Playing at home is a different animal than playing on stage. Playing live requires many different choices to be made—which guitar and amp to use, which pedals to put on your pedalboard, and so on. At home, though, there are no limits. You can just reach for the other guitar or plug in the other amp, and your pedalboard can be as expansive as you want it to be. Here’s what we recommend when it comes to setting up your own practice and recording station, utilitarian and creative alike.
Some players are cool with two or three pedals loosely and haphazardly arranged at their feet in a tangle of cables and running on ever-diminishing battery power. If you’re really into effects, though, you’re eventually going to put your foot down into the world of pedalboards. Putting a pedalboard together requires you to make some choices, and it’s a rabbit hole that some of our fellow musicians never find their way back out of.
But rest easy! We came up with a few great examples of pedalboards you can put together depending on your needs and playing situation.
Reverb is that sense of place and depth you hear when sound is reflected off of solid surfaces. Architects have been designing concert halls and other enclosed spaces to enhance this effect with live music for more than a hundred years. Recorded music, however, can sound flat and unnatural if it doesn’t sound as if it actually exists in a physical space, so musicians and producers have relied on a number of methods to recreate the sonic characteristics of playing in acoustically rich environments.
The MXR Reverb offers players the history of these methods and then some in a standard MXR box, featuring six distinct high end styles exquisitely crafted and tuned by the award-winning MXR design team. It’s got a simple three-knob setup, a hi-fi analog dry path, and a massive 20 volts of headroom thanks to our Constant Headroom Technology™ so that it plays exceptionally well with distortion, modulation, and other effects.
Musicians have a number of utilitarian and creative needs that the MXR Reverb handily addresses. If your recorded signal sounds dull and flat, for example, the MXR Reverb can give it a sense of place and atmosphere, making it sound more natural and alive. The same goes for an acoustically dead venue—adding some reverb can open up a room and breathe some life back into your signal. The MXR Reverb also adds a whole new range of tone-shaping options, whether binding the different elements of your sound together or creating atmospheric, otherworldly environments for your compositions to move and breathe within.
The MXR Reverb’s six different styles can help with all of these uses and more. We encourage you to experiment with all of them, but here’s a quick explanation of what each can bring to your sound.
The MXR® Super Badass Variac Fuzz delivers a big, aggressive, and biting square wave tones with a nice touch of smooth compression. Its Tone, Output, and Gain controls provide plenty of fine-tuning potential, but what makes this pedal a dream come true for tonechasers is its Variac control.
The Variac control allows you to vary the pedal’s voltage from 5 to 15 volts, which also changes how much headroom is available—lower voltage means lower headroom and vice versa. Many pedals sound radically different depending on how much headroom they have.
Setting the Variac control around 12 o’clock gives you what is essentially Super Badass Variac Fuzz’s default 9-volt sound. It’s great with the Gain and Output controls turned up and pushing hard into a somewhat driven tube amp for a very stoner rock or shoegaze vibe, depending on what other effects you’re running.
Players chasing vintage tones will want to turn the Variac control counterclockwise to drop the voltage below 9V for the sound you get from a battery that’s running out of juice. The resulting decrease in headroom will produce a spitty low-fi fuzz reminiscent of psychedelic rock. The only way to get this sound back in the day was to manage a collection of half-dead batteries, but now you can do it with the twist of a knob.
Turning the voltage up past 9V gives you a totally different sound. Going clockwise form 12 o’clock, the Variac control opens up the Super Badass Variac Fuzz to something more like an organic overdrive with fuzzy edges.
That’s just the start of what you can do with the Super Badass Variac Fuzz. Use the Output, Tone, and Gain controls to feel out the range of tones provided by the Variac control. Use your guitar’s volume knob to play with the intensity of the fuzz. Try it with different amps and pickup types. Experiment with other effects—this thing sounds killer with a Cry Baby® Wah, for example.
Bottom line, the Super Badass Variac Fuzz is an incredibly versatile pedal with a range of textures and timbres that can be dialed in quickly and easily. Now put one on your pedal board and start chasin’ them tones.
MXR set the standard for phase pedals with the release of the Phase 90 in 1972. That little orange box went on to become the sole iconic example of its effect category, and it has been used by the world’s greatest guitar players—such as Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, and Eddie Van Halen—to record some of the most iconic songs ever cut to vinyl.
