MXR M81, worth the money? Anything better?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Xavier Isaac, Aug 21, 2022.

  1. Xavier Isaac

    Xavier Isaac

    Mar 16, 2022
    Hey ya'll, first post here! I have a quick question. I'm thinking of purchasing MXR's Bass Preamp for my board, but the reviews that I've seen online still haven't fully convinced me on pulling the trigger. I have an Aerodyne J bass with stock pickups atm, but I'm gonna change em out with SD 1/4lbs! I think those pickups will get me that punchy midrange tone I'm looking for. The stocks are alright but are definitely lacking, my signal chain goes into (tuner first obviously) my Xotic SP compressor into a $40 Amazon preamp pedal from Caline called the Wine Cellar. This combo has done me good for about a year and a half, but rn I'm looking for something better, the Wine Cellar is honestly a really great pedal for the price and has gotten me a really great tone.
    Although I'm trying to downsize on my pedals and or get something better. I've been checking out the MXR since it seems like the right fit for me. I've seen that it's very transparent and clean which is what I'm looking for and IT HAS A DI OUTPUT!!! The Wine Cellar also has a DI output, which I've used at gigs before and the sound guys always seem a bit happier too. I've seen a lot of great preamp pedals that I've liked like the small Geddy Lee one from Sans Amp, but no DI :(
    I do really need a DI in my chain, my big muff has one but it's after my other pedals. I play metal btw, but I find it better for the bass to be clean if I'm on the house system (that's my opinion). I mainly use my Wine Cellar to juice up my sound and tone (also with comp) but I feel like once I get my Seymour Duncan 1/4lbs they'll get me closer to that sound. I've seen the thump and all those other great preamp pedals which I'd definitely like but I really do need a DI, especially now that I can go to shows without an amp, or if something were to go bad with my amp I wouldn’t have to worry.
    If anyone has any other recommendations or experience with this pedal please help me out!

    P.S. here’s my board
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  2. mmbongo

    mmbongo I have too many basses. Supporting Member

    If you are indeed looking for a clean, transparent preamp with a DI then that's exactly what the M81 does all day long.

    Also good call on installing Quarter Pounders! They are powerful sounding pickups with huge midrange punch, I love them!
  3. Xavier Isaac

    Xavier Isaac

    Mar 16, 2022
    Thanks man!! Anything else you'd consider?
    jamro217 likes this.
  4. mmbongo

    mmbongo I have too many basses. Supporting Member

    Well me personally....I would rather have a SushiBox Finally or the one I actually do use...Broughton Messenger. But either of those are a little harder to find and will cost more. But for the price and the size, the M81 is hard to beat!
    Zbysek, JeffTCS, Xavier Isaac and 3 others like this.
  5. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    I like the Sansamp BDDI. But there are lots of choices.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    MXR M81 is very transparent and it does not add noise to your signal IME. If you need a clean DI, it does it very well. I use it right after my high-pass filter to send a clean DI signal when needed, and to match the levels of my basses as it has a pre and a post gain knob. Then I got all the other pedals in line ending with Sansamp BDDI for some amp flavor.
    Raman, Nuage420 and mikewalker like this.
  7. Nighttrain1127

    Nighttrain1127 Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    Near Worcester MA
    I had an M81 and it was transparent and had powerful enough EQ section. I will probably get another one at some point. Right now I am using a Joyo California Drive I believe it is supposed to sound like a Mesa. It is also pretty transparent depending on where the character knob is .
    Xavier Isaac, Raman and bassbrad like this.
  8. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    For the price I think it's the best valued preamp on the market. And I've bought damn near every hot new pre to come out for the past few years.
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  9. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    I also often use the m81 distortion that's built into my gx100. It's a great classic sound.
    Xavier Isaac likes this.
  10. Aloe


    Apr 10, 2016
    I briefly owned a M81 and found the DI a tad noisy for my taste. also didn't care for the EQ, the mid boost felt plasticky to me.

    my SpectraDrive was a bit more expensive, but the DI out was much better. I was hoping to downsize to M81, but tried and went back.
    Xavier Isaac likes this.
  11. fishdude101101

    fishdude101101 Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2020
    The mxr is good, but suggest the mesa di as well
    Xavier Isaac likes this.
  12. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    I think the MXR M81 is a great preamp pedal. If you’re looking for a quiet preamp that doesn’t impart any of its own coloration on your sound, it does that job very well. I actually bought it for the sole purpose of beefing up the low mids on my Jazz Bass, and it did the job without changing the overall tone or feel of the bass.

    If you’re looking for a preamp pedal that completely changes the character of your bass sound, the MXR M81 is probably not the best choice.
  13. Regarding noise with this pedal: use a good quality power supply (1Spot) or battery.
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  14. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    The Caline Wine Cellar he has is a BDDI knockoff.
    Artman and Xavier Isaac like this.
  15. For clean and transparent I'd also recommend the older MarkBass Super Booster DI. I have one as well as the Sansamp VT Bass DI. The VT Bass has it's own cool coloration going......but the Markbass dishes out "clean and transparent" all day long.
  16. Nuage420

    Nuage420 smile Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    I never had noise issue with my m81
  17. Welcome to TB. The MXR product line retains its value in case you get one and don't like it. You won't lose your shirt reselling it. Hope this helps.
  18. Red Four

    Red Four

    Apr 4, 2011
    I used to have one and it was very solid and clean. Great build quality. I personally didn't enjoy the distortion that much, but it's personal taste. If you're not looking to change your tone much and just want a solid DI, it's a good choice. I eventually sold it and kept the BDDI just because I found the effected tone option to be more interesting than on the MXR. As jamro217 says above, you should be able to resell it without much issue. So buying used may be your best bet.
  19. kevmac


    Mar 17, 2019
    Rhode Island
    Ah preamps! Be careful going down this path.In my many years of bass playing these are my favorite tone makers.There's so many to choose from and one can spend a lot of coin in pursuit of tonal bliss.In the $200 and under range I might suggest the Tech 21 YYZ especially if you like a Geddy tone.But it does more.One Control has a couple I like,the Silver Peg ( Ampeg with some grit) and the 360 Blue,think Jaco.If you have the cash Origin Bass Rigs are great.If you're really flush there's Oracle or Noble and Cave Man.No shortages of choices.Listen to demos on YouTube and pick a winner.
    shagT and Xavier Isaac like this.
  20. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    1. If you have no complaints with the Wine Cellar you have no reason to replace it.

    2. If you think you'll want to replace it once you get new pickups, why not wait until you get the new pickups?

    3. The cleanest and most transparent DI you can get is an actual DI Box, not a preamp. Look into a Radial PRO48 or similar.

    4. If you want something that can help you "juice up your sound and tone", as you put it, then you don't really want something transparent. That's a contradiction.
    MYLOWFREQ and Xavier Isaac like this.