By Darrin Fox
Whether you use it for shading chords or sustaining solos, a distortion pedal can be as integral to your sound as your guitar and amp. One of the earliest purveyors of distortion stompboxes was MXR, whose super-simple Distortion Plus was a prized item on many a pedalboard in the mid-1970s. Now owned by Dunlop Manufacturing, MXR offers the Double Shot Distortion ($189 retail/ $119 street), an easy-to-use, two-channel buzz box that sports two distinctly different distortion characters.
Double Trouble The Double Shot’s rugged enclosure gives the pedal an assuring feeling of invincibility. One footswitch handles effect bypass, and the other toggles between the channels—each of which offers output, treble, bass, midrange, gain, and focus controls. With so many knobs, the glow-in-the-dark labels are a huge help on a dark stage. And while the Double Shot’s use of an 18-volt adapter might be a bummer for battery freaks, the extra juice makes it possible for the pedal to deliver greater headroom and clarity.
The Double Shot’s two channels are identified as the Dime section (a circuit identical to that of the Dime Distortion pedal, which Dunlop developed with Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell) and the Classic section (which provides less aggressive distortion textures).
The Classic Section I put the Double Shot to the test by sticking it between my Tele and a JBL-loaded Fender Twin Reverb (a very clean-sounding and notoriously unfriendly rig when it comes to distortion pedals). In Classic mode, the Double Shot pumps out natural, amp-like overdrive. Kudos here to the pedal’s powerful EQ. By simply turning down the treble, cranking the mids, and setting the bass at 12 o’ clock, I could actually get plexi-Marshall-type tones out of my Twin. The distortion blossomed with such sweet, detailed treble response and fat, honking midrange that, hell, I forgot which amp I was playing through! Even with the gain turned way up, the note definition was superb—even on cluster chords with clanging intervals. The Double Shot also has loads of output—the distortion volume equaled the bypassed level before the pedal’s volume knob was even a quarter of the way up.
Activating the Focus control alters the “Q” (bandwidth) of the bass filter, creating a slightly emphasized low-end and a mild midrange cut. This subtle, yet effective tonal shift let me tailor the pedal for a variety of amp, guitar, and speaker combinations. Whether I needed mild Tube Screamer-esque grind, or thick Billy Gibbons-like distortion, the Double Shot was able to deliver. And with some adventurous knob-twiddling, I was also able to coax some sick “broken amp” and transistor-radio tones from the Double Shot.
Dime Time The Double’s Dime section is capable of serious mayhem, and it yields some of the heaviest and most wicked modern-metal tones I’ve heard. The amount of gain on tap is enough to satisfy the most ardent metal freaks—even with the gain at zero, there’s an appreciable amount of distortion—and the section works well with different guitar and amp setups. With enough mid-boosted honk to make Michael Schenker toss his wah, it’s clear that the Double Shot is an arsenal of cool, versatile, and very unique distortion tones.
Engaging the Focus button in the Dime section disables the midrange control and places the circuit in the maximum cut setting. In order to compensate for the volume loss created by such radical frequency attenuation, the output is automatically boosted by 3.7dB. The sense of intimidation that ensued when this setting was deployed on a wound-up, non-master Marshall and 4x12 rig was striking. Tight and heavy chunk only begins to describe these tones, which—even with the gain maxed—hold their definition and musicality extremely well. Even amidst all the mayhem, the Double Shot stayed dynamically responsive to changes in picking attack and guitar volume.
Big Shot The MXR Double Shot stands out as a distortion pedal with few equals. It delivers brilliant modern and classic tones, has enough output to make your solos louder than a revved-up F-16, and is remarkably rugged. If you want to mix old-school overdrive with modern rage—and dip into a few lo-fi moments along the way—the Double Shot is your deal.
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