MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion Pedal Review

There comes a point in a musician’s life when he might need something a bit harder in terms of sound. Sure, there are plenty of fans of the clean, jangly country-style guitar but on the other side of that coin you have those that like their riffs with whole lot of kick and just as good a helping of grit. Yes, they are the metal guitarists; those not satisfied with the average power of stock, always searching for that next big thick distorted bite from their guitars. If you are one of the many legions of fans that like their hard rock a bit harder, then you should definitely take the MXR Fullbore Distortion for a spin! This is not for your average rock musician; the Fullbore was made with the heaviest of metal in mind. So whether you’re a fan of grindcore, deathmetal, thrash, or even European-esque black metal, the MXR Fullbore will give you more than enough high gain distortion while keeping the noise levels at an almost non-existent state, so read on and check out the dirty details one of metal’s heaviest effects pedals!


The Features of the MXR Fullbore

The first thing that most will notice about this pedal are the six different knobs for settings; you have your Volume, Frequency, Gain, Low, Mid and High. Those familiar with settings on an amplifier will feel right at home here since the equivalent knob on the pedal functions pretty much exactly alike. And just in case some of our newer metal heads might not know the first thing when it comes to balancing settings, they can either take a look at the included manual for some great explanations on each setting or just mess around with it. After about three or four minutes of experimenting with each knob, you will pretty much get the hang of it. The Volume knob does exactly just that, controls the volume. Same goes for the Low, Mid and High knobs – each work like they do on an amplifier, giving you the ability to configure each frequency to your liking. The Gain and Frequency knobs are probably the most important in terms of achieving the sound you’re looking for, but that doesn’t mean they are hard to figure out. The gain will control the amount signal or attack of your tone; add more for a serious bite with a lot of presence or give less for more subdued sounds. The Frequency knob will work in conjunction with your Low, Mid and High knobs. I found that messing specifically with the Mid and Frequency together will produce the most versatile tones.

Also in there besides the six knobs are the included Noise Gate and Mid-Boost buttons. The Noise Gate works well for keeping your guitar from being excessively noisy when set at high gain while the Mid-Boost adds more attack to the middle frequencies, giving you extra power without it being excessively trebly or bassy. Essentially, you can get a good  metal tone with most settings so don’t be afraid to experiment to your liking- it really is much easier than it seems.

 As far as the build goes, the MXR Fullbore is built as solid as its all metal chassis suggests. I’ve managed to drop it a few times on a concrete floor and the pedal didn’t even get a visible scratch. I’m pretty sure you can throw this straight at a wall and it will still be unaffected, although I wouldn’t suggest that! As far as getting the thing to operate goes, you’re going to need your standard 9 volt battery or spring for a 9 volt AC adapter which I do suggest because this thing seems to go through batteries quicker than most of my other pedals. Weight and size should be no issue, especially if you’re looking to add this pedal to an existing pedal board as the Fullbore comes in the standard size for a single effects pedal.

 If you’re looking for a versatile distortion pedal that works just as well for classic rock as it does for harder rock – this isn’t the pedal for you. Now if you’re looking for straight-up metal tone for your guitar and not much else, the Fullbore will fit the bill. I’d suggest that the amp settings should be set to clean as any added distortion coming from the amp will make the timbre of the guitar sound a bit too muddy, even for metal. A clean amp setting will give you the most well defined distorted tones possibly with the Fullbore. Certain settings such very low gain might make this pedal sound more like a tone-less fuzz effect than a distorted one, so I tended to keep the gain past 3 O’clock to get the best sounds as far as metal goes. When most of the knobs are set to about 6 0’clock, you will get that early Metallica thrash sound pretty easily. Give it a full dose of gain and enough frequency and the pedal sounds brutal.

So in essence, its greatest strength ends up being its greatest weakness; it can do its job pretty good but not much else. If you like the sound of heavy metal bands such as early-thrash Metallica, Dethklok, Pantera, Cannibal corpse or Black Dahlia, this pedal will give you just that. Looking for something with any sort of tone? Well then, maybe not so much here as the effect of the Fullbore essentially completely takes over the sound of the guitar. With that said, this pedal was made specifically in mind for straight metal guitarists trying to attain a very high gain sound with plenty of attack but little tone.


Final Impression

In the end, if you’re looking to play some heavily distorted fast paced thrash metal, deathmetal, grindcore, etc. this pedal will give you that sound and do it great, but not much else. Guitarists with tone in mind will need to look elsewhere, but those interested in its features will find the MXR Fullbore easy to use and with just enough control for some great high gain heavy metal. The added Noise Gate feature will ensure that your guitar never gets noisy when not in use, something that’s especially annoying when playing with an amp at full gain. All in all, those looking for a pedal that can give them that specific high gain thrash metal guitar sound should definitely give the MXR Fullbore plenty of consideration.

Notable features:

Super high-gain distortion
Three band EQ with sweepable mid frequencies
Tight, fast, switchable Noise Gate for syncopated metal riffs
Internal Gate Trigger control lets you set the Noise Gate's sensitivity
Scoop Switch boost the highs and lows while the EQ stays active
True Bypass with LED
All analog circuit path

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