Readers of this blog will know that I’m quite the fan of Michael Ibrahim’s MI Effects Pedals. I’ve had two as a permanent fixture in my pedal-chain for quite a considerable time already - the Super Crunch Box V2 and the super high gain Megalith Delta - which are both exceptional performers in their respective categories.
I’ve long had a number of his other pedals in my sight too - in particular his two earlier V1 compact fuzzes - the G.I. and Neo - or Silicon and Germanium versions. I was much encouraged by the recent Andy Martin ’That Pedal Show’ episode to finally snap up one each of these - used, but in very good condition - the compact Neo would seem to be one of Andy’s favourite fuzzes.
Of the newer pedals, the only one not included here is the V5 Boost ’N’ Buff - for which I think there are cleverer equivalents available - like the Jackson Audio Prism and ThorpyFX Team Medic for example. The Cross Over Drive, Lo-Fi Delay and Super Blues Pro are all really smart pedals - with their multiple dials and switches. And even though the control topology is quite different they do bring to mind another of my favourites - Peter VonRutter’s VFE Pedals - which pretty much always feature 6 controls - usually a mix of 3 regular and 3 mini dials. Here the typical topology is 2 regular-sized dials and 3 or 4 mini ones with also some sort of voicing or clipping toggle-switch usually present.
The 4 discontinued pedals I feature here are the V1 types, they were latterly replaced by larger medium-enclosure versions (also now discontinued) which I did not really quite understand - my preference is always for the more compact format and the Blue Boy Deluxe Overdrive, G.I. and Neo Fuzzes and Pollyanna Octave Synth Fuzz are all worthy of your consideration if you can get them in good enough condition and for the right price - sort of around £100 - £125.
These pedals haven’t always had the best distribution in the UK - so I’m reliant on Reverb.com and German vendors primarily - although I would not be adverse to buying from Australia - even though it admittedly has a very long delivery time.
I would say these are all mostly ’Tweakers’ Pedals’ which may be a touch too fiddly for some - they can require a little extra time for careful dialling in of preferred tones, but they all give you so much more range and versatility. I feel that MI Effects and VFE Pedals have a fairly similar philosophy in approach, and I’m a big fan of both.
I’m still looking to acquire most of those listed, with the Lo-Fi delay the least likely, as it lacks stereo output and tap tempo which are usually a must for my delays - I still really like the flexibility of this one though - we’ll see what the status is in about one year’s time!
Pedals are listed alphabetically, and are a mix of current and discontinued models:
This is a really smart Tube Screamer style circuit with 4 pretty unique control dials along the top to supplement the usual Volume and Gain - these are Bright, Mids, Tone and Character. The first two are fairly self-explanatory, while the Tone dial both adds and cuts High and Low level frequencies as you turn it - e.g. More Treble and Less Bass to the right. Finally the 'Character' dial is a sort of gain structure fine-tune with Tight to the Left and Sag to the Right. This is one of quite a number of smart TS style pedals, and weighs up nicely against something like the VFE Pale Horse. Not that to most intents and purposes the Super Blues Pro is the improved replacement for this, albeit quite a different circuit really - so I felt there was room for both!
A fairly simple looking overdrive with some pretty complex internal circuitry - featuring 4 rare and discontinued FET transistors arranged in 4 cascading gain stages. Beyond the usual Volume and Gain dials you have essentially a 2-band EQ with Detail fine-tuning the lower end frequencies, and Balance adjusting the top-end harmonics. The new V2 version has an additional 3-way mode toggle switch for even more refined control - Low, Standard and Tight.
Note that above Demo is of V1, no demo currently exists for recent V2 version.
MI Effects goes a little further as always with its fuzz controls - with more range on the Volume and Fuzz / Gain spectrum than most others, also 4 further controls - Tone, Body (Mids), Bias, and Load. Bias allows you to 'tune' your transistors for a more spitty sound, while 'Load' is the input impedance - so you adjust that to suit your guitar pickups. Finally, there is a 3-way Brightness toggle on the top edge - which allows you to tune the Fuzz further to your particular amp.
