The MXR Duke of Tone is a fun one to review, as it’s a highly versatile and affordable addition to a pedalboard in need of some grit. As part of Analog Man’s elusive King of Tone lineage, the MXR Duke of Tone is an official collaboration with Analog Mike himself — an effort to bring highly sought-after sound to the masses.
A quick aside: the King of Tone by Analog Man is incredibly difficult to obtain. If you managed to purchase one in March 2018, they’ve just begun shipping last month! You can check out the history of the pedal itself, as well as its infamously long waiting list, to see what the fuss is all about. Just know that it’s a fantastic pedal, made mythological by its rarity.
The MXR Duke of Tone Pedal Offers Game-Changing Overdrive
MXR and Analog Man teamed up to put out larger quantities of a classic boutique pedal. That isn’t something that happens often, so it’s quite a special collaboration. This is one of those pedals that’s an “if you know, you know” type pieces of equipment. The Duke of Tone isn’t yet a household name like a Tubescreamer, but if you have the opportunity to try one, you immediately understand what it’s all about.
In short, it’s an overdrive pedal with basic controls and three separate voicings. Many users find it fits well as part of multiple gain stages alongside other drive/distortion pedals in their signal path. More on the specifications later!
Distortion vs. Overdrive: What’s the Difference?
Distortion is a more aggressive type of overdrive. It introduces square wave hard-clipping to the signal, with lots of third order harmonics. Distortion = metal/hard rock, if that’s a helpful way to picture it. The sound is heavily saturated, and get inarticulate relatively quickly, so it’s best used in moderation depending on the sound you’re after.
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Overdrive works more like a boost. They usually have a gain circuit where you can control the level of saturation, but it’s usually the level or output control where things get interesting. You can use overdrive as a primary gain stage to hit your tubes harder for saturation. The resulting sound is more “crunchy” than completely distorted.
MXR Duke of Tone Review: The Last Overdrive Pedal You’ll Ever Need?
Pedal Specs & Design
The Duke of Tone takes on a simple-but-effective design. The pedal features Volume, Drive, and Tone controls, a three-way voice switch, and it’s all housed in a mini pedal enclosure. Analog Mike authenticated the collaboration by testing all of the Duke’s thru-hole components in comparison to his King of Tone.
Choose Between Three Rich Voicings
- Boost: A “kick” in your tone that’s rich, yet clean. Many players love how this voice sounds in tandem with other gain stages in their pedalboard.
- OD: A more compressed and grittier voice than the simple Boost. A pretty “vintage” overdrive tone.
- Distortion: More is more, so this voice includes additional compression and drive, but still retains the true character of the rest of your rig.
The idea of the Duke of Tone is to allow players to add that hint of dirt to their signal without overly coloring it. That way the tone and feel of your guitar, other pedals, and amp is still there. You could summarize the Duke of Tone’s sound as vintage; it doesn’t go into crazy modern high-gain territory, but it’s a total dream for the rock and roll tones that have endured forever.
Duke of Tone vs. Prince of Tone: How Do They Compare?
Analog Man’s Prince of Tone is the single-channel version of the King. It, too, has limited availability, but it is much more readily purchasable than the King. As far as layout goes, the Duke and Prince share the same set of parameters, though the latter does include a pair of internal dip switches and a treble trim pot. These can actually drastically alter the pedal’s sound, while the Duke of Tone is more straightforward and streamlined.
Closing Thoughts: Is The MXR Duke of Tone Pedal Worthy of a Spot in Your Chain?
For transparent and versatile overdrive, especially as part of multiple pedalboard gain stages, the Duke of Tone is an awesome buy. Standalone it’s great as well, but the way it cleanly blends into a signal path without being overly colorful makes it a really fantastic tone-shaping tool overall. At this price and availability, you get the best of boutique design with always-reliable and affordable MXR production.