Chasing the tone of one of the greatest guitarists of all time? Unless you are willing to splash big cash on an EVH amplifier, you’re going to struggle. Until now, perhaps. The intriguing EVH 5150 Overdrive pedal from MXR is touted as the next best thing in a guitarist’s hunt to sound like Eddie Van Halen.
Closely designed with the virtuoso himself, this pedal promises the legend’s ‘80s-soaked, super-saturated high-gain tone, as well as several other impressive features, making it more than your run-of-the-mill overdrive pedal. Let’s see if it lives up to its billing…
Firstly, whether you’re buying an EVH guitar, amp or – in this case – a pedal, you can guarantee you’ll be getting gear that catches the eye. The robust black brushed-steel box is peppered with the familiar EVH custom stripes, with the EVH logo taking center-stage. This pedal is made in the USA and the quality shows.
It’s a simple pedal in essence, but the included features are impressive, with multi-stage MOSFETs, an intelligent noise gate, and a handy +6dB boost switch, which adds extra gain and a little compression for when it’s solo time.
Less glamorous, although still important, you can power this pedal with a single 9V battery or mains power (the adapter is sold separately though). Meanwhile, things are kept simple with one input and one output on the rear of the box.
The controls for this one are also pretty simple, but offer superb versatility – essentially allowing you to control the amp from your pedal. Lined up at the top of the box you’ll find rotary knobs for your master output level, a familiar 3-band EQ (bass, mids and treble), and the all-important gain control.
Below, the true bypass switch sits in the middle of the box, flanked by the noise gate control (which illuminates when you stop playing) on the left, and the boost switch to the right.
There should be no surprises to find out that this pedal absolutely rocks. It’s ideal for replicating all of Eddie’s most famous tones – from the early ‘80s hair metal overdrive right up to his high-gain modern day style, while coming close to touching the highly sought after ‘brown sound’.
But it’s no one-trick-pony. With versatile controls, it gives you a surprising amount of flexibility. You can ease off the gain and find some very warm bluesy tones, or ramp it right up for some dark modern metal overdrive – best used with dropped tunings for a truly ominous sound.
It excels with searing-hot lead playing, cutting through the mix with ease especially when the boost switch is engaged. Even with the gain ramped up full, everything comes across articulate while responding well to your individual attack. Understatement alert – shredding is a pleasure with this pedal!
Meanwhile, the smart noise gate is very effective – it eliminates buzz, hiss and all other brands of annoying interference when you aren’t playing (even on notoriously hum-ridden single-coil axes), yet it doesn’t step in and abruptly cut short your sustain. Perfect for the stage and the loudest of settings.
Truth be told, the world may not have been asking for another overdrive pedal – especially one that costs this much. Regardless, even with the higher price, the huge overdrive and tonal flexibility on offer with this pedal means it still shows great value – especially if you don’t fancy forking out for a 5150 amp. Ultimately, it can turn a mediocre amplifier into high-gain tone machine and makes a great choice for the stage, the studio, or channeling your inner EVH in the comfort of your own home.