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MXR M104 Distortion+ Best Distortion Pedal Review

The MXR M104 Distortion+ pedal is a no-frills distortion pedal used by many famous guitarists for decades. It also makes for a relatively useful boost pedal, letting you choose between the natural overdrive of your amp or the fuzzy crunch the M104’s distortion effect is known for.

Features:

Controls:

  • Output – This control is what you’ll use to boost your signal. With the Distortion turned down and the Output dimed, this pedal effectively becomes a clean boost. If you have a tube amp that runs best when hot, use this setting at the end of your chain for maximum effect.
  • Distortion – Don’t like your amp’s natural overdrive? The Distortion control on the M104 makes for some pretty versatile dirt on your tone. Crank it up to get some crazy metal tones (Randy Rhoads made this distortion sound famous), or turn it back for some crunchy rock.

Power – Uses one 9V battery or a Dunlop AC adaptor to power. The battery option has a track record for fizzing out in the middle of shows, so carry some backup batteries or plug it in.

Pros:

Tone – The distortion ranges from warm blues to metallic fuzz. The Output is about as clean as it gets, which allows you to craft your tone without dragging it through the mud. It should also be noted that this pedal may classify itself as “distortion,” but most guitarists would probably say it’s more of an “overdrive” pedal. The hard clipping that characterizes most “distortion” pedals isn’t really what you’ll find here; it’s more of a soft clipping. It’s a minor distinction, but one worth noting. It’s a distinction that I think works in the pedals favor, seeing as that hard clipping is prone to make a wet signal sound harsh and fake, which you won’t find here.

Simple to Use – This pedal is good right out of the box to plug it in and play. That’s all there is to it. Two knobs and a foot switch – it’s not complicated because it doesn’t need to be.

Price – It doesn’t have a lot of extra effects, but thankfully, you don’t have to pay over the top for what it does have. Even the “new” price tag is reasonable, so if you end up not liking it, you’ll have put very little skin in the game to fret about it.

Durability – While the paint job on this pedal is prone to scraping off easily, the casing itself is built solid. It can definitely handle its share of bumps and jostles and still keep trucking.

Clean Dry Signal – Though this pedal is touted as “hardwire bypass” and not “true bypass,” it still seems to send the dry signal through unaffected when it’s off. I can’t confirm that it’s an actual true bypass, but it’s the general consensus that it at least sounds like it is, so it counts as a good thing here.

Cons:

Simplicity – The M104 is basically a clean boost overdrive pedal and nothing more. If you consider the price, then its simplicity isn’t really a bad thing; you’re getting exactly what you pay for.

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