Review: MXR M-169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay

mxr carbon copy delayWhen you plug in your ‘ukulele you have at your disposal certain tools for making the instrument sound larger than life. A good delay pedal is one of the first places I’ll start to dress up my sound.

Delay is a very simple effect. It’s just a copy of your playing repeated at a later, specified interval. Jake Shimabukuro’s Heartbeat has a great example of ‘ukulele delay in the intro.

If set subtly, delay can fill out your sound. If mixed high it can be played off of. Personally, I like a delay that sits way back in the mix.

Because of this, I’ve found that an analog-style delay works nicely in my setup due to its muddy-sounding repeats. A digital delay (similar to the Heartbeat example above), which is very popular with other ‘ukulele players, has very clear and clean repeats – not so much what I want.

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Sometimes there are pieces of gear you have to guess about. But the most affordable, best-sounding, durable analog delay being produced today is, pretty much hands-down, the MXR Carbon Copy.

This made my research simple. Add to Cart. Click. Checkout. Click.

I actually bought one of these MXR delays years ago, but, like a dummy, sold it because it was “noisy.” Upon reflection, I think the noise was probably from using crappy power supplies. So I recently bought a new one and we’re falling in love all over again.

What it is

The MXR Carbon Copy M169 is a simple, old-school-style delay that runs on bucket-brigade circuitry. This gives its repeats a very dark, swampy sound.

It’s housed in a standard-sized, sparkly, dark green metal box. Four screws on the bottom corners allow access the 9V battery plug and internal trim pots.

On top there are three knobs that control mix, repeats, and delay time. There’s also a footswitch for turning it on and off, and a little push-button switch for turning on modulated repeats.

The LEDs indicators for pedal-on and modulation-on are bright blue. Like, really bright blue. Bright enough to send morse code signals to Aliens in other parts of the galaxy. Somebody smarter than me would probably put some masking tape over the lights so as not to have to squint so much when looking towards the floor.

There are in and out jacks for plugging your ‘ukulele into the pedal and a standard-style power plug jack on the side so you can turn it on (using batteries in any pedal is kind of silly – especially a delay which sucks a lot of juice).

mxr carbon copy side view

Sound

If you’re looking for a crisp, clean delay sound, get a different pedal. The Carbon Copy’s repeats are really muddy – almost distorted and fuzzy-sounding. This is really nice for getting the delay to sit in the mix. You can have the mix control at a higher level than you could get away with on a digital delay and the sound is still complementary. Delay time ranges from 20 to 600 milliseconds – more than plenty for most folks. A lot of guys set it in the 300-400ms range for a nice lead sound.

The regeneration knob controls the amount of times the delayed note is played back. It can be adjusted so that there is only one repeat or so many that the pedal feeds back on itself. Really. Be careful of this. There have been a couple times it got so loud I thought I broke my ears (and a friend’s amp).

The mix knob takes the delay volume from zero to boosted louder than the normal signal.

You can add vibrato to the delayed notes by pushing in the mod switch. The vibrato settings are tweakable via two trim-pots on the inside of the pedal that control width and speed. It can be adjusted from nasty, sea-sick sounds to an almost unnoticeable sway. It sounds sweet and is a nice way to make the pedal sound a little “more” if you want it.

The Carbon Copy can be ran with up to 18 volts of power. By doing so you allow the circuit more headroom (and elbow room). This brings up the volume of the repeats and makes them a wee bit more defined, if not brighter. I’m running mine on 18v right now with a low-profile Strymon Zuma R300 that mounts nicely under my pedalboard.

Consensus

If you like the sound of muddy, dark delays, you really can’t go wrong with the carbon copy. It’s worked fabulously for me over the years.

Should I find myself needing or wanting to buy another MXR delay, I’d probably try out the Carbon Copy Bright, which is the same pedal, just voiced to be a little more – you guessed it – bright!

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