Something old, something new from MXR. New first. When I was shopping for an affordable bass DI, I was intending to pick up the Sansamp on Larry's recommendation in these pages long ago, but somehow I ended up with the MXR Bass D.I. + instead. It was about the same price, sounded similar (in the store anyway), and had a distortion channel to boot. I can't tell you if it sounds as good or better than the Sansamp, never having A/B'ed them in the studio; but I can tell you that it sounds damn good. The clean channel has bass, mid, and treble controls, as well as a "color" switch, which basically acts as a "midrange sucker outer." My J bass sounded just fine with all the EQ knobs at noon and the color switch engaged. The distortion definitely doesn't qualify as "best thing I've ever heard," but it's certainly usable and probably much more enjoyable if used in front of an amp, rather than direct. The distortion channel also has a gate. I was hoping to exploit this for fun in mangling drum tracks, but unfortunately the response is just too slow for any audio hi-jinx. Doesn't matter, the Bass D.I. + is well worth the $169 street price. It sounds great, it's built like a tank, it has a number of output options, and the manual comes with example settings from the guys in Pantera and Ozzy's band, so those of you looking for that elusive "Ozzy Sound" are in business.
I picked up a used MXR Limiter pedal on tour a couple years ago. It was the only intriguing thing in the shop- likely quite overpriced at $150-but I figured it had to be useful for something. And sure enough, it's great for the aforementioned drum track obliteration. I suppose it was designed for guitar, being a pedal and all, but I haven't had too much use for it there. For drums, though, it's most entertaining. It has knobs for Sensitivity (threshold and ratio combined, I presume), Attack, Release, and Output. This thing is the opposite of transparent. Even at very conservative settings, anything you run through it gets decidedly murky. Anyway, I got it home and ran some drum tracks through it, hoping for a new flavor of that apocalyptic smash we all love. And it turns out it doesn't really do that. (The MXR Compressor pedal does, however.) With the attack and release set for the fastest times, things were pretty uneventful. So I tried the longest release time, and NOW WE ARE TALKING. Instant near-backwards insanity. Awesome on cymbals. A Perotesque giant sucking sound on snare. I've used this pedal on a couple records I've done recently, and it's one sound people always ask me about. So I'm giving away all my secrets here. If you're looking for a versatile, hi-fi limiter, run in the opposite direction, but if you're fond of envelope abuse like I am, you'd do well to check one out. (www.jimdunlop.com)