I've been wanting to do this shoot out properly for some time but just never got around to it, but, with me getting all these hundreds of effects ready to take to the shop (I should have done some blogs on stuff already there and gone ...) I thought I'd do this one before I take this over to the shop.
It's no secret how much I LOVE the MXR Distortion +. I've written many blogs on them before and as some of you know I make my own versions and signature versions for people like Dylan Carlson, Bob Mould and Ed Kuepper.
I started using a Dist + (into a solid state amp) because of Bob Mould many years ago and I've loved this little distortion box ever since i first got one which would have been (I don't own it any more) a late 80's block logo version.
I instantly fell in love with the thick but clear distortion and I loved the way it didn't get too muddy. Ed Kuepper bought one in late '73/early '74 after reading in a magazine that it made your solid state amp sound like a valve amp, which of course, it didn't, but it did do something else very special.
This simple little single op amp driven diode clipping distortion is a very simple circuit and although it's done through some changes over the years, has kept pretty honest to origins. The main difference between the early "script logo" and the later "block logo" ones is the clipping diodes. Early versions used germanium diodes which gave a slightly "fuzzier" output when squarewaved. Ed's and Bob's originals were germanium versions.
I personally prefer the silicon versions with more output and a crisper edge typical of silicon diode clipping. It still sounds like a Dist + but the germanium version doesn't have as much kick and the silicon version is great for string damping to get that real "chug".
In the mid/late 2000's Dunlop (who has owned MXR since 1987) did the first re-issue of the script logo Dist + in the then current YELLOW enclosure. It has since been re-issued again in the more accurate mustard enclosure, but Dist +'s were all yellow in the 2000's so the script lived in the same box.
Let me start this by saying I have absolutely no problem with any of the Dist + re-issues (if they can be called that) and the early Dunlop block logo versions are EXACTLY the same as the pre Dunlop versions, including the male (RAT, EH) power adapter and LED, as later MXR's had. The circuit is identical and on the bench and into an amp I can't tell the difference.
That's why I was keep to try this original re-issue of the script logo one. Opening it up you see it's the same PCB as the standard Dunlop/MXR Dist + but on careful inspection you see two big glass germanium diodes. These look very similar to one version of the IN34A I have here, which is a common germanium diode. It has the LM741 IC and there's some ceramic caps where the originals had ceramics. It's well made and assembled. So what's it sound like?
This one here sounds almost exactly the same as my seventies script logo Dist +. Both through an amp and on the scope. The only very slight difference is the re-issue has slightly more bottom end, just slightly, and to be honest, I quite like it.
The Dist + circuit is designed to pull bottom end out as you turn the gain up, keeping the crunch and stopping it from being muddy. This re-issue keeps just the slightest amount on bottom end in making it rounder and dare I say it, nicer, than my original.
Stacked up against the Tym Stranded (a clone of Ed Kueppers original) it's the same. The Stranded has slightly more output than the original script due to it's specific diodes as discussed in the original blog.
So this early script re-issue has all the tone and sensitivity of the original, with slightly more bottom end and an LED and standard BOSS style power adapter.
All in all I still prefer a good silicon version. My early block logos are still my favourites but that's just because I've owned them for so long and they look great. The late 80's/90's/2000's Dist +s are just as good and have those added advantages. Some say that some re-issues are a little "fizzy"? I haven't personally heard it but there could be ones out there? In a live situation I would absolutely use a new (newer) version for that classic seventies rock sound. In the studio I might try and seek out an older one just to make you feel good.
This re-issue is great. I'm stoked Dunlop did this properly and although I haven't tried the newer mustard re-issue, I'm gonna keep an eye out for one and give it a go too. I love these simple little boxes. Plug a P-90 guitar into one of these and into a Marshall JMP and the result is glorious.