M104 Distortion Plus Review

manufacturer: MXR date: 02/22/2010 category: Guitar Effects
MXR: M104 Distortion Plus
This pedal is unbelievably easy to use, two pots, one for volume and one for distortion and as you might have guessed a switch to turn it off and on.
 Sound: 5.3
 Overall Impression: 5.3
 Reliability & Durability: 9
 Ease of Use: 8.5
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
 Users rating:
reviews (4) pictures (3) 25 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 9.8
M104 Distortion Plus Reviewed by: hendo <3 valves, on february 22, 2010
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 59.95

Purchased from: Unknown

Ease of Use: This pedal is unbelievably easy to use, two pots, one for volume and one for distortion and as you might have guessed a switch to turn it off and on.

Would just like to state here to avoid any confusion this is one of the original distortion+ stomp boxes and is not a reissue and the manual explains the nobs and gives values for the gain, input noise and output level and states it's list price at $59.95 however I think it is worth slightly more now. // 10

Sound: I have been running this pedal with a Epiphone Valve Junior and either a unbranded strat copy and a Vintage VS6 (sg copy) with a DiMarzio super distortion in the bridge. At a low level of distortion the pedal has a unusual yet flavorful crunch tone on the single coils and adds a lot of bass to the tone, with the humbuckers the crunch is very thick but the tone isn't lost in the increased bass. Then towards half way on the distortion the pedal begins to get into metal levels of distortion and begins to be slightly less bass heavy but the single coils begin to lose definition and the humbuckers lose almost none. With the distortion maxed out lovely harmonics begin to cut through and the pedal really begins to make sense, this point gives a huge lead metal sound I cannot honestly compare to any other pedal. Surprisingly although the single coils seemed to have little definition at mid distortion they begin to give a nicer sound at the higher distortion levels with better note definition but still losing most of their normal tone. The humbuckers still maintain their definition and tone at the highest level of distortion and sound wonderful.

At low levels I cannot compare this pedal to any artists but at mid to high level of distortion this pedal is very similar to the Randy Rhoads tone with a slightly dirty amp sound before adding the pedal really bringing it close to the tone. This pedal being a 30 odd year old pedal has no true bypass as an after note but I do not feel it has much of an affect on tone when in a chain without other old fashioned bypass pedals.

At low distortion sound is about a 6 but at mid to high definitely a 10 and I feel it would be unfair to give it lower than a 9 because what it does at high distortion is simply unbelievable. // 9

Reliability & Durability: I would say this pedal has to be highly durable first because it has lasted for over 30 years without any part needing replaced or even the nuts on the jacks being tightened and secondly because when I opened up the box to map out the circuit board and check the component values I saw that the box was padded over ever component to ensure that no parts could even budge and there was padding wrapped around the circuit to ensure even the components could not be moved in the slightest. // 10

Overall Impression: I enjoy a blend of music including things from Clapton some metal and have a love of the early Ozzy era of metal so I do think this pedal is a good match for me. However I only have it on long term loan from a friend so would more than likely have to sell a kidney if it got stolen so I could replace it and more than likely buy myself one (if I got a good price for my kidney).

Must say my favorite feature is the wonderful screaming tone that comes from the pedal with the distortion maxed out. My least favorite feature is the diodes that are no longer produced which means the reissue pedal sounds dreadful so I cannot simply buy one of those.

Sorry if you feel this review should not have been so highly rated but I feel this pedal honestly deserves these ratings. // 10

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overall: 7.5
M104 Distortion Plus Reviewed by: Fenderexpx50, on october 18, 2011
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 84

Purchased from: eBay

Ease of Use: 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. // 9

Sound: 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. // 7

Reliability & Durability: 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. // 8

Overall Impression: 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. // 6

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overall: 6
M104 Distortion Plus Reviewed by: Goldtop11, on april 06, 2012
0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 40

Purchased from: A Friend

Ease of Use: This pedal is very very easy to use. It has a Output and Distortion knob in addition to the normal footswitch and in out jacks. It also has an AC adapter if you would like to bypass the battery. // 10

Sound: This is where I was incredibly shocked about this pedal. I play Blues-Rock on a custom Les Paul style guitar with Seymour Duncan humbuckers through a Marshall Class 5 tube amp. I was looking for an Overdrive that would take my slightly dirty signal and boost it into a thicker Overdrive for soloing. I want to stress that I did not buy this pedal expecting mass amounts of distortion, I simply wanted a boost that added a little bit of drive. I was highly disappointed when I kicked this pedal on. It seemed to do almost nothing. With the Output at noon, it actually made my signal quitter and didn't even come back up to the original volume until about the 2 o'clock position. Even with the output maxed there was only a very slight, barely noticeable volume boost. It was about the equivalent of flicking the volume knob on your amp from 2 to 2.3. The distortion knob didn't had a whole lot of distortion either. Even with both knobs maxed there was very little boost. All it did was sort of fuzz up my original sound. I tried this pedal over a clean setting on the amp and got a unpleasant mild Overdrive that was very trebly and sounded like a cheap transistor practice amp. I was very very disappointed in this pedal. I knew that it would only be a mild overdrive, but it didn't even produce that. I have no clue how these things got as popular as they have. I have read many reviews that say this pedal was intended to boost a slightly dirty amp, and that's exactly what I wanted it to do, but it just didn't deliver. // 2

Reliability & Durability: This thing is build like a tank. It should not break and would most likely last for years and years of playing. MXR makes quality pedals build wise. // 10

Overall Impression: I was sorely disappointed on this one. I love MXR products, but this one just puzzled me. I did end up picking up MXR's Overdrive and love it. If you're looking for something to boost your solos and add a little bit of grit to your sound, this is not the pedal your looking for, which is surprising considering that is what this pedal it known for. I really wanted this pedal to have a use, but I simply could not find one. I was surprised that this wasn't enough gain and punch for me considering I play only mild gain type stuff. I ended up selling this pedal because it just was of no use to me. I won't give it a 1 since it does add gain to a clean amp, but it's a unpleasant Overdrive and that's all I could get this pedal to really do. // 2

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overall: 4.8
M104 Distortion Plus Reviewed by: unregistered, on october 30, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: C$ 72

Purchased from: Long an McQuade

Ease of Use: I couldn't get a good sound out of this pedal. I suppose it is easy to use, but all settings sounded tinny. // 5

Sound: I'm using an Ibanez s through a Randall G3 combo. The sound is very 'bitey' in that it shreds the shit out of the eardrums. This cannot be used for metal. Playing Iron Maiden on this thing is a joke. Maybe a crunch setting would work from the amp but I bought it specifically to give some 80's distortion sounds as a stand alone pedal and plus I don't want to be hopping on my pedals to get a clean sound. // 3

Reliability & Durability: It looks reliable. It's made of metal. Probably would last 20 plus years. // 8

Overall Impression: Randy Rhoads style? Pfffft. Try a good amp with good distortion. You will need a really good amp, and if you have one, why the hell would you get this thing? This pedal even through a tubed Marshall (like the one I played in the store)sounds like tinfoil being crushed up against the side of your head. This thing is no good, the Marshall distortion was world's better. I've been playing for 15 years, got a couple better pedals (Distortion 3 by MXR and the valve distortion by hardwire). Bought this because second thoughts led me giving this thing a second chance. I promptly brought it back. This pedal is worse than the Fullbore Metal, and that's saying something.

// 3

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