MXR M80 Bass DI+ review

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by scottfeldstein, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. I've written a lot about my search for analog dirt and a good DI in many, many other threads. If you're reading this you're probably familar with my search and you may know that I ended up with the MXR M80 Bass DI+. I submitted my review of the unit to the Reviews section, but i'm posting it here too just for shiggles.

    I get my wacky over-the-top digital distortion from the Source Audio Multiwave, but what about a basic rock sound? I had been unsatisfied with the inflexible EQ and inadequate dirt on my SansAmp bass drivers. I looked at the Aguilar Tone Hammer (bad dirt sound), the Hartke Bass Attack (great price but too big and of dubious build quality), the Darkglass B7K (overpriced) and the VT Bass (great sound but expensive and no DI).

    All of which led me to the MXR M80. Small footprint, reasonable price, reliable brand, good overdrive sound and a quality DI. Put simply, it's the best bang for the buck if you're looking for a solid DI with an EQ and a distortion channel.

    It's got a three knob EQ section, a scooped "color" button and a distortion effect. You can engage the EQ and the color button without engaging the distortion. The distortion channel also has its own independent output level. The DI functions even when the unit is off. The unit can be powered by 9v battery, 9v adapter or phantom power. It has a parallel output as well.

    I like the product and I recommend the product and you should probably buy the product. But here's the caveats.

    1. The distortion is more modern sounding than retro. This may or may not bother you. It does have some lovely upper harmonic content. It's got a very tight sounding sizzle to it. You'll notice the increased string noise and "presence" that suddenly appear when you engage it. The unit does come with a variable noise gate you can engage if you intend to go really heavy on the distortion channel.

    2. The distortion sound cannot really be set such that it only starts to break up when you dig in hard. That is, it's not very sensitive to your dynamics. You can have it on a little, you can have it on a lot, but you cannot have it break up only when you play hard. It does, however, have a Mix knob to blend in your clean signal. I find I run the distortion at about noon and the mix at about 9 o'clock for a basic rock-out tone.

    3. Engaging the distortion automatically engages the "color" circuit regardless of switch position. I find that if I bump the mid knob up to 3 o'clock, I can run the color switch engaged all the time. That way I can get a middy finger tone with nothing engaged, a modestly scooped slap tone with just the EQ side engaged, and then get a rock sound when I hit the distortion. Bumping the mid knob up basically softens the impact of the color switch on your mids but still lets you retain some of its character.

    Finally, I think a lot depends on whether you like the dirt circuit or not. Everyone knows what an EQ does. Here's what the modest dirt settings described above sound like:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
  2. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I have one - the disto is a little harsh for me. But then, I don't like distortion anyway, so the EBS ValveDrive is about as radical as I'd go - which isn't far. What you've dialed in sounds good, though. I just don't play any music that requires it.
  3. Actually I really like the sound of the EBS ValveDrive. Very soft and tubey.
  4. AndyLES


    Aug 25, 2008
    New York
    Funny, I run the controls the opposite way - gain at 9 o'clock, mix at 12, bass at 1 o'clock and mids all the way up. Best bass sound ever at my last gig.
  5. dax21


    Nov 26, 2011
    So you got the M80 in the end. :) I agree with most of your review, except that I did find it to be very sensitive to dynamics. It can go from almost clean to twangy, but I suppose that is a subjective thing.
    So are you satisfied with it? :)

    By the way, those samples sound killer, any info on recording setup?
  6. Shucks, this old thing? :) It's just what you see. My Ibanez > my board (compressor and M80 engaged) > GK MB500 > mixer > Garageband.
  7. Medford Bassman

    Medford Bassman Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Medford, Wisconsin
    Nice samples my fellow Wisconsinnite!!!!
  8. Wow, I'm going to try that.

    Also @dax: Yes, I'm satisfied with it! I think it's the hard slap sound above that sold me.
  9. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
  10. Fantastic clips my friend!
    A fellow TB'er once told me if you crank the gate all the way up and turn the distortion gain to a milder setting it will help with dynamics of the distortion sort of turning it into an overdrive as you have to play harder to "break" the gate. I never really gave it a try.
    TerribleLiar23 likes this.
  11. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Although I love the M-80, I've never liked the distortion half of it very much. I used a Valve Drive for years, and now Bass Juice, but recently twiddled the M-80 and found I can get something useable from the distortion afterall. Very tweakable effect.
  12. Thanks! And, wow, that's really interesting. Might work! Only once you do break the gate...everything comes out. Still not very dynamic, but better than nothing! I'm gonna try that as well.
  13. On Wisconsin!

    Although I'm more interested in Marquette today. :)
  14. Well, I tried this at home's got a nice character to it. But I immediately found that it lost more bottom end compared to my original signal. I could bump the Low up, but then my EQ-only channel was too deep compared to my original signal.

    I want my original signal, my EQ-only sound and my distortion sound to be roughly equal in gain but also in filing in the bottom end. I haven't exactly got everything dialed in just yet, but I think my way--distortion at noon and mix at 9 o'clock--holds the most promise. At least it seems to when I run the EQ bass and treble flat and mids up to 3 o'clock.
  15. RobbieNuke


    Jan 22, 2008
    I've used the M-80 for a few years now... at the end of my FX chain. The distortion is more characteristic of a 60's Fuzz Bass (hard clipping), not touch sensitive at all. Would have been ideal if it had a selector switch to toggle between the current distortion (Fuzz Bass) and something milder (simple overdrive). Luckily I can achieve OD with other methods, but having it included in the M-80 would have made this a perfect pedal. Gate feature works great feature with this pedal, too... especially when using using a high blend of distortion.

    Color button was a gig saver when performing in a cubed area at a small venue... kept fighting a resonance... could not EQ it out at all. Engaged the color button and instant fix!
  16. That's my impression as well, not touch sensitive. "60s fuzz bass"? Are there other effects or even classic tracks that you can refer me to that sound like this? Inquiring minds want to know!
    Driven Crane likes this.
  17. AllenLee


    Jan 6, 2013
    Texas, USA
    I bought mine used and love it. This is a great write-up/review on it, too!

    The main reason I picked it up was to use at church and avoid hauling around my amp back and forth but the poor excuses we call PA speakers are not up to the job... I was a little discouraged at this but it quickly found it's way in my signal chain and I don't see it leaving any time soon.

    This pedal has made me a believer of MXR products, that's for sure!
  18. RobbieNuke


    Jan 22, 2008
    "Dance To The Music" featuring Larry Graham; N.I.B. (Sabbath); "I'm So Glad" (live) and "Apostrophe" (Zappa album) featuring Jack Bruce; "Kingdom Come" (Sir Lord Baltimore) and Mel Schacher (Grand Funk Railroad) are just a few fuzz bass examples that comes to mind. But back then they seemed to be very popular... maybe to get a few more db's at live gigs or sound more aggressive without actually pushing the speakers as hard. Bass was either very clean and deep or more mid-rangy and dirty. Not exactly sure what units these cats were using back then... some probably had their amps cranked as well (I suspect Tim Bogart used this method more than a pedal on the Cactus/Jeff Beck albums).

    In the 70's I had an original Big Muff Pi that worked pretty good for bass, and an original Univox Super Fuzz that really clipped the signal. Both took out the low end. A pedal geek may know exactly what the bass distortion units that were available back in the 60's-70's. Something called a Juggernaut comes to mind. The MXR M-80 gives all the clipping but can blend in the low end.
  19. AndyLES


    Aug 25, 2008
    New York
    Well, whaddaya know - I tried YOUR settings and actually like them better. :bag: :bassist: That's why we have these forums in the first place, right?
  20. Amen, brother!