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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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