Price paid: C$ 109
Purchased from: Steve's Music Store
Sound — 8
The MXR El Grande is capable of a range of sounds. The Tone knob has a tremendous impact on the sound of this pedal and produces sounds ranging from a thin, trebly tinny sound to an ominous roar. Dialing the Fuzz knob just over the minimum produces a very light, very clear overdrive that provides just the right amount of crunch for the bass to be big but unobtrusive. Pointing it at about 12 o'clock results in a ballsy, slightly synthy fuzz tone. Turning it around max creates a furious fuzzy mess that sounds just a little too synthetic for my taste. The Deep Switch is a handy little thing, adding enough low end to the signal to make the bass sound like a jet engine. Some very extreme, un-MXR tones can be achieved with the Deep Switch on and the Fuzz to full - though don't try it if you Live in an appartment building. With the right adaptor (even a Danelectro will do), this pedal isn't noisy at all. Try a radioshack one (I don't recommend this), and it'll sound like a blender.
Overall Impression — 10
MXR has always been about simple, durable, user-friendly effects, abd the El Grande lives up to their reputation. The bass fuzz isn't capable of the completely-over-the-top harsh tones and oscillation one might expect from a fuzz, but it is a useful Tool that provides a variety of sounds and suit's a variety of playing styles. I play ambient music and noise-pop. My current bass setup is: Yamaha rbx 270 j > MXR El Grande > Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazari > DigiTech Digiverb. The El Grande reacts very well to other stompboxes and sounds bright and high in the mix, even with the digital reverb abd delay. The only reason I chose this over the Bass Big Muff was it's price at the time (it was $20.00 CAD cheaper). Right now, the Bass Big Muff is cheaper than the El Grande, but if I had to choose again, I'd still buy the MXR pedal.
Reliability & Durability — 10
In terms of reliability, MXR pedals are generally the ones I trust most. They may not be extreme and over-the-top, but they are durable, making them the ideal brand for gain boxes (but only gain boxes). I don't think I'd even need to consider bringing any sort of backup with this pedal. The die-cast housing is as sturdy as they come. The knobs are made of much harder and more durable plastic than the ones on Boss & DigiTech pedals. The blue LEDs are not only cool, but very useful to have on a dark stage.
Ease of Use — 10
As all other MXR stomp boxes, this is a very intuitive pedal. It has three knobs: Volume, Tone, and Fuzz. It also has an additional Deep Switch, which provides crushing low-end boost. The on/off footswitch is true bypass, but even when it is on, this pedal is able to preserve a full tone on most settings. The manual only states the completely obvious (in such a matter-of-fact way it almost seems sarcastic). It isn't terribly useful; I didn't even know there was one until just now when I checked. It's a simple but effective layout and includes everything that can be asked of a bass fuzzbox.