First Impressions: MXR 10-band EQ Pedal

This photos is a top-down shot of the 10 band EQ pedal from MXR. All 10 EQ sliders are shown, along with a volume slider on the far-left, and a gain slider on the far-right of the pedal.

Earlier this week, I bought an MXR 10-band EQ pedal, and finally, the heatwave has abated enough for me to feel comfortable about having an amp on for a few hours.

How have I gotten on with it? Is it an upgrade over the Boss GE-7 that I’ve been using for the last year? Here’s my first impressions.

What Did You Buy?

I bought the MXR 10-band EQ pedal. They come in two finishes. I bought the silver one, because it was the only unit in stock. Not the only colour: they literally only had one pedal in stock.

Why Did You Buy It?

I bought the Boss GE-7 last year. It’s become one of those pedals that I reach for a surprising amount. I use it for anything from making two guitars sound similar to helping certain pedals work better with certain guitars.

There’s just one problem with the GE-7: it’s noisy.

I’ve been on the lookout for an alternative, but honestly, there isn’t much choice out there. I was hoping to get a second hand example, but I just haven’t found one.

And then, earlier this week, I went into my local guitar shop for something completely unrelated, and saw that one had just come in stock. So I bought it, and then just had to wait until the worst of the latest heatwave was over.

Why Didn’t I Get The Boss EQ-200?

The Boss and MXR EQs don’t do the exact same thing. They cut and boost different frequencies. The MXR EQ happens to have an EQ slider at exactly 1 Khz, which is round-about where the Klon’s mid-boost is said to sit. As I love the Klon, I figure I’m going to like the MXR EQ too.

The MXR 10-band EQ is also a lot cheaper than the Boss EQ-200.

9V or 18V?

It doesn’t come with a manual in the box, just a generic MXR leaflet that says their pedals use a standard 9V power supply. So, naturally, that’s what I used at first.

There’s also an 18V power supply in the box. At first, I didn’t realise it was an 18V power supply. I just assumed it was a bundled power supply, and didn’t try it.

So far, I can’t hear a difference between 9V and 18V. I’m going to need a lot longer going between the two to work out whether the inconvenience of a separate adapter is worth it or not.

I can definitely see a different though.

These LEDs Are Bright

Running on 18V, all 12 LEDs in the sliders light up, and they’re bright. Uncomfortably so for me. On a stage, yeah, I get why you’d want LEDs to be as bright as this. At home, you might not enjoy them so much.

The good news is that, at 9V, the 10 LEDs in the EQ sliders do not light up at all. At first, I honestly thought the pedal was broken. It isn’t, it just needs 18V to run all the LEDs.

Visually, it’s a mixed bag. While I definitely don’t like the glare of the LEDs at 18V, running the pedal at 9V merely swaps one visual problem for another.

Some LEDs Are Always On

Whether the pedal’s on or off (in the signal chain or bypassed), the two LEDs in the gain and volume sliders are always on. The only way to switch them off is to unplug the power supply.

At 18V, the 10 LEDs in the EQ slider pedals turn on and off when I press the bypass footswitch. At 9V, those LEDs never come on, and that makes it impossible to see whether or not the pedal itself is on or off.

In my experience, an EQ pedal on a pedal board is often used subtly. A little bass-cut here, a little high-boost there, that sort of thing. Subtly enough that when I stomp on the EQ’s bypass switch, I might not immediately be able to tell the difference between on and off.

That’s the dilemma. At 18V, I can see whether the pedal’s on or off, but the LED brightness is a significant problem. At 9V, no uncomfortable brightness, but I can’t see whether the pedal’s on or not.

It’s a shame that the pedal’s got this visual quirk, because I really like how it sounds.

(All of my comments below about the sound apply equally at 9V or 18V. So far, I haven’t been able to hear any real difference between the two.)

Effortless EQing

I’ve got the Wampler Pantheon and Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short) on the board atm. They’re two of my favourite pedals. And the MXR 10-band EQ helps me make them sound even better.

Looking back on this first time using the MXR, the thing that stands out the most is that I didn’t really have to think about the EQing that I was doing. Sometimes with fixed-band EQs, it’s a bit of a struggle to get the results I want. With the MXR, there’s been no struggle at all.

In fact, I’ll go as far to say that I didn’t even think about it until I sat down to write up my First Impressions experience.

The EQ bands seem to be well-chosen, and their width (or Q) seems well-chosen too. Whether I want to tame the Pantheon’s bass a bit, or add a bit more body to the SHOD, it’s been effortless.

Noise Is Not An Issue

Compared to the venerable Boss GE-7, this pedal is nice and quiet. Even with the gain slider boosted, it’s not adding any noticeable noise to the overall signal.

Yes, it has a gain control.

It Has Separate Gain And Volume Controls

I didn’t know this until I got the pedal home: it has a gain control. If I whack it all the way up, it produces a low-gain overdrive. It sounds alright. Does it colour the sound? If it does, it’s quite subtle. I’m going to need more time with it – and to do some background reading – to help me understand what the gain control does.

I found it very easy to balance the gain and volume controls, so that the overall signal remained around unity. As with the EQ adjustments themselves, it was pretty effortless.

Final Thoughts

I can’t stress enough just how easy I’ve found this pedal to use so far. The EQ bands that MXR have picked really work for me, my rig, and the kinds of adjustments that I want to make at that point in my signal chain.

LEDs aside, if they made a version of this pedal that could save and recall presets, I would get that and have it permanently on my board.

It’s a keeper.

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