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MXR M85 Bass Distortion / Alternatives and opinions


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#1 radiophonic

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 07:21 AM

This pedal has attracted my interest - anyone using it and care to offer a review? I'm a bit wary because none of the demos I've seen use my bass and some of MXRs recent dirt pedals have been a bit questionable IMO. I've seen none s/h (good sign) but also not much hype, so maybe they just aren't selling. It's a fuzzrocious collaboration and has a Silicon/Diode switch option. The LED sounds particularly pleasing and nasty to me. I guess you'd call it 'Rat based', but with a blend and different EQ. I've had very bad experiences with dirt pedals on bass. Part of the issue, I'm sure, is that I play a bass with an already fairly scooped sound (EBMM). Cleaning up the low end too much with a blend only serves to emphasize the scoop. The Pike Vulcan in particular just didn't work for me at all, which is putting me off the (expensive) Darkglass direction too. I don't use distortion that much, but I think it makes sense to have one really solid dirt pedal available if needed.

I've so far tried and failed with the following

Pike Vulcan - I could blend between two sounds, but neither was very usable. Clean blend emphasised the scoop too much. Concluded that the EQ points were probably wrong for me.
Way Huge Pork Loin - Not enough gain, too soft and the 'clean' circuit overloads with my bass. Useful for a couple of specific things that it definitely wasn't designed for. Will probably sell it though.
EHX Crayon - Bought mostly for guitar and sort of wish I hadn't sold it, but it wasn't nasty enough. Too much of an OD rather than Distortion.
EHX Bass Big Muff - Too scooped. Annoying inflexible blend option. Fuzz not distortion.

Where else could I be looking?

#2 0175westwood29

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 07:53 AM

To be fair something rat based sounds ideal to me as your looking for something to push the mids rather than make them more scooped. A rat circuit is mid humped so will naturally push the mids.

You sound like blend wise you just want it to be slight not over bearing so having played the mxr bass distortion I think it could work, however maybe getting something without a blend but that just holds the lows could be a way to go? If you like the mxr maybe look at the fuzzrocious cat tail

Also if you want drive that reflects and works with you clean sound the ashdown nm2 is amazing!
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#3 radiophonic

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:11 AM

View Post0175westwood29, on 14 September 2017 - 07:53 AM, said:

To be fair something rat based sounds ideal to me as your looking for something to push the mids rather than make them more scooped. A rat circuit is mid humped so will naturally push the mids.

You sound like blend wise you just want it to be slight not over bearing so having played the mxr bass distortion I think it could work, however maybe getting something without a blend but that just holds the lows could be a way to go? If you like the mxr maybe look at the fuzzrocious cat tail

Also if you want drive that reflects and works with you clean sound the ashdown nm2 is amazing!

Exactly right - mid hump without losing the low end. Proper broken up distortion. Very subtle use of clean blend, without being on a knife edge the whole time. The guy who does the fuzzrocious pedals has posted on a few forums about his involvement with this, and based on his comments, I think I'd be better off with the M85 than a cat tail. He did say that the M85 had an MXR specified tone stack, but based on how cagey they've been ('based on an earlier and popular distortion circuit' but never being more specific) I'm guessing they've simply optimised for bass rather straying too far from RAT territory. The blend can be turned off after all. I've never even heard of the NM2 before now - footprint might be an issue.

#4 Bigwan

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 09:03 AM

I'd like to try this pedal, but mxr support when you're out of warranty is non-existent in my experience and they won't provide schematics (Ryan at fuzzrocious might help out in this case though - seems like a good chap). For that reason alone I'd stay away.

A dunwich volt thrower or idiotbox blower box would be my choice for something rat based.

If you can get past the form factor I'd try an Ashdown Lomenzo Hyperdrive. One of my favourite drive pedals. Like a lot of pedals, and as you've found, your first attempt is unlikely to be your last!

Edit: can't believe I forgot about the COG TK-421 when talking about Rat-based pedals! I had a custom TK-421-X for a while (had an lpf for clean and drive and an hpf on the drive channel which wasn't standard on them) and it was a super, super pedal. Wish I hadn't sold it to be honest! Sold it for less than you could buy an mxr...

Edited by Bigwan, 14 September 2017 - 09:17 AM.