Several Phase 90-based phasers have been released since then, and this year, we’re introducing the Phase 95—it packs the evolution of the Phase 90 circuit into a single housing, and at half the size of its forebear, it’s the first ever mini pedal from MXR. The Phase 95 is the most versatile phaser we’ve ever produced. Before we get into the how and why, let’s look at the MXR phasers that brought us to this point.
It all started with the Phase 90, created by engineer Keith Barr after he decided that he could build a more reliable and better sounding phaser than the bulky and poorly built options on the market at the time. The resulting pedal’s compact size, superior construction, and refined sound put MXR on the map, and it set the standard by which all other phasers are judged.
A couple years after MXR released the Phase 90, the Phase 45 was born. In contrast to the Phase 90’s 4-stage phasing, the Phase 45 was designed with a mellower 2-stage circuit that is favored for its ability to easily blend into a band’s mix.
As MXR transitioned from script logo to block logo housings, MXR’s engineers added a feedback resistor to the Phase 90 circuit. Whereas the first Phase 90 circuit—now called Script—had a subtle and more subdued swoosh, the feedback resistor gave what is now called the Block circuit a dirtier, more pronounced phasing sound. A small number of early Block logo housings contain the original Script circuit, so it’s not always accurate to rely just on the pedal’s housing when identifying a vintage Phase 90.
In the late 1970s, MXR released the Phase 100, which has an altogether different circuit from the Phase 90 and Phase 45, with a different range of sounds. Along with the Speed control, it features a 4-position rotary switch that selects between four different intensities.
MXR went out of business in the early 1980s, but Dunlop resurrected the brand toward the end of the decade. The first pedals to be released under Dunlop’s stewardship were the Distortion+, the Dyna Comp® Compressor, the Blue Box™ Fuzz, and of course the Phase 90, all in Block form with the on/off status LEDs and AC power jacks that MXR eventually added. Since then, Dunlop has re-released each of MXR’s original phasers and has continued to develop new ones along the way.
Our first Phase 90 innovation came in the form of the EVH Phase 90.
When Eddie Van Halen expressed interest in recreating some of his classic MXR pedals, Dunlop engineer Bob Cedro thought of the spacey swirls and hypnotic warbles heard on early Eddie’s early recordings and pulled out his original 1974 script logo Phase 90. Using that as his base, Bob built a prototype Script-style Phase 90 that he hot-rodded for increased headroom and dynamic range. For testing purposes, he included a switch that Eddie could use to toggle between the two sounds for comparison. Eddie loved it, but he wanted to keep the Script/Block switch so that he could have both circuits in hot-rodded form.
The huge success of the EVH Phase 90 led Bob back to his original 1974 Phase 90. He used it to create the ’74 Vintage Phase 90, which features a hand-wired board with select resistors and hand-matched FETs and comes housed in the classic orange finished box with the unmistakable Script logo. For further authenticity, this box has no LED and can only be powered by a battery. For those who wanted a Script version with modern upgrades such as the on/off status LED and an AC power jack, Bob and the MXR team created the Script Phase 90.
To date, Dunlop has only produced one standalone version of the Phase 45: the ’75 Vintage Phase 45, a reissue of the original built to exacting specifications. As with the Vintage Phase 90, it features hand-matched FETs and a hand-wired circuit board.
Now let’s talk about the incredibly versatile Phase 95. First, you get both the mellow two-stage phasing of the Phase 45 and the more intense four-stage phasing of the Phase 90, with a 45/90 switch to toggle between the two. Once you select between those two iconic MXR phasers, you can choose to go with the lush, subdued sound and clarity of the original Script circuit or the light harmonic distortion and accentuated swoosh of the modern Block circuit thanks to the Script switch. As always, the familiar Speed control sets the rate of the effect.
What you’re getting with the Phase 95 is four different pedals in one: a Script Phase 45, a Script Phase 90, a Block Phase 45—which has never been offered before—and a Block Phase 90. Oh, and as we mentioned, it all comes in a mini housing that takes up a fraction of the space occupied by a standard pedal. Here’s how it looks on a mini travel board with a Germanium Fuzz Face® Mini Distortion and a Cry Baby® Mini Wah: