Recently I bought the MXR M-80 Bass DI +. It’s much more than a DI box, it’s a bass preamp with clean and distortion channels, and 3-band EQ. It’s also a shortcut to awesome bass tones.
There is one 1/4″ input, a parallel output sent before any processing, instrument level output, and XLR output. These 3 output options cover just about any situation on stage or in the studio.
The M80 can be powered by 9 volt battery, 9 volt negative tip DC or Phantom Power through the XLR jack.
It has a very rugged construction and its pretty heavy for a pedal.
Using it as a DI box, with the EQ and distortion bypassed it is very transparent. I’ve never found DI boxes to make a huge tone difference anyway, but this one does not seem to color the sound in a negative way compared to plugging into a clean preamp.
For the clean channel of this pedal the controls available are Volume, Color and 3-band EQ. The color button engages a preset EQ shape that make the bass sound big and fat and scoops the mids. This can be further shaped with the EQ.
For the distortion channel there are several more options. Switching to this channel also engages the color circuit so the tone is preshaped. You then have Volume, Blend, Trigger and Gain knobs.
Volume is the overall output level of this channel. Blend is a mix of the preshaped clean tone and the distorted tone. The gate button and trigger knob sets an expander for the distortion signal, this works really well for cleaning up the sound between notes and suppressing hiss. Last there is the gain control which sets the amount of distortion.
To demonstrate the range of sounds from this pedal, I made a short demo song. Drums via Steven Slate Drums 4, double-tracked guitars processed with Amplitube 3. I then played 5 takes for the bass part with a different settings for each.
First here is the bass without any processing from the M80. My bass is connected to the Instrument input of my True Systems P-Solo preamp (a super clean preamp).[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/MXR_M80/1-mix_bass_p-solo.mp3|titles=Bass Direct Preamp]
Next the bass is played through the M80 on the clean side with the color switch engaged and each of the EQ knobs set to 1oclock.[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/MXR_M80/2-mix_bass_m80-clean.mp3|titles=Bass M80 Clean]
Now the bass is going through the distorted channel adding just a bit of grit to the signal. The blend is about half, the EQ is set the same as before.[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/MXR_M80/3-mix_bass_m80-gritty.mp3|titles=Bass M80 Gritty]
Next the distorted channel is set with a bit more gain, the blend is still about half and the EQ controls are cranked up.[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/MXR_M80/4-mix_bass_m80-more_gritty-EQd.mp3|titles=Bass M80 More Distorted]
This last example is with all the controls cranked. This is full gain with no clean signal blended and the EQ at full.[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/MXR_M80/5-mix_bass_m80-maxeverything.mp3|titles=Bass M80 Full Everything]
So that’s just a taste of what this can do recording direct without any extra processing. The possibilities are endless once you start making the signal chain more elaborate.
What I like about the pedal is that you can plug just about any bass into it, and get a great sound fast. The distortion isn’t like a fuzz or fizzy like some other bass distortions and it doesn’t do amp and cabinet emulation like a Sansamp.
This is just one of many available bass preamp / DI box / distortions available. This one is cheap, rugged and sounds great. Highly recommended for every bass player and studio.
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