My first review for a LiberaToe pedal, and I can’t say enough about this company (I’m already into my eighth pedal from this company, with more reviews coming). Fire Sword is one intense distortion and it has a number of things going for it, far superior to other distortions I have tried.
One, it is quiet. I have played through other distortions that sounded fantastic, but as you turn up the gain, you get more unwanted noise. Not the case with Fire Sword. Second, it is dual channel, which means setting a crunch tone for rhythm and a heavier tone for lead work or more aggressive rhythm. Third, the EQ is super easy to control; both channels have a Tone knob, but also a Middle knob, which controls how much mids are scooped out or added. Yes, you can add that mid hump for a bigger, darker sound, but it is a gradual mid increase that does not produce any flub. Fourth, there is both a dry and ‘wet’ option; dry is slightly higher pitched and cleaner, whereas ‘wet’ adds a touch of volume (boost) with a tight bottom end. Again, this is perfect for thick, creamy leads, but adds a nice punch to rhythm. Fifth, Fire Sword is a module and part of the LiberaToe platform (pedalboard/switcher), but also is available as a stand-alone pedal. Sixth, this is a dual-channel pedal, which means setting up different settings and switching between those (quickly changed via the footswitch).
What don’t I like about Fire Sword? Not much. It growls and bites, but does not too chunky and thick, making it far better for cutting through the mix. However, this pedal must be used sparingly (low gain) when coupled with a high-gain amp; when with such an amp, its gain has to be turned down accordingly. However, the effect you get is much more expressive harmonics and note detail. In fact, Fire Sword’s tone and dynamics are based on the distortion achieved with high-gain tube amps, without the cost of some of those amps. Accordingly, Fire Sword is a blessing with clean amps and when you want that high-gain tone and still have it sound like a quality high-gain amp. Another instance for consideration is when you have a high-gain channel on an amp, but you’re not fully pleased with it. I’m in that camp with my Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18… I do not mind the sound of the clean channel, but find the dirty channel very dark, even with the treble turned up and the bass/mid turned down quite a bit. That is not the case when added Fire Sword to the Tubemeister’s clean channel, or if merging it with its dirty channel.
Now, I should qualify some of this, and it relates to that dark tone. For the second half of the demo, you will hear a far heavier and thicker sound than in the first half, where I do a composition with a different amp (I used its own cab sim). For the second half, I used cab sims via Spectre Studios (you can download them for free by checking the description link in Spectre’s videos on YouTube). Those cab sims are meant for heavy metal music, and they work well with high-gain amps/sims. Consequently, if you have favorite cab sims, or your actual physical cab has a dark presence to it, you do not have to ditch them. I suspect highly that Fire Sword can tame that dark gear rather well. Also, I have combined this pedal with another LiberaToe creation, the Darwin overdrive, which I reviewed previously. This works best with Fire Sword feeding into Darwin, both with their respective gains down considerably (9-o’clock or so). A very aggressive combination, but one that produces a unique high-gain flavor.
Fire Sword Distortion replicates a self-distortion effect which occurs when a large tube power amplifier and speaker box output a high volume. To emulate the amp distortion tone generated by total 7 tubes of the pre-amplifiers and the power amplifiers, devices with the closest characteristics for each tube are selected without the clipping element. Thus, depending on the dial, Fire Sword Distortion shows superior performance compared to an overdrive that has only a few real tubes. The advantage of reproducing the tube's characteristics is that unlike normal distortion, it can extract near-clean textures at low gain, allowing the two channels to act like completely different effects. Equipped with the unprecedented middle knob that simply replaces three TMB knobs to hump or scoop the tone, Fire Sword Distortion can digest a variety of genres, including Blues, Hard Rock and Classic Metal. The combination of the middle knob and toggle switch allows you to produce a wide range of gain and tone, from almost clean to the very saturated.
Fire Sword Distortion is recommended for those who like tube-like gain that doesn't get buried in by other instruments, who play hard rock and blues, funky, for those who want to easily pull backing and solo tones through the middle adjustments, and those who want to create diverse tones while maintaining a small pedal board.