The MXR Custom Badass design team is made up of musicians and engineers who have decades of professional experience backing up their mission to create high quality, factory hot-rodded classics fine-tuned to deliver a wider tonal spectrum, more versatility and increased dynamic range. The team also believes that premium tone and quality can be offered at a price anyone can afford because every player deserves great tone without over-inflated prices and exclusionary limited quantities.
With recent accomplishments such as the revamp of the Jimi Hendrix Authentic Analog series, the revolutionary MXR Carbon Copy, the award-winning MXR Bass Innovations line, and over 100 years combined experience under their belts, these guys are well-equipped to take on the Custom Badass project, beginning with the Custom Badass ’78 Distortion.
Meet the MXR Custom Badass design team:
Dunlop Director of New Products Jeorge Tripps (top left), Dunlop Senior Engineer Bob Cedro (top right), and Bryan Kehoe (bottom) put the MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion through its paces.
Jeorge Tripps made a name for himself in the boutique effects industry in the ‘90s when he created the Way Huge brand. He later worked on the design team at Line 6 that created the DL4 Delay modeler and other Line 6 products. He now works as Director of New Product Development at Dunlop Manufacturing, relaunching the Way Huge brand and leading conceptualization of MXR and Dunlop Electronics products.
Bob Cedro has been an engineer at Dunlop for 15 years. He got his start in the industry working for Boston founder Tom Scholz and his music accessories company SR&D, eventually becoming his guitar tech and co-writing and performing on Boston’s fourth album Walk On. At Dunlop he has developed the MXR Carbon Copy, the EVH Series, and the award-winning MXR Bass Innovations series among many more products.
Bryan Kehoe has 25 years of recording and touring experience with artists such as M.I.R.V., Les Claypool, and Jerry Cantrell, currently playing with his band the Kehoe Nation. He describes himself as a lifelong tone chaser. He is the host of Dunlop TV and is also involved with product development.
We spoke with the team about the design goals and how they were met.
How is a Custom Badass pedal different from a standard MXR pedal?
BK A lot of times cats will buy a vintage-type pedal and have a “boutique” guy put some sort of aftermarket mod on it, and the player ends up spending twice as much money. With the Custom Badass project, we’re taking classic effects and hot rodding them in-house. We’re giving customers a factory modded pedal at a reasonable price.
“With the Custom Badass project, we’re taking classic effects and hot rodding them in-house. We’re giving customers a factory modded pedal at a reasonable price.”
BC That’s right. It’s our way of offering boutique enhancements to classic guitar tones without spending all kinds of money. And with us, you get the kind of quality control that isn’t always available from boutique outfits.
How do you decide which pedals deserve to be “Custom Badassed”?
BK These decisions are based on the needs of the market and requests from our customers. Jeorge Tripps and the development team are really in tune with what our customers want.
BC We listen to feedback from every segment of our audience, whether it’s bands playing in bars, artists in the studio, or big arena guitar players. That is what ultimately guides the direction of the Custom Badass project.
Why did you choose to hot rod this particular circuit?
JT I was toying with the basic circuit idea back in the late ’90s. I was looking for a true distortion, something that had crunch but was beyond the overdrive. This pedal is true distortion; it’s not just an overdrive or a fuzz.
BK And back in the day there were only a few distortions available. In keeping with Dunlop’s respect for tradition while also moving forward with innovation, we chose this circuit because it’s a popular, familiar sound and tone that’s been used in numerous hit songs. We felt that we could improve upon the tone as well as the functionality.
BC We always get questions about how so-and-so artist got his tone on such-and-such song or album, hence the familiarity. Most of the time the recordings they’re referring to are from sometime between the mid ’70s and the ’80s. This is why we looked to the classic distortion designs as the well-deserved starting point for the ’78 Distortion.
What did you do to the circuitry to take it to the next level? How is the circuitry unique?
BC Well, the design goal was to enhance the note and chord sound clarity of the classic, ‘soaring’ guitar solo and wall-of-sound rhythm distortion circuit. We listened extensively to this pedal in different contexts and with different rigs, and the tweaking we did along the way resulted in an EQ topology and user-selectable clipping technique that really gives you very rich distorted tone that is still harmonically clear.
“A very rich distorted tone that is still harmonically clear.”
Can you describe the design process for the Custom Badass ’78 Distortion?
JT Hours and hours of tweaking. We took the prototypes out to clubs and listened to how it worked in real life gigging scenarios. Then we tweaked some more.
What is the best way to use the Custom Badass ’78 Distortion? In front of a clean amp?
BK Put the pedal on eleven!
BC (laughter) It sounds great in front of a super-clean amp, an amp that’s about to break up, or even a distorted amp, depending on the sound you’re trying to achieve and the distortion, tone, output and CRUNCH settings on the M78.
JT (nodding) Yeah, there really isn’t a best way. But I prefer it in front of a slightly overdriven amp.
What does the CRUNCH button do?
BK From a player perspective, the CRUNCH button opens up the range of frequencies. The bottom end is nice and tight, the high end gets a little more chimey, and the mids become a bit more focused. I can also hear more of the 2nd order harmonics and a bit less in saturation.
“The CRUNCH button opens up the range of frequencies. The bottom end is nice and tight, the high end gets a little more chimey, and the mids become a bit more focused.”
BC Right, and so what it does on a technical level is select between two different combinations of diode and LED clipping. With the CRUNCH button unengaged, the distortion tone is more compressed with a lower threshold of clipping and a good odd-order harmonic balance. With the CRUNCH button engaged, the distortion sounds less compressed with a larger dynamic range along with a bit more 3rd order harmonic distortion upon attack and then more 2nd order harmonic distortion when releasing a note or chord.
What kind of player is this pedal designed for? Metal? Rock? Blues?
BK I think this pedal will appeal to a wide range of players who are looking for an amp-like distortion with a spicy kick to it.
BC Yes, definitely. The controls on the M78 can be dialed in to get a wide variety of distortion tones and levels of clipping and saturation. And the open, amp-like sound Bryan mentioned will really hold your place in the mix when playing live.
JT Distortion is a wonderful thing in all types of music; this pedal’s distortion kicks ass more wonderfully than any other.
Check out Bryan Kehoe’s preview of the MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion and the product page for more info: