I 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….