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#5 0175westwood29

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 10:22 AM

View PostBigwan, on 14 September 2017 - 09:03 AM, said:

I'd like to try this pedal, but mxr support when you're out of warranty is non-existent in my experience and they won't provide schematics (Ryan at fuzzrocious might help out in this case though - seems like a good chap). For that reason alone I'd stay away.

A dunwich volt thrower or idiotbox blower box would be my choice for something rat based.

If you can get past the form factor I'd try an Ashdown Lomenzo Hyperdrive. One of my favourite drive pedals. Like a lot of pedals, and as you've found, your first attempt is unlikely to be your last!

Edit: can't believe I forgot about the COG TK-421 when talking about Rat-based pedals! I had a custom TK-421-X for a while (had an lpf for clean and drive and an hpf on the drive channel which wasn't standard on them) and it was a super, super pedal. Wish I hadn't sold it to be honest! Sold it for less than you could buy an mxr...

the cog stuff is great, the lpf really help you just get what you need from the clean sound.

however i still sit in the camp where i want the effect to hold alot of lows and not really need the clean.

to the OP the only problem i have is that the blend is more of a parallel thing on the mxr, the signals dnt blend just kinda sound like a dual setup.....which might work for some ppl but for me just sounds a bit weird.
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#6 radiophonic

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 10:41 AM

That 'separateness' you can get with a blend is my major irritation. It doesn't seem to be a problem (or seems to be less of one) with P basses (common in demos), but with a scoopier sound you end up with a clean low end and because the mid is recessed already, the grit sounds like it's only added to the top. It ends up sounding like two distinct streams, one clean and low the other fizzy and high. This is exactly what I'm trying to avoid and exactly what happened with the Pike. I'd envisage very light use of a blend and aiming for holding on to the bottom end naturally. Zach Rizer comments on this on his Youtube demo - the LED setting did seem to be achieving this.

One option I'm considering is trying gain stacking. Adding low/mid gain to the full range signal,without wiping out the lows, then boosting the mids and pushing all but the bottom end of this signal again with a big nasty distortion. I've picked up a cheap s/h Bass Soul Food (mostly to use a clean boost that can handle my bass's output) and I'll be interested to hear where this can get me in combination with something nastier. If I lose the Pork Loin from the board, I'll gain a pretty big slot for another pedal.

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 11:41 AM

Behringer BDI21. Not a distortion pedal as such, but can do dirt. Worth trying for the cost alone.
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#8 0175westwood29

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 11:44 AM

View Postradiophonic, on 14 September 2017 - 10:41 AM, said:

That 'separateness' you can get with a blend is my major irritation. It doesn't seem to be a problem (or seems to be less of one) with P basses (common in demos), but with a scoopier sound you end up with a clean low end and because the mid is recessed already, the grit sounds like it's only added to the top. It ends up sounding like two distinct streams, one clean and low the other fizzy and high. This is exactly what I'm trying to avoid and exactly what happened with the Pike. I'd envisage very light use of a blend and aiming for holding on to the bottom end naturally. Zach Rizer comments on this on his Youtube demo - the LED setting did seem to be achieving this.

One option I'm considering is trying gain stacking. Adding low/mid gain to the full range signal,without wiping out the lows, then boosting the mids and pushing all but the bottom end of this signal again with a big nasty distortion. I've picked up a cheap s/h Bass Soul Food (mostly to use a clean boost that can handle my bass's output) and I'll be interested to hear where this can get me in combination with something nastier. If I lose the Pork Loin from the board, I'll gain a pretty big slot for another pedal.

things to be careful about if you boost mids it can seem like the lows are dropping out but its just that your ears hear the high mids etc easier.

hopefully the soulfood works for you man
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check out my band on facebook, and Reverbnation.

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Link to our latest ep "Time to Kill" https://itunes.apple...le/id1035653612

my youtube channel with pedal and amp reviews!
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#9 radiophonic

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 12:02 PM

Yup, there's no free lunch with distortion pedals. The Soul Food is for my main band situation and I have 5 gigs in the first two weeks of October so I need to make a decision on the boost / 'subtle' side of things pretty quickly. The M85 is more for a side project I'm trying to put together. Less urgent and it may all fall on its face anyway. If it doesn't, big ugly noise will need to be part of it.





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