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1978 MXR Envelope Filter dropped into my lap yesterday

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by JimmyM, Sep 4, 2017.

  1. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Our sax player, who also plays bass, says to me he's got an old broken MXR envelope filter pedal and asks if I'd be interested in seeing if I could do anything with it. I say sure, bring it and let's check it out. I'm thinking it was probably going to be something from the last 10-15 years, and he shows up with an early 1978 MXR M-120 Envelope Filter, a favorite of Jerry Garcia's!

    I open it up to put a battery in it, and it's full of dust from where the foam inside of it crumbled. Uh-oh, not looking good. I put a battery in it anyway, and was surprised to see that not only does it still work, but it works flawlessly...the pots don't even crackle! They're rather pitted from years of neglect, but they still work perfectly.

    Honestly, I think it works better on guitar than bass, as it can get a little dark on the non-quacky sounds that I favor. But it still sounds pretty good on bass. Chickened out on trying it with the band, but it sounds pretty good at home. It's dead quiet until you get to the most trebly sounds and has no noticeable tone suck when bypassed. Has no LED nor any place to plug in a 9v adapter (see the primitive circumstances we had to deal with, kids?), but with only a 1.3 mv current draw (according to Effects Database), an alkaline should last for a very long time.

    He told me I could have it because he believed it to be worthless, but I don't think I can keep it in good conscience after seeing what they go for. One guy on Ebay wants $325 for his, and it's in only slightly better condition. But maybe I should keep it just to teach him a life lesson. He'll just sell it, whereas I will use it for a few months and then sell it :D

    So I've not done any in-depth research on it, but I plan to. In the meantime, if any of you know anything about them, please feel free to chime in.


    Just finished an audio demo. Hope you like Brick's "Dazz." I tried to go through the gamut of tones as neatly as possible without making it go interminably long (some might argue I failed at that), so I set the threshold knob to 6 different positions from all the way down to all the way up, and for each of those positions, I played the riff 4 times moving the attack knob from all the way down to all the way up, a quarter turn each time. It should give you a pretty good idea of its range.

    Before you hear the filter kick in, I played through the riff twice, once with only a 10 ft cable plugged in, once with the pedal plugged in with a second 6 ft cable and bypassed, just so you can gauge its level of tone suck or lack thereof. The sounds change on beat 2 of each time through the riff, as that gave me the best editing point to keep pops and clicks to a minimum. Used my Hammersmith PJ with EMG GZR's set with P on full and J slightly rolled off, and moderately used Dunlop Super Bright Nickels. Went into a REDDI and an old Fast Track C400.

    MXR Envelope Filter 1977.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  2. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    Let's see the foam!
    jobbermania and JimmyM like this.
  3. dannybuoy


    Aug 3, 2005
    All I know about them is that Tim Lefebvre is a fan and that the Discumbobulator is supposed to be based on it. Good score!
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
    Fxpmusic and JimmyM like this.
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Hehehe! It's gone now, bro.
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Check it out...there was a guy selling copies of the original spec sheet on Ebay for $7. I just copied his pictures :D

    MXR Envelope Filter Brochure 2. MXR Envelope Filter Brochure 1.
    SirMjac28 and Grumry like this.
  6. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Odd...I wasn't feeling this pedal as much on bass as guitar at first. It's starting to grow on me, though. I still like it better on guitar, but I'm getting there with it on bass.
  7. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Chamonix Mont-Blanc
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    Jerry was a Mutron guy through and through. He may have played a little with the MXR but it wasn't his "favorite" by any stretch.

    Hope it sounds good.
    Jakeman and HolmeBass like this.
  8. Alivefor5

    Alivefor5 Supporting Member

    Jul 17, 2006
    Bought one new way back then. Couldn't get anything I liked out of it. Kept it and would pull it out about every 5 years and see if it did anything for me. Never did. Traded it off last year and have not missed it.
  9. hermetic


    May 10, 2016
    This is your band mate and not friend? You obviously don't think much of him since you want to teach him a lesson for being so stupid as to give you such a valuable toy. Kinda like celebrating stealing from a vendor so stupid as to display the information he was selling in pictures. And it's all perfectly justified, isn't it.
  10. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You go on with your righteously angry self! Ever hear of a concept called "humor"? Obviously not.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Maybe so but I've seen his name associated with it more than a couple times in a Google search.
  12. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Chamonix Mont-Blanc
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    I've never seen it included once in any live board or recording. I was rather obsessive about Garcia's effects a few years back. Given his relationship with MXR it wouldn't surprise me if he had one. But you can't say it was a "favorite" of his.
    Jakeman likes this.
  13. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    I also have one.

    Yours is in much better condition than mine. Bought it for cheap on a lark after seeing Tim Lefebvre use one. I was very surprised how funky it is, I've tried all sorts of different envelope filters, seeking a simple, sorta vintagey filter tone, (think Sneaking Sally Through the Alley by Robert Palmer) as well as something that could work with dirt and octave for a synthy sound (think Nine Inch Nails) and this one that it all.

    Definitely my most favourite filter I've used and I always keep it nearby.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
    JimmyM likes this.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    That's a nice pedal, we have one in our studio and having fixed many mxr pedals from the era, I know about the "foam" you're talking about :)

    Although I think it's a great pedal overall, their new bass envelope filter is much better in live setting (IMO) that is on my small pedalboard.

    You can (if you want to) make it true bypass, install an led, and 9v dc input btw.
    JimmyM likes this.
  15. I sure hope it came with a box, and if not, please publish the angry email exchange.
  16. jobbermania

    jobbermania Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2012
    Philadelphia PA
    A similar "foam" issue happens with Peavey Black Widow speakers.
    The foam which was placed in the voice coil vent, presumably to keep out dust, disintegrates over twenty or thirty years, migrates into the voice coil gap and jams up the movement of the voice coil.
    Fortunately, it can be cleaned out by disassembling the magnet from the driver.
    What a nasty mess to clean, but certainly worth the effort to rescue an otherwise undamaged speaker.
  17. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    I remember those units.
    The days of carrying a stock of 9v batteries to gigs. :D
  18. jobbermania

    jobbermania Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2012
    Philadelphia PA

    It's really cool that you came across the vintage MXR envelope filter.
    Getting gifted something by a fellow musician is the best!
    I have been looking into getting the current MXR M82 envelope filter.
    I listened to the online demos and I think I really need that sound for an all-original 80's style band I'm in.
    After reading this, I'm sold. Gotta hurry up and use a Labor Day coupon tonight.

    Might even be able to squeeze it onto this pedalboard.

    MYLOWFREQ and JimmyM like this.
  19. Bought mine new in '83. First time I used it in high school jazz band it dropped jaws. It still has a spot right in front on my board and will never leave.
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  20. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    @jobbermania - nice to see I'm not the only one who uses cutting boards for pedal boards. :cool::thumbsup:

    (Although I'll have to admit I'm seriously considering my first "real" pedal board after dodging it for well over 25 tears. In my case it'll probably be a Temple Audio. I'm still up in the air about which model to get - currently I'm waffling between the duo-24 and duo-34 - but I'll be getting one or the other soon. It's in my letter to Santa this year.) :laugh:
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