Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

MXR Custom Shop La Machine Review

This re-imagined classic octave fuzz is mean, massive, and musical.

What is it about octave fuzz? Hendrix-based hero associations aside, there’s something else that draws us in. It’s a sound that’s a bit filthy, a bit decadent, tough, chaotic, and exploding with sass—like the electric feel of strutting big city streets in the wee hours. Like all rich and intoxicating things, octave fuzz is best in moderation. But used with discretion and timing, it’s one of the most distinctive ways to drive a riff or solo home.

MXR’s La Machine is as mean and heavy as a good octave fuzz should be. But there’s also a civility (and we use that word loosely) that makes it very rewarding and a bit more user-friendly—an octave fuzz that works as well for the neophyte as the experienced octave fuzzist.

More Miniscule Machine Gun
As the name coyly suggests, La Machine is inspired by the Foxx Tone Machine, a (literally) fuzzy, flocked octave-fuzz box that appeared at the height of the early-’70s effects boom. While not as renowned as the Octavia or Univox Super-Fuzz, many would argue the Tone Machine was more versatile and sounded every bit as good as those icons.

Few fuzzes cross over from Beck-era Yardbirds to desert rock excess with such ease.

Because MXR flipped the PCB on La Machine, it’s hard to know what means they use to approximate the Tone Machine’s combination of fuzz corpulence and octave wail. But the control set on the compact La Machine is virtually identical, save for a small push button for the octave function that stands in for the Foxx’s side-mounted toggle switch. For Tone Machine devotees that kept space-hogging originals off their boards, MXR’s smaller path to comparable tones will be a godsend.

High-Octave Hustle
Like a lot of fuzz seekers, I always enjoyed the Tone Machine’s two-headed versatility. Again, La Machine excels at this duality. The basic fuzz is huge and more Big Muff-like than the fuzz on the original Tone Machine. But it’s varied, responsive, and wide-ranging enough to be the only fuzz on your board.

Ratings

Pros:
Smooth and forgiving for an octave fuzz. Fuzz voice is huge and versatile by itself.

Cons:
Octave bypass button is small.

Tones:

Ease of Use:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$139

MXR Custom Shop La Machine Octave Fuzz
jimdunlop.com

The fattest fuzz tones are abloom with harmonics, exhibiting a high-caloric feel that evokes a cross between ’70s and Sovtek-era Muffs, but with a little less compression and slightly more immediate pick response. La Machine can also generate mid-’60s-style insect buzz with uncommon sustain when you set the tone and distortion controls just right. Few fuzzes cross over from Beck-era Yardbirds to desert rock excess with such ease.

Like the basic fuzz, the octave effect is very adaptive, malleable, and responsive to input from the tone and distortion controls. Dialing back the distortion highlights how good the octave signal can sound without the low-end support of the fuzz. In this environment, an octave signal can sound stark naked, but La Machine exhibits a singing quality that players will find more forgiving than what’s offered by typical octave boxes.

With the fuzz and octave raging at once, La Machine is monstrous. It can add extra tonnage to Band of Gypsys leads or deliver you to stoner rock heaven. This is one of the smoother pairings of octave and fuzz you’ll encounter too. And though you still get all the glorious, glitchy phase cancellations and ghost harmonics you want from an octave fuzz, there’s a smoothness to chords and a touch sensitivity that you don’t hear and feel as readily in other octave units.

The Verdict
La Machine is a great octave fuzz for players who find the Octavia or Super-Fuzz a little too hectic and tough to wrangle. It’s smoother than those units and the fuzz is more in line with players who like a little more gain, more Muff-like flavors, and a more modern touch. And it carries a real cool price for a MXR Custom Shop pedal. Don’t wait too long though—word is, they aren’t making many.

Watch the Review Demo:

Steve Carr’s first amp build was a Fender Champ clone. It didn’t work on the first try. Luckily, that didn’t stop him.

Photo by Charles Odell

The North Carolina amp builder is famous for his circuit-blending soundboxes, like the Rambler, Sportsman, and Telstar. Here, he tells us how he got started and what keeps him pushing forward.

Steve Carr started building amps because he loved playing guitar. He and his friends cobbled together a band in Michigan City, Indiana, in high school in the mid-’70s, and the gear they played with seemed like a black box. In the pre-internet days, getting information on amp voicings and pickup magnets was difficult. Carr was fascinated, and always wanted to know what made things tick.

Read MoreShow less

Yungblud's first signature features a mahogany body, P-90 Pro pickup, and SlimTaper C profile neck.

Read MoreShow less

On this season finale episode, the actor and musician leads a Prine-inspired songwriting session about how few tools we have in our collective toolbox.

Read MoreShow less

John Mayall in the late ’80s, in a promo shot for his Island Records years. During his carreer, he also recorded for the Decca (with the early Bluesbreakers lineups), Polydor, ABC, DJM, Silvertone, Eagle, and Forty Below labels.

He was dubbed “the father of British blues,” but Mayall’s influence was worldwide, and he nurtured some of the finest guitarists in the genre, including Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Harvey Mandel, Coco Montoya, and Walter Trout. Mayall died at his California home on Monday, at age 90.

John Mayall’s career spanned nearly 70 years, but it only took his first four albums to cement his legendary status. With his initial releases with his band the Bluesbreakers—1966’s Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton; ’67’s A Hard Road, with Peter Green on guitar; plus the same year’s Crusade, which showcased Mick Taylor—and his solo debut The Blues Alone, also from 1967, Mayall introduced an international audience of young white fans to the decidedly Black and decidedly American genre called blues. In the subsequent decades, he maintained an active touring and recording schedule until March 26, 2022, when he played his last gig at age 87. It was reported that he died peacefully, on Monday, in his California home, at 90.

Read MoreShow less