Blog Archive

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Inside Story on the MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D.

The MXR Custom Badass design team, the guys who brought you the wildly popular Custom Badass ’78 Distortion last year, is ba
ck this year with the Modified O.D. They took a classic overdrive circuit and improved its performance and versatility, features they saw missing from the current overdrive market.

We sat down with Senior Engineer Bob Cedro and Senior Tonechaser and Dunlop TV host Bryan Kehoe to talk with them about overdrives and what they did to address an unmet player need with the Modified O.D.

What are the basics of overdrive? How do you use it? What kind of music uses overdrive? 

Bob Cedro Basically, an overdrive pedal is a non-linear amplifier. It does not exactly reproduce the signal at its input; it uses a combination of circuits that add signal sustain, upper harmonic grit and tone shaping warmth to a guitar signal, all before sending it to a guitar’s amplifier.

Back in the ’50s, guitar players would increase the gain settings on mixing boards beyond or ‘over’ their intended levels in order to achieve a warm and distorted sound. Slitting speakers with razor blades was also known to achieve a gritty, distorted guitar sound. With an overdrive pedal, you don’t have to be so drastic. They’ve found their way into nearly every style of guitar playing and music. And not just on guitar. Some people even use them as a vocal effect.

Bryan Kehoe You’ll mainly find O.D.s in rock, pop, metal, blues, but like Bob said, there are uses for overdrive in most music.

And you can use it in several different ways. One way is to take a clean amp and use an overdrive pedal to give it just a touch of grit and possibly a small amount of boost. This is the way most blues, country, and roots players use it. Rock guys like to take an amp that’s already pushed with a bit of gain and use the overdrive pedal to give it that last push over the edge into saturation land. A lot of metal guys take that a step further and use overdrive pedals to push an already overdriven signal, boosting the volume and gain even more. Then they sculpt the tone to bring out more mids for solos to cut through the band.

What’s the state of overdrive pedals on the market? Why did you feel the need to add another overdrive to the list?

BC Well, there’s a lot out there, and obviously all of them have their own character and tonal flavor. But just like ice cream, you can never have enough flavors. We took a classic flavor and made it taste even better.

BK Yeah, I mean, there’s an endless number of O.D. pedals, but we felt like there was a need for an overdrive with way more options tonally.

Why did you choose to hot rod this particular circuit?

BK From a player’s perspective, it’s a classic design that held true throughout the years, and was a great platform to add more functionality.

How did you improve on this circuit?

BC We added two important user-selectable features: a BUMP switch and a 100HZ filter control.  The BUMP switch adds a low and mid frequency output boost that really jumps you forward into the mix. The 100HZ lets you tighten up the low end—make it clearer—or emphasize low end power.

BK I really want to emphasize that the BUMP switch is really a second voicing. The 100 Hz cut and boost gives me so much more control over the character of the overdrive. Together, they really expand an overdrive’s capabilities. And that’s what it boils down to—great versatility in one pedal. A player may need complete different sounds from gig to gig, and rig to rig, and this pedal will get you through all of that.

What is the best way to use the Custom Badass Modified O.D.? In front of a clean or dirty amp?

BC In front of a clean amp is a great place to start.  But try it in front of an amp that’s about to break up and see it take the amp to a wonderful new level of overdrive tone.  Then just go for it by placing it in front of an amp’s distortion channel to create even higher saturation and sustain. Experiment, that’s what we put in all that versatility for.

BK My favorite way to use this pedal is with an amp that is already pushed to a mild gain stage, not spanky clean, but with a bit of kerrang. Then I use the pedal in two different ways: first, to boost my signal and get it up to another level of gain for classic rock type solos and second, to use it after the M78 Custom Badass Distortion to really take it over the top.

What kind of player is this pedal designed for? Metal? Rock? Blues?

BC All of the above and more.

BK Yeah, I know it’s a clich√©, but it is really great for all types of players. Hell, I’d recommend it to keyboardists, sax players, bass players, accordion players, any body that wants to give their tone some grit, boost, and added EQ functionality.