I’ve been wanting to get into the world of music gear reviews for a while now, so I figured, why not start with the heart of my bass guitar rig! The mighty MXR M80.
I am just going to specify, that this is NOT a paid review. I am doing this of my own free will, and any views expressed here are my own. (Although, I am open to having companies send me gear to check out!!!!!)
Just look at that thing. It’s ready to rock!!
So, why should this be an integral part of every bass player’s arsenal you ask??? Well, let me tell you.
It is the ONLY pedal you will ever truly NEED
I say that, being the owner of many guitar/bass pedals.. but honestly.. it’s the truth. I can go to practice with just this bad boy and be confident that I can get a good Finger style tone, slapping tone, picking tone, or throw some dirt on the signal without needing anything else. So, I’ll tell you how the thing works, and then give my final thoughts on it!
Let’s talk about features..
First, the ‘clean’ section
We will start with the simple things, on the top left you will see a volume knob, this is the obvious one.. When the left button is activated, the ‘clean’ circuit is engaged. At about 12 o’ clock you can pretty much match the passive volume of your bass.. which means you can use this volume knob as a boost, if you turn it above that point…. Now, if you look to the left of that knob there is a ‘Color’ switch. When that is engaged, it activates a preset EQ setting that scoops the mids, and boosts some bass and treble frequencies to give you, arguably, the best clean tone I’ve ever heard!!! I usually keep that color switch on, and set the volume to match my passive volume… That way I can have a completely different tone with the push of a button! I have also used this pedal as a kill-switch, when I first created my “Royal Blood” inspired pedal-board… So, Just in this first section of the pedal you have 3 very realistic uses.
The Distortion section
The distortion portion of this pedal is WIDELY adverse. You can get anything from a light little bit of dirt on your tone, to facemelting screaming distortion!!! Starting with the Volume knob, which obviously determines your output volume, which you can again match to your clean tone, or boost a little louder (I often find myself having to set it a little louder than my clean tone, for the sake of retaining low end.) To the right of that is the Blend knob. This is key to getting a great tone out of your distortion pedal. I usually set this between 12 o’ clock and 2 o’ clock, depending on how heavy of a tone I want. If you go much further than that, you really start over-saturating your tone and lose all hopes of having some bottom end. Next, is the Threshold knob and the gate button. The Threshold ONLY functions if you have the gate button pushed in. There’s a nice LED indicator that tells you when the gate is on, and this is a great on-board tool to keep you from feeding back when using heavy distortion. The Threshold controls the cutoff volume for the gate, so the higher you have it set, the faster it will quiet your signal as a note decays… I usually have this set all the way up and turned on.. you may have to set the threshold down a bit, depending on the incoming signal… Finally, the gain knob which determines how MUCH distortion is added to the channel… I find it funny that this pedal seems kind of backwards, usually the gain is first in the order of knobs on things.. but anyways… Higher obviously means MORE distortion… This works differently from the blend knob… The Blend is choosing how much of the distorted channel is outputted compared to how much of the clean channel is left in the mix. The GAIN is how distorted the distortion channel is! I know that may be a little confusing, but it makes a difference in the overall tone!
3 band Equalizer section
Alright, we’ve dialed in our clean tone.. we’ve got a distortion that will blow the windows out of the club!!! Now, we are on to the final touches of perfecting our tone! The EQ works with both the clean and distorted channels, so finding a happy medium between the two is a must.. I often find that I need to boost the mids a little and the treble to get the tone i want… You may like a low thumpy bass… So boost it!! I am not entirely sure where the cutoffs are for the three different knobs, MXR doesn’t really share that information (as well as the EQ curve for the Color switch..) BUT, if I were to venture a guess the bass would be around 100 HZ, Mid somewhere in the 2.5khz zone and the highs in the 10khz range… It’s not the MOST advanced EQ, but if you’re looking to bring up a certain part of your tone that’s lacking, it will definitely do that.
Ins and Outs!
Alright, You may notice that this doesn’t just have the standard input and output like most pedals do… You have options!! And we like options!!
The regular input and output are a standard mono 1/4″ jack.. this is what you will most likely use with this pedal. If you’re like me and you run it at the end of your chain, you also have the option to Direct out, which is a standard XLR output with a ground/lift switch. I generally leave that switch pressed down, as it can get quite noisy if you don’t… even with the standard 1/4″ output. Another fun feature is the Parallel output on the right side of the pedal. You can essentially use this to split your incoming signal, if you like to run more than one channel… but I wouldn’t suggest it.. it gets noisy. This output is best suited to add a tuner to your pedalboard… Especially if you have one of those garbage Fender tuners that sucks the life out of your tone, when used inline! (Do yourself a favor and buy a snark floor tuner… I’ll do a Tuner shootout in the future.)
So, that basically covers the functions of the pedal…
In closing… The MXR M80 is a modest little stompbox with the ability to dial in a HUGE range of tones!!! I have been using this pedal live for at least 11 years… It has been used at EVERY gig I have played (Except for one where my power supply shorted out…), and there have been hundreds… I have never had to replace it (although I did buy a backup once, just in case.) It is built like a brick shit house.. I have NEVER had a knob, LED, or even a jack go bad in mine… Take it from someone who’s been playing bass for 18 years. If you don’t have an MXR M80 DI+, do yourself a favor and get one!!!
Thanks for reading this!!! I hope you enjoyed it!! Should I keep doing the occasional gear review? I have a passion for my gear, and love sharing what I use with the world!