[review] Catalinbread Formula N°5 (by LordRiffenstein)

LordRiffenstein, all-around tone freak and purveyor of great tone.


I’m new to this company.  Had heard the name before and seen the SuperCharged OD and Dirty Little Secret on some boards but I never tried them myself. Catalinbread is based in Portland, Oregon in the good ole US of A and they build a good range of pedals from ODs and fuzzes to some modulation stuff.

Formula No.5

First of all, I loved the graphics on this pedal, they really fit with the tones from it.  The box feels solid and a peek under the bonnet shows top quality build. Compared to other Catalinbread pedals, the Formula No5 is surprisingly standard, it has Tone, Gain and Volume controls. Nothing really exotic but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can power it with any voltage from 9v to 18v DC to get more dynamics and headroom OR go below 9v for less headroom.

The pedal in use

Out of the range of Catalinbread, I got 3 pedals to test and review (see my reviews of the SFT and WIIO). When I get new pedals to try, I just plug them in and see what I get out of them.  I don’t read the manual nor check the manufacturer’s website.  So when I plugged in the Formula No5, I was scratching my head.  I know Catalinbread is pretty popular but I wasn’t ‘feeling it’. I was running it into an old Marshall and that’s usually a great platform for pedal testing. Same thing happened with the 2 other pedals.

So, I checked out the Catalinbread website and read the info about the Formula No5.  OK, this is supposed to mimic an old tweed amp.  I was using this pedal as if it’s an OD or boost pedal. It does work for this but you have to think of it as being a pedal to turn your own amp into a tweed amp. Don’t think of it as an od/boost but as a pedal to change the basic tone of your amp into another amp. I tweaked the Marshall to be totally clean with a pretty even EQ and tried the Formula No5 again.

And boy, was I in for a surprise.  I basically had all controls at noon and I got a really good, gritty clean/crunchy tone, very responsive and pretty loose in the lows.  Keeping in mind that my Marshall is a bass-version, this was a surprise. I swapped between different guitars and the tone followed me. A telecaster had great spank, a strat had me playing some mean old blues and anything with humbuckers got me a nice fat tone.  I turned up the gain to about 15:00 and put the tone a bit higher and I was greeted with a big raunchy and nasty (in a good way) tone. Very old school but so much fun to play with. Even on more clean settings, I could close my eyes and think I was plugged into an old tweed amp.  Let me add that the Formula No5 performed the same trick when I plugged it into the clean channel of a modern, high gain amp.

Last test was to put a boost in front of the Formula No5. With the gain around noon, I had a nice fat tone, I then proceeded to heat things up with the El Musico Loco Honky Dong boost and that worked just wonderfully.

Sometimes, the problem is not the car but the driver and when the driver gets to know the car better, they are in for some serious fun. The Catalinbread Formula No5 has somewhat opened my eyes.  I never thought these amp-in-a-pedal pedals really worked but the Formula No5 does an excellent job at delivering tweed-style tone without having to buy another amp.  I’m looking forward to trying more Catalinbread pedals, this is GOOD stuff.

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