Some distortions are warm, others are fat, and still others are chewy. The Fireman Distortion was meant to sizzle and cut through the mix. The grain is fine to medium overall, but the two channels do sound different from one another. Channel 1 has a slightly fatter, warmer and crunchier sound, whereas Channel 2 is sharper, punchier, bolder and with more bite. As you can tell, this was designed on purpose and to act as rhythm and lead channels. NUX indicates that the Fireman is based “on the legendary amplifier builder’s famous distortion pedal,” and I presume it may be the BE-OD by Friedman. If so, and I do have that pedal, it has similar tone characteristics, although different enough that it’s not an exact replica (the Friedman distortion sounds so much like a Friedman amp, whereas the Fireman is not as bold and aggressive, which makes it more suitable for lower gain distortion playing (or perhaps adding a touch of distortion to an already dirty amp, which is not something the BE-OD does very well). Regardless, turn up the Gain on either channel and it is modern rock/metal intense.
Do note that the accompanying demo has the pedal set for 18v, via a toggle switch on the back (the Fireman requires a standard 9VDC [negative center] power supply, but is capable of doubling the internal voltage to 18V for a wider dynamic sound). I did this as I prefer the slightly fatter sound of 18V vs. the thinner and tighter sound of 9V. As another bonus, you can select (via toggle switch) whether the Fireman operates as True Bypass or Buffered. Very nice!
Now, you can set the Volume and Gain for each channel separately, although the EQ, Presence and Tight controls affect both channels. This does not seem to be an issue, since I like the same Presence and Tight controls for both channels, and once you set the EQ you can control the tone (if necessary) via a guitar’s tone knob. Generally, I like the same EQ settings for both channels, as well. The EQ has a decent range, in that taking away or adding Bass is not excessive and nearly any setting sounds pretty good. Unless you like a heavier bottom end, I find setting the bass around 12-noon or slightly more is good (with my gear and guitar). The really kicker is the Treble control, which sounds very much like a treble-boost as you dial it up. Right around 1-o’clock is about right, but bringing the Treble up more still sounds intense without being brittle or bright. The Presence control works in concert with the Treble, and when I have the Treble set just right, I like the Presence around 9-10 o’clock – just a hint and enough for added sparkle. The Tight removes flub in the signal, although the Fireman is pretty darn tight (and quiet) without this control. If you turn it up too much you will notice a thinning of the sound, as well as some compression/saturation and volume drop. A little goes a long way with the Tight knob, and so I find setting it around 8-9 o’clock sufficient for that chugging and biting note effect. General operation is easy enough, with the right footswitch turning the Fireman on or off, whereas the left footswitch flips channels (red for Channel 1 and green for Channel 2). If preferred, the Fireman has an external SW jack, so that you can plug in a foot controller (TRS cable) and control the two channels in that manner.
The only downside to the Fireman maybe one’s preference in distortion sound. I have other distortions that are warmer or may be chewier or have more a chunkier sound quality, but that merely makes them different and not better. One of my favorite distortions is the Suhr Eclipse, but when side-to-side the Fireman cuts through the mix much better, likely making it superior for darker amps and pickups. My demo uses the Music Man Majesty guitar, which is middle-of-the-road, insofar as pickup tone dynamics (fairly broad-range with decent tightness), plugged into The Countess V4 preamp (clear, slightly warm and somewhat glassy cleans) and into a Line 6 Powercab (using the Lynchback 1 cab IR designed by Live Ready Sound), and so different gear obviously will behave differently with this or any other pedal. Overall, and for $115 USD, this is one of the better distortions I have tried, keeping up with NUX’s reputation for producing quality gear and great pricing.