If you’re in search of dirty, dirty fuzz that’s fit for the grungiest, sludgiest music on the face of the earth, then look no farther than MXR’s new Super Badass Variac Fuzz. On the other hand, if you’re in the market for fuzz with a bit more restraint, just a bit of compression, and a fair amount of head room, then look no farther than MXR’s new pedal. What’s that? How can the same pedal do both? Through the magic of variable voltage and with a bit of tweaking to a vintage circuit design, MXR has produced a distortion which lives up to its name. Indeed, it is both “super” and “badass.”
The Super Badass features the usual trio of controls: the Output (careful here, the pedal is loud); the Tone (from crisp and clear to thick and heavy); and Gain (for dialing in reasonable or totally insane amounts of fuzz). But the Super Badass also features a special fourth knob which controls the voltage level going into the distortion circuit. But what the heck does that knob do? Why would a person want a low voltage current flowing through their precious fuzz circuit?
To answer that question, I’m going to ask another. How would readers like to play around with some of the gnarliest, most compressed fuzz they’ve ever heard? Well, if they’re so inclined, then I recommend that they take a listen to the Super Badass fuzz, because in its low-voltage settings, it pumps out some of the thickest, heaviest fuzz MXR has yet delivered. MXR describes this distortion as its “dying battery” tone. The fuzz circuit is so starved for voltage that the signal doesn’t quite get through in one piece, which means that it’s highly, highly distorted.
The Super Badass surprised me because even in the low gain modes, the low-voltage distortion was loud, powerful, and thick. The fuzz had a bit of an edge to it, almost like the digital, low-bit distortion that motorbikes made in certain video games. Yet I’d say that the Super Badass has a distinctly analog flavor with only a hint of that tone so many of us associate with digital music and effects.
As I added more voltage—up to 15V—by spinning the Variac knob, the tone gradually cleaned up—the higher the voltage, the greater the headroom. If I wanted more distortion, I could boost the Gain. Higher voltages produced a distortion which wasn’t as compressed or as heavy as the low-voltage settings, but I was more than satisfied with the quality and quantity of it.
Curiously, the Super Badass actually behaves a lot like an overdrive in one way: its response to playing dynamics. Greater headroom allows for a cleaner tone in general, but I found that I could add a bit of edge by simply playing the notes louder. Presumably, the louder or harder the playing, the higher the pickup output voltage will be. Higher input voltage to the distortion circuit will cause the circuit to behave as if the Gain knob has been bumped up.
MXR made a wise choice with its Tone control, because the circuit seems not to boost the low end. Instead, the Super Badass seems to leave the lower frequencies as is but add or remove higher frequencies with a turn of the Tone knob.
MXR’s new Super Badass might be the company’s most versatile fuzz. Its sparkly purple finish certainly won’t look bad on the pedalboard, either. Whether it’s clean with a bit of edge, or downright grungy, the Super Badass has you covered.
What We Like: Intense, compressed, heavy fuzz; variable voltage for higher headroom or all-out distortion.
Concerns: I can’t think of any deal breakers, but just be aware that the pedal is very loud.