MXR M264 FET Driver
MXR is one of those companies that is not swayed by the digital world. They make analog pedals, pure and simple. In a sea of fancy boutique pedals that seek to replicate some amp or some other must-have tone, the new FET Driver is a seemingly basic overdrive pedal that many might overlook. Big mistake, because the FET Driver is every bit as good as its more expensive counterparts.
The FET isn’t sexy looking, wrapped in a drab putty white color scheme. But it makes up for it with great tone. First, it features an effective EQ with separate hi and low knobs for bass and treble, gain and volume controls. One additional feature is a hi-cut button with its own LED to round off some of the upper end and give you a slightly warmer tone – useful when playing at high volumes.
WHAT WE LIKE:
The FET Driver has a very natural, amp-like tone. Its overall character is best described as being somewhat loose, but not spongy. It sounds much like the tubes in your amp compressing naturally when turned up. If you’re looking for a tight, heavy tone, this might not be what you want. I really liked its character, however, and the range of gain, while not wide in terms of low gain or high gain, sits right in the middle as a medium gain overdrive.
The tone controls are very effective. Need a bass boost for single coils? Check. Want increased treble on a humbucking neck pickup without losing your low end? Check. The tone controls will match up well to just about any pickup you use or amp you want it work with.
The Hi Cut switch is only moderately effective for home/studio use, but for live applications at higher volume it is probably useful. Most of the time I preferred it off, but it wasn’t much of an added bonus in either case. Also, if you’re hoping the FET Driver can also function as a boost pedal with the gain down low, you’ll be disappointed in this application. It is meant to add additional gain, pure and simple.
TONE: 4.5 out of 5 STARS
I liked the tone of the FET Driver a lot. It has a very rich, natural overdrive with either humbucker or single coil guitars. Harmonics ring out sweetly, and the more you dig in, the better the crunch you get back. It also reacts well to turning down your guitar’s volume control for a still gritty but cleaner tone.
I have two other higher end boutique pedals on my board, and the MXR held its own admirably. One of these had more of a midrange presence, which while not lacking on the MXR, it will never be confused with being a Tubescreamer type overdrive. But the low end of the MXR was better, so maybe we could call this a draw.
One bonus I found with the FET Driver is that it stacks incredibly well with other dirt pedals. If you turn the gain down just a bit on both pedals, the FET Driver adds a really nice thickness to both pedals without added noise. If you have an overdrive or fuzz pedal you like, the FET Driver will likely make it even better.
BUILD QUALITY: 4.5 out of 5 STARS
MXR pedals always feel well built to me, and the FET Driver is no exception. All of the knobs move firmly but easily, LED displays are clear, and it is easy to power via a 9v battery or 9v power supply. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t a pretty pedal, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, eh?
VALUE: 4 out of 5 STARS
The FET Driver doesn’t have a ton of features, but it doesn’t need them either. Simple but effective controls and good tone at a very non-boutique price makes this an excellent value.
OVERALL RATING: 4.5 out of 5 STARS
If you’re looking for a new overdrive pedal that sounds great, is easy to dial in, and won’t break the bank, the FET Driver has a lot to offer. After trying out a new pedal for a while, I always ask myself, would I want this on my board? And the answer here is an unequivocal yes.