Gear Review: Headrush MX5 Multi-Effect Modeler

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So many modelers have hit the market the last few years that it can be somewhat hard to navigate and figure out where to place your hard-earned dollars. Headrush just made it either a bit more complicated or easier depending on your perspective.

There was a time when modeling effects and amp/cab combinations were a novel idea but not really ready for primetime yet. Those days are long gone. You can comfortably choose from many manufacturers now, but I’m really impressed by the MX5. To begin with, it can run up to 11 effects/amp/cabs at the same time depending on CPU consumption. I easily achieved 11 in sequence with a wah, overdrive, compressor, chorus, delay, effects loop (that will take up a slot) and amp, a cab, volume pedal, and two reverbs. Pretty amazing. 

I would recommend if you’re going to use the effects loop to connect to your favorite hardware effects, you start with that in your raw pedal board set up first as I had trouble inserting it later, possibly due to firmware, a pre-existing preset architecture, or CPU restrictions. I’m sure it’s something Headrush can deal with in a future update. Regardless, it’s simple as can be via their 4-inch digital touch screen. The screen is very responsive and easy to navigate and everything is right there at your fingertips to scroll and choose effects and amplification  It took me no time at all to not only audition effects but put my entire pedalboard together to my liking and tweak each option extensively.

The wah pedal choices are limited but excellent sounding and are easily assignable to the expression/volume pedal via the touch screen. You have two choices for volume control, classic and linear, and I strongly endorse linear for that smooth taper many of us are familiar with, especially for ambient work. The draw for the volume/expression treadle has a nice feel and though it’s smaller in length than most foot pedals, you get used to it very quickly and I don’t feel like you’re missing any feel with it. 

There are only a few compressor choices but they are also really excellent sounding even at higher ratios, much better than most software compressors I’ve heard in similar units. The overdrives and fuzzes are pretty standard but extremely functional and usable but the modulation, though not groundbreaking, will not disappoint anyone and I’m fairly confident you’ll find what you need. The delays and reverbs are really great, however. Nothing outrageous or crazy but uniformly excellent in every way.

I’ve heard a lot of feedback from friends on the web that the Headrush MX5 is better for clean tones rather than mid to high gain tones and I disagree. I found it was incredibly easy to get aggressive classic rock and metal tones but it took me a lot more work to get a really satisfying, balanced, yet full low gain tone. When I did reach that summit it was glorious.  I achieved this via the other great feature of the MX5 (like other modelers in this category) by importing a Celestion Vintage 30 IR cabinet from my collection, coupled with a Matchless amp model from the MX5.  It’s now my go-to- set up.

At around $399 street, the MX5 is an excellent, solid contender in the modeling realm and deserves your very serious consideration.

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