Top Picks: MXR pedals
Published on 03 March 2020
An MXR pedal or two on your board is a sign to other players.
It says that you’ve done your research, tested a bunch of possibilities, and ran with the best.
MXR have been one of the most major, iconic pedal brands on the planet for over 40 years. Writing a list of their notable players is an endless task, frankly, but you can certainly include David Gilmour, Slash and Eddie Van Halen to any list of noted MXR users. If they’re good enough for those guys...
These days, the palette of pedals and sounds available from this brand is exhaustive. They are singularly famous for their modulation and compression effects, but there’s plenty more to celebrate, including collaborations with respected designers (check out the Raijin Drive) and artists (Green Day’s Dookie Drive) alongside game-changing preamps and pitch pedals.
Yes, all of Nashville does use a Dynacomp pedal for those smooth clean Country tones, and a Phase 90 will definitely get you on the road to Shine On You Crazy Diamond/Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love greatness, but here are a few more pedals you should know about from MXR, starting with one that is a modern classic...
M169 Carbon Copy Delay
Truly, this has become a real standard for quality pedal boards everywhere. The Carbon Copy is a simple analog delay pedal that gives you a beautifully judged, fully analog series of repeats that instantly ups your tonal game. You can set it for a retro slapback sound, you can add some subtle chorusing via the mod button (with extra secret controls for this function inside the pedal itself, like hidden treasure) but we like to stick the delay time relatively high, do the same for the regeneration, and pretend we are at Pompeii in the 1970s, where every note we play is undiluted genius. If a humble delay pedal can bring this kind of quality to your playing, then it is earning it’s rent for sure.
M234 Analog Chorus
Chorus is one of those effects that can really make a sound or part ‘happen’, depending on your application of it. A good chorus pedal, like a good delay, is worth its weight in gold. This is a really good one!
The M234 Analog Chorus is thick and chewy if you want it to be, and liquid-ey and subtle if you want that instead. It’s stereo, so you can really go to town with luxurious, languid tides of modulation if you feel like it!
Add life to your clean sounds and experiment with the extra dimension and shimmer a great Chorus can afford you. Whether your idea of a great Chorus sound is ‘Run to You’, Drab Majesty, Metallica intros or ‘Walking on the Moon’ (Yes, we know it’s a flanger, but you can nail that sound with this pedal!), we recommend you get busy with the MXR M234 Analog Chorus’ generous 5 controls and see how you can expand your sounds.
M236 Super Badass Variac Fuzz
A quality Fuzz pedal is a welcome addition to any guitar player’s pedalboard. There’s no shortage of them out there, either! Having said that, a good 80% of them are clones of three or four famous fuzzes from the 60s, so it can be a matter of picking which one has the best graphics sometimes!
We were drawn to this MXR fuzz because of a unique feature: the ‘Variac’ control! Guitar fans will have heard about this device because Eddie Van Halen used such a thing (it’s a variable voltage selector and was used on dimmer switches for house lights back in the day) to overload the voltage of his old Marshall Plexi heads. Such was the ‘brown sound’, but that’s not the application here at all...
The Variac is simulated on this pedal to let you ‘starve’ or ‘juice’ the pedal with less or more voltage. Sonically, this means you can have a crisp, biting drive tone (with that characteristic lack of sustain that transforms your playing style) and a fat, gnarly silicon fuzz from one pedal. Also, you can get that amazing ‘dying battery’ vibe too, which sounds as authentically flappy and saggy as you’d hope. Throw away those near-dead batteries and stick this on your board! The lesser settings can also be pretty spectacular when used in tandem with other gain devices. If you like to experiment with textures, there are tons of ways to use the Super Badass Variac Fuzz!
M303 Clone Looper
Loopers are fast becoming essential ingredients in the contemporary guitarist’s pedalboard gumbo. Most major companies offer their take on the tech, so what makes this offering from MXR worth checking out?
Quite a lot, as it happens! Straight away, you can see that the lack of a screen and knobs (there is only one!) means that the Clone Looper is all about intuition. It’s a very simple unit to operate, but it gives you extremely high-fidelity looping quality, tons of room to store loops, extra functionality via inputs form two additional pedals, and tons more.
Yes, you can double the speed of your loops, and half the speed, allowing for some real sonic creativity. You even get a count in via four lights, so you can be even more precise with your loop launching!
The MXR Clone Looper is relatively small, runs on a standard 9v adaptor (running any loopers on batteries, even if they have that option, results in about ten seconds’ worth of power so it’s a constant hassle: just use plug in power) and fits into any existing pedal board set up with the minimum of fuss. You can be as casual with it as you like, or you can expand it via an expression pedal, a control pedal, and dive in deep. The choice is yours.
With the exception of perhaps the Carbon Copy, we wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the fantastic MXR effects that are less well-known. This is why we mentioned, but didn’t go much further, with the likes of the Phase 90 and the Dynacomp. We expect that you already know all about these guys! Needless to say, they are exceptional pedals and deserve your time and attention for sure.
The pedals we did choose today hopefully demonstrate the notion that the type of ingenuity and savviness of design that made MXR’s name in the beginning has remained intact since in the intervening decades between the company’s inception and now. They are a professional choice and almost certainly have a pedal in their roster for you.
Visit us to try some out for yourself, and check out our entire collection of MXR pedals here on the site.
Thanks for reading