I do NOT have facebook- its evil and pathetic and I refuse to join - so I can't respond to comments below- just FYI!
NEW DISCLAIMER- READ (I get a lot of emails)- People, these pedals are not magic. They will do no more than a cost efficient version of the effect. They were not designed as the end all be all pedals. They are CHEAP. So if you pay a bunch getting caught up in a vintage frenzy, you have made a bad decision. I love my MXR pedals, but they are too expensive now in general. Please keep that in mind when reading this guide. I never paid more than 150 for the bud box collectables except just over 200 for a bud box phase 90. I would not, regardless of how this guide reads, pay current prices for these pedals. Its completely out of control... Buyer beware. Again, they are not magic nor were they made of unobtanium... This USED to be fun.
I have fallen in love with a couple old MXR pedals and want to share what I have found in regards to circuit differences and dating. Disclaimer- This information is to be taken as advice- use your own judgement. I am glad to answer questions but you MUST provide your email address- Ebay will not let me respond to questions without a transaction. (idiots.... Ebay calls me a top 10000 reviewer but cancels any responses to Ebay members questions in regards to this guide...)
SELLERS HATE THIS SECTION- OK since I see so many RIDICULOUS prices for MXR pedals, heres a quick REALISTIC guide... (but Ive only been watching the market for YEARS..) None of these estimates provide for a mint condition, in box, manual, blah blah blah- BUT OTHERWISE they are on the money. Script pedals ONLY- pay big for a block and you are being TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF! These prices INCLUDE bud box original issues. The best part is the auction that inspired this section is ALSO the same guy who said this guide WASN'T helpful (now 18 out of 19 HAHAHA! Awesome)! I guess sellers DON'T want you to know pricing! Not a joke-100% true! The day after posting this list and emailing the seller, I got a "not helpful" rating for the first time in 4 years! SO now Im positive it was a good idea!
Phase 90 $150 to 250 depending on condition (doc)
Phase 45 $125 to 175 doc
Distortion plus $140 to 180 doc
Phase 100 $125 to 200 doc
Dynacomp $150 to 350 doc
Blue box $200+ doc (which is amazing cause basically this pedal SUCKS and was a TOY. One Led Zep song -a tool this does not make)
These are based off EBAY prices and nothing else. I just can't believe I see $300 MXR pedals all the time now. Thats like selling a stick of gum for 50 bucks... The ONLY pedal that goes for 300 regularly is the dynacomp and it almost deserves that price! Almost....
There are 3 versions I am grouping- Script, Block, Reissue. This guide is to help define the 2 vintage versions- Script and Block. Heres what Ive learned, and I have actually seen these differences-
1. The Script versions are DIFFERENT than the Block- ALWAYS. Maybe not by much but there are differences on the circuit board- EVERY TIME. As to the question "do the early Block logo with minimal differences SOUND as good as the script?"- the answer is ambiguous. These pedals can sound different especially if someone has played around inside- which is VERY common. You really have to hear them side by side to make a good decision (which is of course often not the case). Bottom line is I wont make any judgement as to sound other than the Reissue pedals are NOT the same as the originals- any version.
2. There are MANY versions of Block logo - the later version began, from what I can tell, before the Block logo got an LED at the end of its span, but I am not sure where to draw the line. Potentially when the small logo on the back changed from script to block. Are Block logos different? Yes, as always use good judgement. Early block logo pedals remain extremely close, if not identical to late run scripts.
3. Date your pots! On each pot there will be 7 numbers. xxx77xx means they are from 1977. The first 3 are the manufacturer code!
4. Check your BACKS! The MXR logo changed from script to block on the bottom back corner. This is "potentially" a line between good and better. Again, use your judgement.
5. NEW DEVELOPMENT!!! After purchasing an EARLY 1974 script logo dynacomp I discovered that EVEN SCRIPT LOGOS HAVE DIFFERENT COMPONENTS. Side by side, different!!!! How different, I have no idea- but different YES! Jeeze, this just gets more convoluted! Im estimating pedals in 1974-1975 are different than 1975-77(maybe divided around the change from bud boxes?) BUT not as different as the 1st Block logo circuit change is from ALL THE REST. So I still say use your judgement, all scripts and many blocks will make you very happy! NOTE: I am thrilled to find that my new 1974 script dynacomp is in a bud box, and though pretty thrashed, absolutely PHENOMENAL. It is VERY different than my Block logo- though it looks like the internal pot was accessed on BOTH pedals so I may have to experiment on the Block logo... There are MANY, MANY visible differences on the circuit board BUT that could be the same component in another color as far as I know- AGAIN, use your own judgement.
Side note: according to the Analogman interview with one of the founders of MXR, the early Bud box variation in tone could be potentially the result of limited resources to buy components. Thus the manufacturer used whatever they could find/afford to build the pedals. Damn engineers, always ruining my MOJO! Its this inconsistency that may be part of the MXR magic!
Point of interest- A mint(and I mean the foam inside was PERFECT), Dyna Comp went for $485. (But I would pick my 1974 bud box beat to crud over it in a second- and I paid 125! Sonically I guarantee it doesn't sound any better so I saved $360! Just making a point :)
It also adds to the reasoning of the 3 contributors to the Dyna Comp tone- 1) which set of components PLUS 2) has the internal pot been adjusted PLUS 3)HOODOO VOODOO. It also supports the theory that all the pedals can have a little of their own magic and a Block can sound as good as a Script. But as always-USE YOUR JUDGEMENT. Yes you may be WAY happier with the tone you get from a Block logo... And it will save you at least 100!
