If you like your pedals yellow and packed with tradition, try out MXR M104. This soft-clipped distortion stompbox was crafted to deliver that classic hard rock vibe from '70s and early '80s, and is bound to take you on a retro journey with every single strum.
However, the device also utilizes modern tone values, meaning that you can still use it to craft fresh-sounding music. Plenty of things to discuss here, so let's do this!
This is a pretty basic pedal in terms of available controls, and it is worth noting that inner circuitry is what gets most of the job done. There are few basic tweaks you can make, but the tone we just described is essentially the one thing you can get. Not that's it's bad, it's an awesome tone, but don't expect this one to be the jack of all trades.
To be more specific, we're looking at two control knobs, one In and one Out jack, LED status indicator, and a large on/off button for you to stomp. The gizmo is powered via standard adapter, the metal casing is very sturdy and very yellow. It weighs in at 1 pound and has a total size of 5.5 x 2.5 x 4.5 inches.
As noted, we are looking at two knobs only – Output and Distortion. Let's see what they do, shall we?
Output – Also known as Level or Volume, this knob adjusts the level of distortion effect that is injected into the audio output. The more you crank it up, the more distortion and less clean tone of your guitar will you get in the final tonal mix.
Distortion – As another self-explanatory fella, the Distortion knob controls the level of gain and overdrive, meaning that the more you crank it up, the heavier and crunchier your sound will be.
As noted, this is a hard rock and heavy metal pedal. Does that make it a one trick pony? Of course not! There are plenty of players out there who specialize in those genres – which are pretty vast with their infinite sub-genres – hence making a pedal to cater to this crowd is actually a logical move.
The tone produced by this germanium-powered device is crunchy and tube-like; in all fairness, it sounds like much more expensive items, except it's limited to the realm of heavy rock only.
What we also love about the pedal is how well it adapts to other stompboxes and devices in your pedal-board, allowing you to emulate the tone of many guitar greats, but also craft your own sound through experimentation. Thumbs up from here!
Thus, in a nutshell, the MXR M104 Distortion + is a strong contender for the flattering title of the best heavy rock distortion pedal on the market within this price range. We are happy with the tone, we are happy with build quality, sound control is limited but no biggie, and other features in general are top-notch. If you're a rock ‘n' rollin' man, test this one out, it just might be your perfect choice!