So, after looking for months for a good, cheep octave fuzz, I finally caved into the almost unanimous suggestion of my peers: Get the blue box. So, after spending 80 dollars and waiting a week, the nondescript brown packaging containing my new proclaimed god of octave fuzzes appeared on my doorstep. Inside it, the box for the pedal was just as nondescript as the shipping package, and the only indication I had as to whether or not it was the pedal I ordered was the sticker they placed on the side of the black/blue box labeled “MXR”.
Inside, there was my pedal: the MXR Blue Box. It’s chasis was about as basic as the rest of the packaging: like it’s name suggests, the whole thing was blue. In a basic font, it had it’s name written just below the footswitch, the MXR logo just above it in the center of the pedal, the input and output jacks on opposite sides of the pedal, and 2 knobs labeled “Output” and “Blend”. Inside the box were rubber stoppers to put on the knobs to keep them from turning accidentally when the stompbox was, well, stomped, a brochure of other MXR, CAE, and Dunlop products and a registration form, though there was no form of instructions manual. Granted, the 2 knobs are pretty self explainatory, but the there are several details which a manual could have come in handy for, like if something goes wrong, or where the hell the battery comparment is (which I reveal below), or what the knobs did exactly. Unless you were willing to go online and watch the youtube video demoing the pedal, you had to basically wing it to get a desired sound, finding out what everything did by trial and error.
So, on to specifics: The MXR blue box is an octave fuzz taken one step further: instead of just one octave below, it yields a note 2 octaves down from the note played mixed in with the fuzz signal; The company takes pride in the fact that it was the effect used in the solo of “Fool In The Rain” by Led Zeppelin. Now, the knobs are relatively self explainatory: Output knob controls the overall volume of the effect, and the Blend knob controls the mixture of the main fuzz effect and the double octave (12 oclock is an even mix, clockwise is more fuzz/less octave, and counterclockwise is less fuzz/more octave). There is a stomp switch, and a bright red LED which alerts you when the pedal is on, and the pedal can be powered by either a 9V battery (the compartment for which is accessed by unscrewing the back of the pedal, and is not worth the time or the effort) or 9v adapter.
So, how did it sound? Well, I tried it out with 5 guitars: A strat replica with single coils (SSS configuration) and a rosewood fretboard, a strat with a humbucker in the bridge and a maple fretboard, a strat with 2 humbuckers (HSH) and a rosewood fretboard, a Gibson explorer (covered humbuckers), and a les paul (uncovered humbuckers). One thing people tend to overlook is that pickups arent everything: scale length is just as important a factor in the overall tone, as is fretboard wood. Strat bodies have longer scale lengths than most Gibson models, giving their tone more of a bite, while the shorter Gibson SGs, Explorers, and les pauls have darker tones. That is why many 80s hair metal guitarists used guitars styled like strats with humbuckers put in, because it gave them a more biting distortion. Fretboard wood is also and important factor: the darker the wood, the darker the tone. Rosewood fretboards make the tone darker, which maple fretboards make the tone brighter and snappier. Also, from experience covered pickups have fatter tones than their uncovered bretheren, though that may just be me. Still, I have tried this pedal out not only in conjunction with 5 different pickup, wood, length and tuning combinations, but I also used it in conjunction with 4 amps, and several different pedals.
Out of the 5 guitars, I liked the single coil strat replica the best (named Lilith: an SX HAWK QMD RDS). humbuckers, no matter what scale length or wood, made it far too muddy to my taste, though the darker the tone, the more muddy and disgusting the tone became. Fuzz seems to have been made for single coils, from experience, as it tends to be just a bit much with anything else.
Now, personally I found myself constantly going towards the Output knob to turn it up. The effect, no matter what always seems too soft. Also, I was profoundly dissapointed in the octave. it was very strong (so I had to turn it to mainly fuzz), and rarely stayed the 2 octaves down, spending most of the time jumping around, no matter how long or short the note was or what blend/output it was set at. What I was impressed about was that the octave maintained a synth like sound, which made my guitar sound badass! With wah, this pedal sounds pretty kick ass, especially with single coils, giving you a classic Jimi Hendrix tone. With delay, the signal seems a bit muddied, as with most modulation effects (chorus, flanger, phaser, rotary), and I dont recommend using any extra distortion or overdrive. I think a nice addition to the Blue Box would be a tone knob, to help fine tune that fuzzy sound.
Is it a cool effect? Yeah, I guess. It’s not something I would use regularly, but for a snazzy little synth sounds or for a kick ass riff, it’s perfect to switch it up a bit. And it’s not that expencive at all. Not something I would recommend for everybody’s pedal board, but for those who like to experiment with exotic tones and new sounds, this pedal might be right for you.
For an idea of how it sounds, check out the MXR demo, or the Gearmanndude demo:
Here is the video by Gearmanndude:
SX Hawk QMD RDS (Stratocaster replica)(“Lillith”)
Pickup config: SSS stock
rating with pedal: 4/5
Tunings used: Standard, D Standard, Drop D, Open G
Fender TexMex Stratocaster (Modded) (“Heather”)
Pickup config: HSS (neck – stock, middle – Seymour Duncan Hotrails, bridge –
DiMarzio Evolution 1)
Rating with pedal 3/5
Tunings Used: Standard, Drop D
Fender Stratocaster (Modded) (“Supah-strat”)
Pickup config: HSH (neck – Seymour Duncan ’59, middle – stock, bridge –
Seymour Duncan Custom)
Rating With Pedal: 3/5
Tunings Used: Standard, Drop D
Gibson Les Paul
Pickup Config: HH stock uncovered
Rating With pedal 2.5/5
tunings used: standard, Open G, Open C
Pickup Config: HH stock covered
Rating With Pedal: 1/5
Tunings used: Standard, D standard, Drop D
All guitars used Ernie Ball Hybrid strings
All guitars were tested using a Raven RG200, a Line Six Spider III 15 watt, a Crate Blue Voodoo head into a Peavey Cab, and a vintage Univox solid state
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