Based on the PT2399 chip - Michael takes best advantage of its various quirks to produce a very unique modulated delay which you can dial in some very glitchy quirky tones on. You choose from triangle or square wave patterns, Lo or Higher fidelity with optional trails. The pedal has max 600ms of delay with 6 dial controls - Time, Repeats, Rate, Depth, Level and Input. A really cool and affordable delay for sure and worth experimenting with.
Easily one of my favourite high gain / metal distortion pedals - with probably the most usable low end available of all my distortion pedals. Has really clever controls - Contour and EQ Shift, alongside usual 3-band EQ. The Boost footswitch can be somewhat negligible - depending where your gain dial is set - I would like to see an additional Boost control dial in the V3 - other than that this is an exceptional high gain pedal with heaps of versatility. Might possibly need a Tightness dial also to cover current trends - otherwise this version of Michael's Mighty Megalith Amp is just superb and as long time favourite and permanent fixture in my pedal-chain.
The Germanium version of the above G.I. Fuzz with identical controls, but Germanium transistors this time instead of Silicon - a pair of rare NOS AC128 transistors. Andy Martin demoed this per above back in April 2008 and ten years later - this is still on his pedalboard, so if it's good enough for him - then it certainly should be good enough for me - albeit it has plenty of competition for its category slot in my already formidable existing collection. Nonetheless a super-versatile Germanium fuzz with little or none of the issues of the actual vintage ones.
A really cool two octaves down and one octave up sort of fuzz pedal. You can dial in the octaves individually and mix their balance with the Dry dial while controlling their voicing via 'Tone'. The Sensitivity dial functions more as input sensitivity for the lower octaves, while it's more of a gain control for the octave up - for delivering classic Octavia style tones. The lower octaves don't track exactly and give you a sort of really cool glitchy synthy sound. Using the octaves in combination gives you a very broad range of tonal possibilities - a really cool pedal for such a compact form factor!
I've been meaning to get this one for a while too - which is sort of an update and evolution of the earlier Blue Boy Deluxe which really ends up as a totally different circuit with multiple Silicon and Mosfet clipping options - plus controls for Detail, Body and Trim in addition to Volume and Drive. I initially mistook this for a Bluesbreaker or Blues Driver style circuit while its underpinnings are really Tube Screamer with just a lot more on tap via the extra control dials and clipping options - I will get this one eventually.
This is the first of my MI Effects pedals and my favourite 'Brown Sound' pedal. Some don't get on with it because of its enormous versatility via Clipping and Mode toggles, and 6 separate tone controls - 3-band EQ plus Presence, Volume and Gain. As aptly demonstrated on That Pedal Show - this needs some careful dialling in by someone who knows what they're doing, and has read the manual. You need to set your gain structure and compression level first including volume and gain knobs, then you adjust 'sizzle' via Presence dial - before fine-tuning with EQ. Diligent application will result in superior results every time - but you can go way wrong here too as every dial has tremendous range, and the 4 smaller dials can be a touch sensitive. Still the best pedal for its category though as far as I am concerned - although some players may prefer something simpler - for which there are of course the older versions of this pedal!
I feel that MI Effects are sometimes unfairly overlooked - seeing as they are all the way from Sydney Australia and have seemingly rather limited global distribution. I'm not sure there are any active resellers around the UK - I have bought my pedals mostly from Reverb, but also from vendors in the Netherlands (Haar Guitars) and Germany (Musik Produktiv).
In writing this article I have upped my tally of MI Effects pedals to 6! With the Lo-Fi Delay, Pollyanna Octave Synth Fuzz and the Super Blues Pro Overdrive remaining to be acquired. I usually concentrate on getting the lesser available first - i.e. the older discontinued models, and leave the newer generally more available models til last - hoping that they might go on sale eventually!
As stated at various times in this post - the Megalith Delta and Super Crunch Box are permanent fixtures in my pedal-chain with these others listed as somewhat more temporary swap-outs on the rotation. All those listed here though have the great combination of extreme flexibility allied to exceptional core tone - there should be something here for most players.