Pearl Jam is one of the ‘Seattle four’ bands which have ushered in grunge music into the main stream. Although the unique style of Eddie Vedder is worth the praise, we can attribute most of Pearl Jam’s tone to Mike McCready. His own take on certain techniques gave their music a texture that was new at the time, thus attracting a lot of well deserved attention.
McCready’s use of effects pedal plays a large role in this, especially his wahs. One of the wah pedals you could often see on his pedal board is the MXR MC-404. Today we are going to take a closer look and see what this thing can do. As it turns out, it is still one of the more capable wahs on the market.
MXR MC404 CAE Crybaby Dual Inductor Wah Wah Pedal Review
Ever since MXR was taken over by Dunlop, people were skeptical whether or not the new company would fill the shoes of its predecessor. However, those fears were quickly erased. Dunlop’s backing has only brought MXR a lot of improvement, especially when we’re talking about wahs. As you probably know, Dunlop makes some of the best wah pedals in the world. After all, they are the one who produced the original wah effect pedal. In context of MC-404, all of this means that we can see some Dunlop solutions being implemented where they can boost the performance and quality of the pedal.
In terms of design, the pedal hasn’t really changed much compared to its original form. From a distance, it looks rather busy for a wah pedal. The chassis comes in form of a chunky aluminum design that inspires confidence as soon as you lift it up. It’s not too heavy, but heavy enough where you won’t have to worry about it moving around. Expression pedal shares a similar ideology. We have a long, decently wide surface covered with a rubberized pad for additional grip. MXR went on to add a graphic design that depicts three elements of an electronic circuit on the top, thus improving the aesthetics for those who like their pedals a bit unique.
Looking at the available features, it is easy to find out what’s so special about MC-404. Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that MC-404 features dual Fasel inductors. In other words, it allows you to choose two very distinct voices for the pedal. One of them focuses more on the higher portion of the range, while the other voice accentuates the lower portion. To choose between the two, all you have to do is press one of the two buttons on the side of the pedal. Each of these are color coded, with yellow being the deep one and red being the higher one.
The potentiometer switch used to create the wah pedal is a mechanical one. MXR obviously wanted to offer the same kind of reliability we are used to seeing in theirs and Dunlop’s previous designs. With that said, going with the mechanical switch also makes the pedal a lot more affordable. The important thing to know is that it’s reliable. In terms of powering the whole thing, you can use the standard MXR power adapter or a 9 Volt battery. Speaking of which, MXR made swapping the battery a very easy task. There’s no lids to unscrew or anything like that. All you have to do is pop the rubber base and swap the battery.
Once it’s time to plug this bad boy into your signal chain, you will know exactly why someone like Mike McCready chose to go with MC-404. Let’s start with the basic operation. Potentiometer chose by MXR for this build is a dream. The level of linearity and smoothness in the travel between the fully open and fully closed position is borderline perfect. There is no creeping in the expression pedal, no popping in the signal, just pure sweeps.
Having the two Fasels to choose from really gives this pedal a whole new dimension. Sure, some guitar players prefer a minimalist wah that is just there and works, however there is a case to be made for MC-404. Using different voices it offers can really add that edge to your guitar sections. It is more or less one of those things you didn’t even know you would need until you tried it for the first time.
Another thing that really caught our eye is the lack of noise. The pedal is extremely noise-free, both when used and on stand by. We can attribute this to MXR using a low noise custom made potentiometer as well as a very silent amp. Even if you run it on the adapter, you won’t hear any noticeable buzz coming from it. On top of all we have mentioned so far, this pedal is priced just perfectly. We are talking about a fairly affordable wah that offers more than your regular models. That alone makes it a great value for the money.
Here’s a video from the Jim Dunlop Youtube channel showing off the MXR MC404.
MXR MC-404 dual inductor wah pedal is by far one of the better models you can grab today. Sure, it’s not the simple wah most guitar players are gunning for, but this particular model has proven that change can be good. It is priced just right and the reliability is on par with other Dunlop designs we have seen over the years. It doesn’t really get much better than that. Mike McCready has recognized the potential of this pedal and the way it can improve his tone. If you are trying to get his tone and nail some of his unique moves, you might want to consider adding MXR MC-404 into your pedal board. Not only will it help you reach a level of authenticity you want, but it’s just a good wah pedal to have. Versatility definitely means a lot, especially when it comes in form of a wah pedal.