6. Didn't want to forget the "Bud Box". - Its just an early enclosure and on the backplate, on the inside, YES IT WILL SAY "BUD". Collectors like these as they are typically the earliest incarnation of the pedals. Players like them because they are the grandaddy of mojo- the first pedals! Whether they sound different....probably no more relatively different than other versions can.
TIP TO PLAYERS- Don't waste youre time on the mojo. Old MXR pedals, pre dunlop, sound great. Save money and buy the versions everyone isn't fighting over. If you are a tone LUNATIC and ALSO do a lot of recording (subtle mojo is worthless at live shows) then look into fine tuning. Otherwise, buy a pedal and play it! The only good thing about collectors is they will eventually die and rerelease the pedals back into the wild. And then people like us can buy them in mint condition 30 years from now.
ALSO- if you need ORIGINAL MXR back plates WITH a battery clip hole-they are sold here on EBAY! I have NO AFFILIATION with the seller- Ive just bought 3 from him and am VERY satisfied. search "store listings"- "mxr backs" (the listing should bring up MXR factory replacement backs) They are the original replacement plates from MXR!- new note 2 YEARS after writing this- the sellers name is bam30 and it turns out he's 15 minutes from me. I've been in his store before and had no idea and now thats where I get my guitar tech work done! I had an ex master craftsman from Fender but he moved away...... He was incredible! Art COME BACK!
Batteries VS AC power- Ive also come to the conclusion that I definitely PREFER the pedals powered with a BATTERY as opposed to ac power w/ adaptor. The constant power of the ac adaptor adds bass, slight roundness in the mids, and crisper highs- SO THIS IS DEFINITELY A PERSONAL PREFERENCE. There also seems to be a slight added distortion when the batterys have gotten some use(voltage drop) that I prefer. As always, could be psychoacoustics so USE YOUR JUDGEMENT!
True Bypass note- these pedals are OLD SCHOOL and will pass signal without power BUT THEY ARE NOT TRUE BYPASS. The pedal is still attached to the circuit board so it affects loading of the guitars pick ups..... ie TONE SUCK!
I got an email from an Ebayer asking about ac power instead of batteries. What I use is the one spot ac adaptor with a 9v battery connector they also sell. If you get a real MXR replacement back from the aforementioned, they have a small hole that allows the cable out (otherwise you would have to leave the bottom plate off or drill a hole in the case). The one potential problem with the one spot is it can get noisey. Rarely but true and Ive had it happen at the worst place possible - IN THE RECORDING STUDIO. But 95% of the time it will work- or at least it does for me. Best part- very inexpensive!
The bottom line is this is all potentially hoodoo voodoo! I have played many MXR pedals over the years ( yes, I was alive in the 70s! ) and own a script phase 45,1974 bud box and 1977 Block logo dyna comp, a bud box phase 90, and a 1979 block logo distortion plus. I love them all. The fact that you can get a script phase 45 for WAY less than a phase 90 is completely insane to me! I will also admit that I have bought into the MXR mojo. The dyna comp is absolutely unreal. Period. BUT if you don't want your tone smothered in MXR gravy, a Keeley would be way better! You can't shake the MXR mojo! I hope this guide at least helps you be sure you ARE getting what you want! And definitely DON'T believe the hype- there are better compressors, phasers, distortion pedals out there. Seriously. If I hadn't fallen for guitar in the 70s, I would probably prefer something better, but for now Im gassing* for MXR! (Note: 2 of 5 of my MXR pedals would be hard to resell- they look like CRAP, but they sound SOOOOO good! Don't live by looks, especially with these pedals! Plus my favorite one-the bud box dynacomp- is in the worst condition of all!)
So I finally got my 1974 phase 90 back and in perfect working order. One of the translucent board versions if that means anything. It sounds INCREDIBLE. Its like cream and butter slathered in mojo.... Ok really, it sounds wonderful. The Block logos are NOT the same pedal. Even the early ones. This pedal deserves all the hype. Compared to my script phase 45, its way warmer and creamier- yes two completely useless words in musical terms, but they are right on in this case. I love my 45 but there is a wierd thickness to the 90 that is just incredible! Its like a light distortion but perfect........ My understanding/experience is that the block logos, in general, use a more effected signal- its stronger. Again, use your own judgement. (and don't think I prefer it over the phase 45! But its thick.....)
And next to come is the script phase 100 that looks like its lost a fight.... Fed Ex tried to deliver today... That should be a fun pedal! WAIT as Im typing this he is back! I gotta go! NICE!
For more and BETTER information about this and other effects check out Analogmans effect guide- I have NO AFFILIATION other than I own it and find it a GREAT reference tool! Bought it here on Ebay!
Note- ( I may have left some out- sorry to those whos pedals aren't represented! And I purposefully left out any pedal not in "bud box" size enclosure.)
MXR pedals nobody cares about, thus DON"T PAY HIGH FOR THEM regardless of script or block- Line Driver, Micro Amp, 6 band eq (don't believe em!)
MXR pedals EVERYONE cares about- script versions of: Dyna Comp, Phase 90 and 100, distortion plus
MXR pedals MANY people care about- Block dyna comp, script phase 45, block envelope follower(not sure if there is a script version)
*gassing- gear acquisition syndrome ie gas. Sometimes referred to as guitar acquisition syndrome.