Failtone: The Fulltone Catalyst

I’m a happy owner of a Full-Drive 2 M and an OCD (both Fulltone pedals) but, with the Catalyst, there's no joy in Mudville.

Despite referring to the sample settings in the instructions I couldn’t find a single useful or pleasing sound in the thing aside from the clean boost settings; other than clean boosting the Catalyst is either 'too little' or 'too much' and the distortion is fizzy, harsh, and brittle – at all volumes with eight different guitars (both single coil and humbucker pickups) through both a Bogner Shiva and a Swart AST Pro.

The bass/mid knob is almost useless as in the lowest setting is already somewhat bottom-heavy. Turning it up results in even single coil pickups sounding like a muddy mess; beyond half way the bass/mid results in massive and completely unusable bass boost. Turning the treble knob above mid-point will shred your eardrums with icepick highs. Worse, gain settings go from very little through 90% of the knob’s range to full roar in the last 10% -- impossible to dial in anything manageable.

Want a box that emulates digital (square wave) distortion from the late 1980s? Step right up. Seriously, I’ve heard ring modulators that had better fuzz than this. The Catalyst was so bad I thought it must be broken but a quick Google search reveals that a lot of folks had the same experience as I did when it came to control range and unpleasant sounds. I wonder if it is just a bad design or hit and miss on the components?

Whatever, this pedal went back pronto. I contemplated trying another Catalyst on the hunch that I was just unlucky. However, if the pedal was broken then it appears to be common and I see no point in playing the frustrating game of hunting down the good ones.