Price paid: $ 99
Purchased from: New from GC
Ease of Use — 10
It is super easy to use. Just enough knobs to play with, not too many to get confused. Out of the box, it sounds good. Start tweaking, and you can get more sounds to your liking. The manual is good enough, but this product really does not need a manual. The only things I needed to learn was how the SCOOP works, as well as the gate. But, those are easy enough, and you can hear with your own ears what the scoop does. It is an analog pedal, so when you turn the knobs, the sound changes right away, no popping or weird sounds. It is simple to adjust, and within 15 mins you will master the use of this pedal.
Sound — 9
This is an analog distortion pedal. With so many effects going digital, it is nice to see MXR still makes an analog distortion pedal. I have owned this pedal for over 5 years, heck, maybe even 10. I read some of the reviews here, and I think the bad review people just don't understand gear. You should not buy this pedal if you have a tube amp with good distortion, unless you will play at home at less than half volume. If you put your tube amp on the clean channel at a jam session, you will need to turn it up. The problem will then be that the tube amps distortion will get in the way of this pedal, and it will not sound good. Have you ever seen someone running 2 distortion pedals? It never sounds good. Keep that in mind. What this pedal does great is make a small practice amp sound bigger. I have a Vox AD15VT, and the built in distortion is lacking. When I use this pedal, it makes the Vox sound like a 5150 with a 12" speaker (it has an 8"). The drive is more than you will ever need, so harmonics and palm muting will be great with this pedal's gain turned up. The EQ has enough functions to give you a descent range of distortion, not as much as a boutique pedal, but for the price you should be able to find your sound by turning the knobs until get a sound you like.
The scoop function is great for '80s metal sounds, lets you get the early VH tones pretty easily, with tons of mid and it accentuates your notes and makes them sing out as you go through some scales at speed. Almost any hair-metal bands sound from the '80s can also be dialed in my adding more top end frequency by turning the knob clockwise. Back the knob off and get more of a rhythm sound. When I took a break from playing, this was one of the few pedals I kept. I sold off all my other distortion pedals except this one. I also play bass, and this pedal is one of the pedals used by Wolfgang VH. I like the sound on my bass too; I can see why he uses it. If you drop the gain down, it almost starts to sound like a fuzz pedal when you adjust the EQ to the low end. How someone can say this pedal is not versatile is beyond me? Is it the most versatile disto ever? Heck no, but it does give you enough options that everyone should be able to find a sound they like. What it does not do is make a cleanish crunch sound, or any type of twangy distortion. There are pedals just for that, so if you wanted a Texas twang, why the heck would you buy a Fullbore metal pedal? If you want to play hard rock and metal, this pedal favors those sounds.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Had the pedal for a decade I think, nothing has ever gone wrong with it. It is all metals, except the removable knobs. It is made by MXR, so their stuff stands up to professional bands on the road, I am sure this pedal will survive whatever most people would do to it. I have gotten it dirty, wet, plugged the wrong voltage power into it, and none of this ever phased this pedal. It always comes on, and the footswitch always works on time. You would have to TRY to break this pedal for it to me damaged.
Overall Impression — 10
I like this pedal. The only way I would buy another distortion pedal is if I went for a boutique pedal, like a Wampler Pinnacle, or the OCD pedal. The only other distortion I would buy at this price range would be a tube screamer, but that is meant for tube amps mostly, not that it would not work with solid state. The built in gate is a nice feature if you don’t own one already. It keeps the noise from all the gain under control when you stop playing for a moment. I think you need to know your gear to determine if this pedal is right for you. If you already have tubes and distortion, this pedal will be less useful. If you have a solid state amp, this pedal really shines there. Especially practice amps. My Fender Frontman 25R loves this pedal, as does my Line 6 Spider 2. To get the most out of this pedal, you really need a clean channel to let the pedal work its magic. If you have multiple sources making distortion, you will get a muddy sound where you can’t hear individual notes. What amazes me is that this pedal makes crappy speakers in cheap combo amps sound better than they actually are. This would be a great 1st distortion pedal for someone. The only thing I wish they would change is allow the gate to work even if the pedal is disengaged. There is a button to disable the gate already, so if the gate worked when I stomped the distortion off, that would be super. Other than that, I will keep this pedal as long as I am playing.