The year: 1976. While much of Middle America was caught in a red-white-and-blue reverie celebrating our nation’s bicentennial, Bootsy Collins and his interplanetary brothers in Parliament were busy shaping the future sound of funk. On his band’s single “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” Bootzilla blew the bass world’s collective consciousness courtesy of a curious stompbox, the Mu-Tron III Envelope Filter. Ever since, would-be funkateers have sought to cop the kind of sweet, gooey goodness that only an envelope filter can grant. We reviewed 13 of the funkiest filters around back in December ’06, but now there’s a new kid on the block: the M82 Bass Envelope Filter from MXR Bass Innovations.
No color screams “funk” quite like purple sparkle, so the M82 certainly looked the part from the start. The pocketsized pedal felt sturdy and roadworthy, with heavy-duty knurled knobs that were well placed for easy tweaking and clear to read on a dark stage. Four screws secure the pedal’s back panel, which keeps the single 9-volt battery in place.
Adjacent to the INPUT jack, a sensitivity knob sets the input level (voltage) at which the filter sweep engages. With a passive Fender Jazz Bass, a 2 o’clock setting was the “sweet spot” where I had complete dynamic control over the effect; laying back with a gentle attack yielded a deliciously beefy glurp, and digging in hard coaxed up a delightfully clarion quack. The Q knob governs the resonant peak of the filter effect, and worked somewhat like an intensity knob. With Q set at lower levels, the filter took on a subtler, mellower character. At higher settings, the filter had a more assertive high-end bwap. I found the DECAY control a tad deceptive; in normal synthesis parlance, “decay” has to do with a note’s loudness over time (as in attack–decay–sustain–release), but here decay controlled the depth of the filter sweep. High settings produced a shallow sweep, while lower settings created a deeper, more profound frequency sweep.
The M82 is somewhat unusual among envelope filters in that its FX and DRY knobs offer control over the ratio between wet and dry signals. By increasing the relative volume of my dry signal, I could temper the intensity of the filter effect, leading to sounds that were subtler than a typical envelope filter. As a player who’s disinclined to stomp into the spotlight with extreme effects, I’ve always found the “full-on” nature of most envelope filters to be a little intimidating. Not so with the M82. I loved being able to control the depth of the effect relative to my dry signal, and I certainly welcomed the lowend warmth I retained via my dry signal. A common complaint about envelope filters is that they can produce spikes in a player’s overall volume. The MXR M82’s individual fx and dry controls go a long way towards solving that problem.
While some other envelope filters have controls over the direction of the sweep (from low-to-high quack or high-to-low dyoop), the MXR doesn’t. Still, the M82 was capable of producing some seriously sick synth bass sounds, especially when paired with an octave pedal. In terms of value, pedal size, and flexibility, MXR’s M82 is a winner.
MXR M82 BASS ENVELOPE FILTER
Pros Individual controls for wet and dry signals, compact size
Cons Lacks control over filter sweep direction