Donner is well known for its affordable pedals. I recently added a Donner compressor to my small pedalboard and (because I was quite pleased) turned to Donner again to fill a few gaps in my FX.
This time I got a distortion pedal. I have an overdrive that gets me a lot of classic through hard rock. But it’s not so great at more modern higher gain rock and metal, especially rhythm. After doing some research I discovered the Donner Morpher distortion is a clone of the well-regarded $200 Suhr Riot distortion pedal.
Donner seems to be cutting costs with cheaper packaging. My compressor came in an elegant black box; the distortion pedal came in a cheap recyclable cardboard box without any the foam cutouts I had been expecting. But I’d rather they cut costs on the packaging than on the pedal itself. It doesn’t look fancy but it does the job.
The pedal follows the same form factor as their other pedals. I noticed they changed the color since its original release. It used to be a bright Ferrari red; now it’s a reddish metallic bronze. Otherwise it is identical as the original; down to the same fish decal and other markings.
Like the other Donner Mini Pedals it is only powered by 9v DC center negative plug. There is no room to fit an internal battery. Like most of the other pedals in the series it has the same single stomp box footswitch, on/off LED, and a large distortion knob near the center. It also has two small knobs at the top corners. The left one is level/volume and the right one is tone which is from left (bass) to right (treble) and balanced in the middle.
Between the two small knobs there is a three-way toggle switch labeled neutral, tight and classic.
Under the pedal, there is a rubber pad with a label stuck to the center. It works ok, but if you want to attach it to a pedal board you will have to remove it and attach velcro to the metal base underneath.
I was blown away by how nice this pedal sounds. Since it only costs $30 I didn’t really expect it to sound this good. I had checked out demo videos on youtube before purchasing but kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be too digital and fizzy. I wasn’t disappointed. It has a really nice organic distortion that can go fairly thin to full bodied and, when combined with my compressor and overdrive, you can get a broad range of really nice sounds. It can be smooth and creamy, but when dialed up with minimal if any reverb (preferably from a delay pedal), can get some really nice grit in the distortion too.
The distortion pedal has quite a lot of boost. The level/volume knob on the left is level at roughly 9 o’clock so you can reduce the volume slightly or boost it a lot. I can’t really tell much difference between the three modes on the toggle switch. There is a slight difference but they are barely distinguishable. I have a feeling that the tight setting scoops the mids very slightly.
It is also a true bypass pedal, so when turned off there is no power passing through the electronics, or buffer to strengthen and potentially color the signal.
Finally my little Marshall DSL5c can have a full range of classic tones. My high gain leads sound very good. Mild crunch to raunchy, tight rhythm. I can get pretty much any tone I want with minimal fiddling with this pedal on my minimalist pedalboard.
This is a really nice distortion pedal that sounds very musical. Never hard or fizzy. I’m really happy with it. It’s fantastic for the price. I checked out a couple of comparison videos between it and the Suhr Riot it emulates and the tone is very close indeed. Especially when you consider that the Morpher distortion costs a fraction of the price of even a used Suhr pedal, it’s fantastic. I really like it.