Gear Reviews: MI Audio Crunchbox

This is it.  The ultimate distortion pedal.

I’ll back things up a little bit.  See – I bought a Mesa Boogie Lone Star (1 x 12 combo) about 3 years ago and despite falling head over heels for the amplifier in almost every way imaginable, I found that the dirty channel was a little too lightweight.  At the time, my limited pedal set included a Tube Screamer (TS9) but that’s still a pretty subtle overdrive pedal.  What I was looking for was some outright ballsy distortion.

My first attempt at finding a high-gain pedal was a huge fail.  I bought an Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff pedal after playing it in a busy guitar store downtown.  When I got it home, I couldn’t help but notice that my wonderful amp sounded like a box of rocks when the pedal was engaged.  I advise everyone to stay away from this pedal unless you’re into that sort of sound.  If you are, shoot me an email – I still have the pedal.  It’s increasingly difficult to sell these things because EHX made a ton of them and you can find them all over eBay for a fraction of what I paid at retail!  Buyers market, fellas!

So after that disaster, my desire for a really good distortion pedal still was not quenched.  I visited a local guitar store (30th Street Guitars – hands down, my favorite store in New York) and Bogarted their amp room for 45 minutes while I test-drove several different distortion/overdrive pedals.  I tried the RAT and a Keeley Fuzz pedal and then I stumbled upon the MI Audio Crunch Box.  I was instantaneously floored.  It’s designed to give you the crunch of a Marshall (“British Overdrive” is how they describe it), but Marshall’s always sounded way too much like playing through a tin can – you can actually reign in your treble in this pedal.

Another thing I like about the pedal is that at low gain settings, you can still get that subtle overdrive tone.  It’s nice to have the versatility to go from very low subtle gain to borderline fuzz in one pedal.  Needless to say, I bought the pedal and it’s been the keystone in my rig ever since.

Depending on the pickups, my comfort zone for the knobs looks like this:

Volume: Right around 10 o’clock seems to be the setting where I don’t hear a volume drop or boost when the pedal is engaged.

Tone: I keep this right around 2 o’clock for my telecasters – and my strat is a little muddier, so i’ll crank this up to about 4 o’clock when I’m using that axe.

Gain: For humbuckers, you don’t have to go much past 9 o’clock for full-on distortion.  For single coils, you can wind up to about 12 o’clock.  Anywhere past that is almost too much.

To give you an idea of what this pedal can do (and because I’m too lazy to record my own video), Here’s a video from Pro Guitar Shop.  They do great demos.

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