Aphex could bring out pedals that worked on anything from 5 to 50 volts, 5 or more milliamps, AC or DC, positive or negative earth, why can’t everyone?

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