Envelope filters equal funk. The tricky part is often to add just the right amount of ‘cool quack’ while preserving definition. The MXR M82 Bass Envelope Filter has a simple yet great solution for exactly that…
I have always been fascinated with envelope filters or touch wah pedals, as they are also called by some companies. MXR’s M82 has been around for a while, but that does not mean it is not worth taking a deeper look at.
The M82 envelope filter has 5 knobs. The DECAY determines the stop frequency of the filter when it is being triggered. In plain words, you could say that the lower you set this knob, the deeper it digs into the low-end frequencies.The Q knob is described as the ‘intensity’ of the effect, which is a pretty fair explanation. Set this knob low for a reasonably subtle effect, and move into more bubbly and quacky territories as you turn it up. At the max setting you are in the land of sheer futuristic laser gun sound effects.
The SENSITIVITY knob is self-explanatory. The lower you set this knob the more you have to dig in to trigger the effect – and vice versa. Obviously, it also depends on how hot the output signal of your bass is, but for a classic passive Fender Jazz Bass, you get a nice natural effect round about noon. If you set this knob very low, you can actually play softly on a passive bass without triggering the filter effect and when you dig in hard to a note or riff, that will come out with full-on wah.
The top row of knobs consists of the DRY and FX knobs, which are also very simple, as they do exactly what they indicate – mix the original, dry signal with the wet effect signal.
The sound clips are divided into 5 rounds, each covering a certain playing style. Since the playing style and the type of bass affects how this pedal will respond massively, I have decided to simply do 4 different takes with various settings in each round. Taking a strict methodical approach would not really make a whole lot of sense – and would in this case be a lot less fun!
On top of that there is a 6th round that explores the filter without sensitivity and utilizing the blend option for pure tone-shaping abilities.
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
In my mind, there is no doubt that what makes this pedal great sounding and versatile is the option to blend the DRY and FX signals. If you take a look at some of the other [envelope filter reviews] on this site, you will notice that one of my main concerns is the fact that the balance between pure funkiness and simply drowning in the mix is very fine. Therefore, I often recommend to use an ecternal blend pedal such as the Boss LS-2 Line Selector to do exactly what the M82 offers as a built-in feature. It is not rocket science by any means. It is very simple and a complete mystery to me why more manufacturers do not implement this as default. Especially on bass-specific pedals.
Think of this blend option as the possibilities you get when you use a reverb pedal. Sometimes you need a large hall or room, but with a very low effect level setting, while at other times a smaller space at a higher FX level is more desirable. The same is true here – sometimes an aggressive and very quacky effect is the vibe you are looking for, but blend it in softly with the dry tone to preserve the core sound. Or reversely, add only subtle effect, but with little to no dry tone in the mix.
It may be a small thing, but the blending makes all the difference and takes this pedal from great sounding within a limited range to great sounding across the full range depending on how much you mix in the dry tone. I love that feature.
Add to that the ability to bypass the sensitivity completely and use the pedal as a static filter that you can blend in as needed. Also a very nice dimension of the MXR M82 Bass Envelope Filter.
The quality is to the high standard that you would expect from any MXR pedal, offering solid connectors, a nice chunky click on the footswitch (not that this indicates quality per se) and firm knobs that just feel very good.
The two minor issues are those I almost always mention with MXR pedals. The power supple input may conflict with the jack connector and you have to remove 4 screws on the bottom to access the battery.
That said, you obviously won’t have to deal with both issues at the same time, and if you like me (and probably 90% of all bass players) run your pedals off an external power supply in a fixed position on the board, you only have to fumble with the power supply and input jacks once when installing the pedal. From then on it’s a very smooth ride.
Today (2015), you can install a brand new MXR envelope filter for around $150, which I find very reasonable – If not a true bargain. There are many more expensive envelope filters out there that also sound great, but not many offer that crucial blend option that takes this pedal up a level.
This is a winning pedal. The sound, design, build quality, versatility and price sweetspot is very well balanced and at the end of the day, this combo puts the MXR M82 envelope filter on my board.
Dry/FX blend option
Good build quality
Great value for money
Power supply input located close to Input jack connector
You need a screwdriver to change the battery