Doing a 180 On the MXR 6-Band

August 23, 2011 | By | 6 Replies More

MXR_6band_JK_1I have an early ’80s MXR 6-band EQ (pictured). Can’t remember exactly why I bought it (new), but had to be because of Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, my two guit-wielding idols at the time. Even though Ed used the 6-band and Randy used the 10-band, Randy may have been more of an influence at purchase – I think I remember not being able to afford the 10-band.

Anyhow, a few years ago, when I got back into music and decided to start this blog, I was obsessed with nailing some approximation of old EVH tone. Particularly the Fair Warning tone.

Never did get there exactly, an evolving quest, but in the context of EVH tone I was happy to find that I still had my old MXR 6-band. So I put a battery in it, stuck it between my guitar and the Marshall plexi replica head I had and…

…it sounded like crap.

Just awful. Like putting my signal through through buzzsaw interference over a transistor radio.

Thought I remembered that from back in the day – the hissing, the feedback, the thinning out of tone. And this time it sure wasn’t because I was playing though a solid state Peavey Renown….

I experimented with it ’til I couldn’t take it anymore, then broke down and bought an old Boss GE-10 EQ – which sounds amazing but is so rare I didn’t want to use it much (still don’t). So there I was with two “vintage” EQs, both used by tone god EVH at one time or another, and me using neither one much.

I definitely didn’t want to use the MXR 6-band. Hated it, badmouthed it on forums – though I did note that since some supposedly sound better than others, maybe I just got a bad one.

Fast forward to last week. I’m about to sell a bunch of pedals on eBay, plugged in the 6-band to see if it had a battery in it and to make sure it still worked even though old MXR pedals seem pretty much bomb-proof.

My signal chain was: stock 1980 Les Paul Standard > MXR 6-band > Top Hat Emplexador 50w head > 4×12 with Celestion Greenbacks (more on this amazing-sounding rig in a future post). That’s my usual signal chain, without the 6-band.

And it sounded…great! WTH?!

It sounded so good I figured the 6-band wasn’t working. So I moved the sliders to extreme positions. Sure enough, it was working…and then I ran out of time because the refrigerator delivery guys got back (“you were jammin’ in there man! they said…lol).

So based on that, here are my unscientific, ears-only conclusions:

> The woodier your rig is, the better the MXR 6-band will sound – and vice versa. If your tone is harsh or distorted to begin with, expect the MXR to make it sound that much more harsh.

> The better (or maybe the more vintage) your amp, the better this EQ will perform. You might say “duh, that’d be true of anything” – yep, but seems super important in this case.

> This model of EQ may not like high-output pickups. Before trying the 6-band with my current rig, I used a different Les Paul with higher-output pickups, which already thin out the sound (while giving the illusion of beef). I also used a different head that I never quite liked.

And maybe most telling of all:

> EVH’s rig was woody. And if all MXR 6-band EQs sounded like crap, he wouldn’t have used one.

So I’m done badmouthing the MXR 6-band.

Guess the only test to do now is an Eric Johnson one: Does the battery make a difference. Meaning, does my MXR EQ have a battery with a low charge that’s making it sound less harsh?

If I’m motivated, will change it out and let you know. Otherwise, I think the pedal is still going on eBay. Don’t need it….

Category: Edward Van Halen, MXR, Randy Rhoads

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. windwalker9649 says:

    Another possibility is that you just didn’t know how to set it. The biggest mistake in my buying/ selling/ trading habit with gear, is getting rid of my MXR M-108 10-band eq. It was the most useful pedal I’ve owned, and one ill get again
    out of all the pedals residing on my two boards now (one for boxes that go in the input, one for the loop) which goes(from guitar to amp); MXR Custom Comp(replaced the vintage Dyna Comp that went into the closet due to value, as well as noise)> Rams head big muff clone>EP Boost> Timmy> Zendrive> Tim(with a true bypass loop strip containing a dd2, optical compressor I built)> boss ce2 chorus which not only sounds great being driven from a boost or overdrive>MXR flange(in three front for the same reason)> amp.
    I’m the loop is a volume pedal>ce-1 chorus>MIJ DD3> MXR Carbon Copy> Holy Grail plus. The only thing I need is another MXR 10-band.

  2. Jon says:

    Mine sounded amazing in front of the Bray plexi I had. It really gave the amp that extra sharpness and attack it needed for a convincing EVH tone.

    Im now using mine to control solo volume in the effects loop of my YJM100 and works brilliantly for that

  3. leftystrat says:

    “You cannot polish a turd” is the key phrase here.

    I had a casino gig and wasn’t allowed to bring my amp. I looked on in horror at the tiny transistor amp provided for me. No amount of EQ or much of anything else was going to rescue my tone that night.

    If you can get yourself in the general neighborhood of what you’re searching for, these tools definitely help. But the Pignose isn’t going to sound like a Boogie.

    Keep up the quest.

  4. gearslob says:

    Funny, I had the same experience, and also had a Peavey Renown (still do and it is my quiet practice amp/Glorious clean channel)!
    My main rig is a 73 modded Super Lead/Gsystem/Palmer/Mesa 2-90 pwr amp + all sorts of other stuff.
    The key to EVH was pre EQ and post EQ.
    The 6 band is best used to drive the preamp further into mayhem.
    Set the EQ Mid hot and keep the bass and trebles at unity.
    If you have an effects loop (or Palmer), try then removing the harshness of the added mids back down.
    The pre EQ gives the pick attack and squeals the Ed had, while the post EQ tames that tone for more functional recording or live usage. (But at least you do not lose what you created with the preEQ)!
    The Palmer lets you get full power tube saturation – then post EQ to power amps and multiple cabs like Ed did too.
    You will regret losing that pedal! or contact me at my email and I’ll buy it happily!

  5. gearslob says:

    In addition, since the 6band is not a distortion – but a clean gain boost – it plays well with other pedals. I am able to cleanly have that EQ on along with a Tube Screamer or DS1 on at the same time for roaring preamp distortion and gain coloration.

  6. HO says:

    Old blue 6-Band stays in my rig 99% of the time. Great pedal.

Leave a Reply