Let’s be real: bass distortion isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some guitarists prefer other effects, while others choose to leave their guitar clean and express its character with various techniques. But those who do enjoy distortion, know how versatile this effect can be. You can employ it subtly and add a tinge of texture to your sound, add a bit more for expressive tone, or go completely crazy and buzz up the whole performance. Regardless of the amount of distortion you use, you definitely need something that will compliment your instrument. Bass guitars can be a huge pain in the neck – they require specific approaches, otherwise they will turn into an indistinguishable muck. To avoid that, back in the day musicians used to split the signal in two and send them to two different amplifiers. That way they were able to maintain the clarity of original sounds and the girth of distortion. But thanks to the brands, such as MXR, we don’t have to go through all that fuss anymore. Their M85 eliminates the need of such a chain, since it bisects your signal itself and enables you to blend dry and wet sounds seamlessly. It definitely has its own flavor, which means that not everyone will be able to enjoy it. But I’m sure that bass aficionados will benefit from this one a great deal. Let’s begin this article and explore the potential of M85!
As I have mentioned above, MXR M85 does its best to make sure your bass sound doesn’t get lost in the mix. It tries to accentuate it and add even more character to it, so that your instrument is never looked down on anymore. You’ll find out the reason why in a sec, but before we move on to specific details, let’s discuss some touches that turn this fella into a serious deal.
I realize perfectly that I’m subjective when talking about this subject, but dark burgundy is my favorite color and lucky for me, M85 is configured in that shade. Its body mounts black knobs and silver footswitch that compliment the whole design. I personally love it when my favorite stompboxes have distinctive appearances – what can be better than a nice-looking pedalboard? Plus, this thing is built to last, it will definitely take you a lot of time to wear it out.
Moving on to more important features, this bad boy was created in collaboration with Ryan Ratajski – a distortion guru and a founder of Fuzzrocious Pedals. Though I mentioned it in the intro, I’ll still underline it once more briefly – this unit operates in a way that separates dry and wet signals from one another and, thus, retains everything you don’t want to be lost. It enables you to add equalizer to the affected sound only, which means you can remove the high-end if you want to. What’s more, M85 operates in two modes: SIL and LED. The former uses silicone diodes – a.k.a. it clips your signal in a harsh way and the resulted sound is biting, while the latter utilizes LED diodes and the tone it yields is way more open. This way you can diversify your distortion even more and decide yourself, how much effect you want to add to your bass. You do also have the ability to set the maximum output of LED mode, but for that, you’d have to take the pedal apart.
Typically for MXR, the surface features four knobs and a toggle. Each of the controls has a wide array of options to choose from, which means you’ll get a diverse sound each time you mess around with settings. You can experiment with M85 as much as you want – this baby is up for anything. For the sake of clarity, let’s see what parameters you can modify here.
The bulk of controls starts with Dry encoder. It sets the volume of unaffected sound and makes sure it’s present in the mix to the desired degree. Then comes Wet, which, alternatively, modifies the level of distorted signal. Tone lets you emphasize or tone down the treble in the distorted sound, while Distortion adds more gain and makes it possible to intensify the effect. In the middle of the encoders you’ll find a toggle, which lets you choose between SIL and LED modes. This way you can select the desired one with ease even during your performance. As you already know, in the internal part of the pedal you’ll find a pot which sets the maximum level of LED output. Lastly, we have a footswitch that activates or bypasses the unit.
When it comes to the sound of MXR M85, things crank up a notch or two. What I mean is that this particular unit is quite different from what we’re used to from the brand. The model we’re talking about is way more extreme than its predecessors, since this time the manufacturer wanted to step out of the comfort zone and deliver a real, girth-laden distortion. And the results are ear-bleeding with their intensity! SIL mode emits a biting sound that has somewhat compression to it. It is quite gnarly and sustains your notes really nicely, but never ceases to express individual particles of your sound. LED mode, on the contrary, opens up way more. It accentuates midrange and is reminiscent of vintage rock sounds. The Tone control is a wonderful addition as it rolls off treble beautifully. Wet and Dry are real gems, as well, since they mix dry and affected signals and express the qualities of both. M85 is a perfect match for those who enjoy Fuzzrocious sounds – just like that!
All in all, MXR hardly ever fails to create something that can do it all. This time they have stepped out of their comfort zone and have produced a pedal that goes to extreme. M85 will saturate your sound with texture, depth and girth – the character of which will set your music apart from anything heard before. It comes in a durable and well-structured package – making sure that you have what it takes for being the most distinguished bassist of all times. Try it out and we’ll see if this puppy unleashes your potential. Good luck!
Click here to view more from 5 Best Bass Distortion Pedals.