Today we review the MXR MC401. The MXR MC401 is a simple and responsive boost/line driver pedal that was created by Bob Bradshaw. This man is the artist behind the artists, and, in fact, it’s not a secret that he designed entire pedalboards for bigger artists like Dinosaur Jr., The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age and many more. He has been doing that now for over 30 years and the funny part is he mostly drew these rigs by hand and didn‘t use a PC or any software. Of course, his special sauce is not available for everyone, and god knows else he’s using for the pros, yet the line driver/boost element is a part of almost any pedal or rig that he builds nowadays. More on that later.
MXR MC401 Basics
Usually a pedal is instantly judged by how it looks, or if it has a lot of fine tuning options and knobs – but this pedal is different. There is no “Okay now what?” You probably don‘t even need to read the fucking manual.
There is one knob, no gimmicky things, and there is no equalizer… and yet the pedal invites you to experiment like no other. Sounds stupid? I call it SAB which stands for “simple and bulletproof” – Don‘t underestimate it, it is really versatile. Even I didn‘t realize at first just how many things could be done with this one knob wonder.
Line Driver – How It Works, Why It Works
Let‘s start with the “Line Driver”. Essentially the “Line Driver” in this pedal is a circuit that will benefit everyone using long cables, a lot of pedals, or both. It will freshen up the signal that goes out of the pedal to the amp in a way that signal loss becomes a thing of the past. Careful with your ears though. It might get really loud if you turn this pedal up!
Signal loss occurs with a lot of pedals, even with true bypass you get a loss in the frequencies if the chain is long enough and you dampen the highs and the freshness of the signal. In other words, your pure sound after the signal chain of pedals and cables will sound lifeless and eventually even bad.
You all know that awesome guitarist at a gig that just doen‘t have any clarity but dances on the pedals the entire gig. You wanna just jump on the stage and hand him over this thing, to clear things up. This pedal will totally make it easy for you because you will never have to think about it again!
Here’s a quick video demo of the MXR MC401.
MXR MC401 Review – Continued
Ah, but it doesn’t stop there. The most obvious use is to use it as a classic boost to get more gain or natural overdrive out of an amp. You can also use a boost to even out the loudness between guitars. A single coil guitar is usually a lot more quiet than a humbucker guitar. If you’re using a single coil guitar like a Telecaster and a humbucker guitar like a Gibson Les Paul this is very useful, because you can get the same amount of loudness if you adjust the volume for the single coil guitar. Suddenly switching a guitar in a set won’t make you go unheard.
Many big rock legends use a boost to drive the input stage (V1) so they get a natural and sweet crunch out of the amp. You can drive your Vox AC15/30 to its sweet-spot where it sounds great and the amp pushes the preamp and the output stage which results in that golden tone, even if you further add some reverb or delay, you get this delicious and expensive sound that just wanna makes you eat the speakers if you have a good tube amp. It’s simply not possible without. And, how much you add is up to you. You could also just crank it up to stand out with super loud solos.
Pump Up The Volume!
Add this pedal behind your more quiet pedals to make em loud! Bring em up in the mix. Some pedals like phasers, delays and fuzzes can cut the volume a bit down. So you hit the phaser in the chorus and suddenly you are more quiet. The bassist in your band gives you that look and you just smile it off like nothing happened.
Now get this badboy behind these very same pedals, set the volume to the loudness that you desire, play a bit around and you can revive older pedals. I tested this and this is one of the reasons that this pedal is like 99% of the time enabled in my rig. The only time i turn it off might be when i finished the gig. Oh, and it also works great in front of a volume pedal which suffers from signal loss too.
It doesnt change your tone, the signal stays clear, loud and proud all of the time. What it changes though – you get an extra bunch of clarity that will make you stand out . It also works beautifully on acoustic guitars, who knows what else you can do with it, maybe you find other viable situations where you can use this pedal and it’s very sturdy so it wont let you down.
Here’s me with my band screwing around with the pedal. Rough but fun to play with.