Let’s be honest, we are all guilty of wanting to sound like Eddie Van Halen. For some, that is the sole purpose from the very moment they pick up their guitar. And there is nothing surprising in that – he is a wonderful musician and a genius guitarist. His sound has been praised from the very beginning and the attempts to replicate his tone and techniques have not stopped even now. Such strive for Eddie’s “Brown Sound” or modern drive has occupied even the manufacturers. But only some of them have succeeded. One of them is, of course, MXR. Their team collaborated with Van Halen himself in order to create a true masterpiece. Their goal was to make the pedal capable of emitting the tone of 5150 III dirty channel. The resemblance between the two will blow your mind, since at some point, even Eddie could not tell the difference. Forget your skepticism towards signature pedals and keep me a company as I dive into the capabilities of EVH 5150. Shall we begin?
Can you imagine Eddie’s signature pedal without versatility? I don’t know about you but I cannot. The virtuoso who always strives for something different and unique could not have made a one trick pony. And he did not. EVH 5150 is packed with useful features that will allow you to travel from overdrive to distortion and explore everything in between. Its circuitry utilizes multi-stage MOSFET’s instead of clipping diodes, which creates a more organic feel of the amplifier. It takes just couple of notes to discern that difference and hear the tone of virtual overdriven tubes. Additionally, EVH 5150 has a three-band equalizer that allows you to access various frequency ranges and tweak each of them to your taste. This way you can be in charge of the pedal’s response and tame it like a real pro. MXR took things in high gear and added in-built noise gate and boost circuitry to the package. This way you can upgrade your sound and enhance the distortion, plus, eliminate the subsequent hiss simultaneously. What can be better than the ability to go crazy without turning everything into a mess? EVH 5150 has an extremely pleasant appearance, with striped black surface and EVH logo in the middle. It does also have amazing build quality. This pedal can be powered with 9V batteries, AC adapter, DC Brick or Iso-Brick power supplies. As you can see, this stompbox has a lot to offer and it does so without over-complicating anything.
At first glance you see five black knobs mounted on the top of the panel. Then you take a closer look and notice two more encoders that finish up the control section. These 5 knobs are all you will ever need to create the desired sounds with ease. You just have to spend some time with the pedal, experiment with various settings and figure out what works for you. You can never get to know the real nature of EVH 5150 unless you explore all the possibilities it offers. But before you get into that, you must know what each of the knobs is capable of and how exactly they alter your sound.
It all starts with tiny Gate knob, which triggers noise-gate functionalities and eliminates the feedback in your sound. It lights up yellow when active and alters the threshold as you rotate it. Then we have Output which controls the overall volume of the unit. Bass, Mid and Treble cut or boost low, middle and higher frequencies and change the color of your tone. Gain knob modifies the intensity of overdrive and allows you to access even heavy distortion. Boost increases the gain and sustain, as well as compression and makes everything even more powerful (it’s a pity it cannot be activated with a footswitch, though). And finally, the single footswitch mounted in the middle activates the effect or bypasses the unit. It is quite clear, that the control section of EVH 5150 offers a great deal of precision and accuracy.
EVH 5150 sounds just like Eddie Van Halen without any exaggeration. As you plug it in with the clean channel of your amplifier, you start hearing the character this virtuoso is so famous for. But before we dive into sonic specifics, I want to mention that this pedal responds nicely to your picking and guitar controls, which kind of unifies the two and creates a wonderful beast. Now, moving on to the sound itself. EVH 5150 has very vibrant and dynamic tone. It is steeped with gain, power and girth at higher settings but produces the smoothest overdrive with subtle modifications. It does not lack harmonics either, allowing you to become Eddie’s musical sibling. Additionally, the EQ adjusts your tone perfectly, making it thicker and more defined. Speaking of which, no matter how crazy or heavy you get, the sound never loses its integrity and initial qualities (meaning that you will have hard time emitting muddy mess). And the noise gate is an amazing and quite essential addition to the whole sonic spectrum. It does lower the output of your signal (which is the most natural thing with noise-gates), but cleans up everything wonderfully. If you are affectionate about the music of Eddie Van Halen, you have to take this chance and become the source of those legendary sounds yourself.
What else? EVH 5150 is simply one of the best overdrive pedals if you are looking for versatility and quality. It delivers anything from that brown sound to modern heavier grunge of Van Halen and submerges you into sweet world of overdrive. Yeah, I just rambled for pages about how similar its sound is to Eddie, but you can, of course, create something unique with it. It is completely up to you. You are the one who decides what your sound will be like. All I can do is introduce great pedals that will help you in the process. And EVH 5150 will do just that. Good luck!
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