M104 Distortion Plus review by MXR

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  • Sound: 7
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Ease of Use: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 7.5 Good
  • Users' score: 6.9 (28 votes)
MXR: M104 Distortion Plus

Price paid: $ 84

Purchased from: eBay

Sound — 7
I use it mainly on the clean channel of a Fender Champ 25SE with either an Ibanez RG560 (SD SH-11) or a Washburn X-50 Pro (EMG 85). My unit is a 1980 model, back when they were still made in NYC. Pre Dunlop. I think the distortion moniker these have is a bit off, it's more of a fuzzy overdrive. It gives a very large volume boost when engaged, so much so that feedback becomes an issue. Normally in my rig it's non existent. On it's own, it's a bit harsh in the upper frequencies. It doesn't mud up or give that pillow over the speaker sound in the lower frequencies. It's a pretty wild pedal without any type of pedal before it. It tends to be harsh and fuzzy, but still has good note definition. It also can be crunchy too, but beware of that piercing treble. It will not do saturated type tones. It's more for that old style crunch. Now what I did to tame it was put a BBE Green Screamer in front of it. Newer pedals have a Buffer in them that the old ones don't. Filters out some of that unwanted noise from your sound. This did wonders for the MXR. It's much less harsh this way and the warm BBE tones down that fuzz I got with the pedal alone. It sounds a lot better this way. Now the overall tone is warmer, sounds more like a cranked tube preamp. Note definition is good though. I can crank it up and still tell what I'm playing. Alone I'd give it something like a 4. But now that I know what it takes to work with it, I'd give it a 7.

Overall Impression — 6
I play mostly in the style of older metal. With influences from quite a few other areas, like classial, jazz, Eastern music. It's been about 13 years since I picked up a guitar. Other than the stuff I mentioned, I've got a Vox Valvetronix. I wish I would've asked for some sound samples of it first. I bought it mostly off the praise the older units got. If it were lost/stolen, I'd look elsewhere. I love the simplicity in both operation and build, but for me, the sound is not there. Even though using it in conjunction with another pedal helps, it's not what I'm looking for. My BBE does what this MXR unit does and to my ears, does it better. It's not to say the MXR is bad, it's just not for me. For me, it's slightly above average for a pedal. I got it because it was lower priced than any other MXR units I saw at the time. I figured it'd be a good addition, but I find it sitting around most of the time. Overall, a 6 seems right. I didn't much care for it, without anything before it it's just not warm enough. The key to this pedal is using another before it to tame it a bit. While I didn't like it in the end, if you like that classic rock crunch or a trebly type Overdrive and have a decent tube amp (what I think my issue might also be related to) you may like this more than I did.

Reliability & Durability — 8
It's 31 years old and still going. It's beat up outside but works every time I step on it. I'd go to a gig without another, it's really not that integral to my sound at all. If I have to be picky, the paint didn't seem to hold up too well. The paint has chipped off and seems to scratch fairly easily. The switch also tends to stick slightly, but has never failed to turn on or off. Kind of a hard one to rate as I don't know what others have done to it, but the paint seems to be a bit weak for sure.

Ease of Use — 9
Very simple to use. Two jacks, input and output and two knobs, output and distortion. Simple inside too. A basic board with some resistors and the chip, the you chip. There's some protective foam between the board and the metal back of the pedal. The 9V is a bit hard to get in though. It's a slight bit confined, so it's a bit more difficult to get in and out than in a newer unit. To my knowledge, this unit is original. No mods have been done at all.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    EpiExplorer wrote: Basic. o.o I'm sure you could play any mainstream metal/rock stuff up till 1985 without a problem, but new music today would put it out of place. Boss ML-2 is better for that.
    MT-2 sounds very inadequate to other pedals such as the crunch box.
    Would it still sound good playing The Fathomless Mastery? I highly doubt that. ML-2 is the best all rounder for extreme music. This MXR is for more vintage tones.
    i listened to the fathomless mastery, and all i have to say is "how can you listen to that?! i dont hear ANY sense of melody. just lots of blast beats. anyway, i have a newer version of this bad boy and i think its a pretty good little pedal. if it was stolen, i probably wouldnt replace it, simply because i cant find a spot for it in my live rig, but in a studio environment, i think its awesome as an OD.
    I love this pedal. My guitarist and i grabbed a couple after we took a look at what Randy Rhoads was using with Ozzy. Fabulous tones.
    i think these look really cool i dont like how dumb asses say " those suck cause you can miss the button cause its small"