Of all the things we love about guitars or modern music gear in general – one of our favorites is the vast amount of effects available to carve out your own signature sound! But with that said, it can get downright daunting trying to figure out which of the thousands upon thousands of effects would best help guide your sound towards the tone you’re aiming for, especially when you don’t readily have the cash to plunk down one hundred or so some odd dollars for each pedal. Why not save yourself the trial, error and cash by checking out some of the tried and true stompboxes used regularly by some of the most well known rockers around? Today, we will be highlighting a few of the most successful and sought after pedals from the guys at MXR. Each of these pedals have been featured on the songs and pedal boards of the best of the best so you know when you’re ready to pull the trigger on a new box, you cant go wrong with any of these!
If you’re even just slightly familiar with the world of guitar effects pedals, chances are you’ve heard of MXR. Founded in 1973 by Keith Barr (who went of to create Alesis) and Terry Sherwood (later co-founder of Applied Research & Technology), MXR quickly made a name for itself in the stopmbox market world as an early pioneer and made their products stand out by relying on simple, utilitarian and tough looking designs – a style which has remained consistent and pretty much untouched to this day. They are now owned by Jim Dunlop which continues to produce the original units as well as a few new additions.
The following pedals are what we feel are the company’s best. If you don’t happen to agree with this list or feel like we left something better out, we gladly welcome your own thoughts on MXR’s best boxes in out comments section below!
This unassuming, plain grey box and its four simple knobs have in it a sophisticated palette of smooth, unadulterated flanging that can be heard at its best on the track Unchained from Van Halen’s Fair Warning Album. In fact, Ed liked his M-117 pedal so much he even has his own signature model! The MXR flanger creates a variety of wild sounds from dynamic jet plane or cool space effects to short delay, chorus and vibrato. Back off Width to zero to disengage auto-sweep, then use the Manual knob to physically place the effect anywhere along the frequency spectrum. And best of all, it sounds just as great on bass, keyboard and even vocals!
Another ‘modern classic’ beloved by pros and amateurs alike, the Carbon Copy is an analogue delay pedal in the old school sense. Rather than just emulating the classic models, this MXR pedal gives you the tools to put your own twist on them. Billy Gibbons and Doug Aldrich are just two of the Carbon Copy’s many users. The MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay features a completely analog audio path for the ultimate in rich, warm delay made possible only by old-school bucket brigade technology. This design boasts an amazing 600ms of delay time with optional modulation via a top-mounted switch and a simple, three-knob layout that controls Delay time, Mix (dry/wet blend), and Regen (delay repeats) – all in a pedal no bigger than a Phase 90! In addition, two internal trim pots offer user-adjustable width and rate control of the modulation for even more tonal options. Take your tone from a crisp bathroom slap echoes to epic, Gilmour-esque delays with just a twist of a knob!
Building on the solid foundation laid by the original, larger, simpler ‘70s version, this modern Stereo Chorus pedal added EQ and a smart bass filter to make an already excellent box even better. For one, Randy Rhoads was huge on this pedal. If you ever wanted to hear just how gorgeous sounding a chorus effect can be, this is definitely the pedal for you. Want to add sparkle to clean-toned arpeggios? Animate strummed passages? Widen and fatten distorted power chords? This box will do it all, cleanly and quietly. As rich, classic and wide as you like it! Set the Rate and Width controls to your liking and then dial in as much effect as you want with the Intensity knob. You can then shape the tone even further by EQ-ing the modulated frequencies with the Bass and Treble controls. Run in mono or use the stereo outputs for a huge, vibrant sound. If you're looking to preserve the low end of your guitar tone, the MXR Stereo Chorus has got you covered with its Bass Filter button that applies the effect to the high frequencies only.
Not every pedal has to give you some sort of big effect to make it a great one. A tuner pedal is one such box. Another is the MXR Micro Amp because sometimes, players aren’t looking for tone-changing distortion or drive – sometimes they just want a nice kick in the signal chain in order to make sure their sound hits the amp at full force. Used mainly for a straight solo boost or as part of an effects loop to help out weak pedals, this device adds a preset amount of gain, using a single control. With a guitar, this lets you boost your signal for lead work, adjust between two different guitars with unmatched output (such as humbucker to single coils), or it can supply a permanent boost in a long effects chain where signal drop off is a problem. Famous users include John Frusciante, Paul Gilbert and The Strokes.
With its thick, rich tones, the MXR Phase 90 has become somewhat of a benchmark for phase pedals. In fact, it’s pretty much the reason why the phaser in software effects programs are invariably orange! The MXR ’74 Vintage Phase 90 pedal features a hand-wired board which has select resistors paired up with hand-matched FETs, all painstakingly put together to achieve the same warm, smooth phase modulation as the pedal originally did back in 1974. The ’74 Vintage Phase 90 housing is the classic orange box, with just one knob for easy operation, and the famous MXR script logo. Dial up tones ranging from Eddie Van Halen to Jimmy Page with this workhorse pedal, that has become an industry standard over the last 25 years. Seriously, Van Halen’s Eruption simply wouldn’t be the same without it.