As a bassist who is obsessed with tone, there is constant search for ways to best convey the voice of my trusty Fender Jazz, in both live and recording environments. Enter the MXR M80 Bass D.I +. This is a great D.I box, with a wide range of tone shaping and the added bonus of a truly useable distortion pedal, as a secondary function.
On the D.I side is a three band EQ, featuring bass, middle and treble. It sounds fantastic set flat and also allows for tweaking, when needed. Another feature is the ‘color’ button, which scoops the sound in a manner that is both warm and crisp, without being boomy or harsh – a common characteristic of the pre-set shape and contour functions found on many pedals and amps. I find myself using this function for the occasional slap/pop playing, or when using a pick. I tend to bypass it when playing fingerstyle, preferring a tighter and punchier tone.
The distortion side is equally versatile; providing retro tube-amp warmth and full-blown aggressive grind. Loss of low-end is a common dilemma when overdriving or distorting bass. With unlimited budget, this can be overcome by combining two amps; one clean and one overdriven. MXR solves this problem more affordably, by adding a ‘blend’ function, allowing the user to control the mix of clean and distorted tone, to preference, thus retaining enough bass to still shake the room.
The unit comes in the form of a rugged metal chassis, similar in size to the average D.I box, making it a great fit for a pedalboard, or used as a standalone piece. It has and XLR output for the mixing desk and a standard jack output for the amp, allowing the shaped tone to be sent both ways. It also has a parallel output, which bypasses all the shaping and effects. This is particularly useful in studio, where you may want the option of splitting your dry and effected signal into two separate channels. It runs on a 9v power supply or battery and has the option to receive phantom power from the mixing desk. Retailing at R4000, it is in a similar (if not slightly lower) price bracket to some of its more well-known counterparts.
As a player who travels often and does not always have the option of taking my own amp along, I find that this little gadget ensures that I can dial in ‘my’ sound, regardless of what gear is available at the venue or studio.
By Mike McAuley – Our City Store Bass and Guitar Specialist