If you are into vintage, classic guitar pedals, chances are you have run into the debate over "Script" versus "Block" MXR pedals.
MXR, of course, is the legendary maker of an array of high-quality pedals behind a lot of great music and artists in the 1970s and early ‘80s. Randy Rhoads (Distortion +), Jerry Garcia (Distortion +, Phase 100, Analog Delay), Jimmy Page (Phase 90), Eddie Van Halen (Phase 90), David Gilmour (Phase 90), and the list goes on. You get the picture.
While the MXR brand is still around and quite relevant, like many pedal companies over the past 40 years, it has gone through ownership and product iterations throughout the decades. So, for the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on the ‘70s and very early ‘80s. These are generally considered the glory years for MXR pedals by collectors and players.
The MXR lineup from that era was comprehensive and diverse, ranging from distortion to multiple phasers, a compressor, envelope filter, analog delay and a noise reducer.
...A vintage MXR Buffet. Yum...Yes, please!...
Script vs Block
From the early- to mid/late-'70s, the popular, brick-like pedals had a “Script” MXR logo screened on the front of the metal case. This lasted until around 1977, when a “Block” logo replaced the Script logo versions. In addition, some of the early Block logo pedals still had a Script "MXR" embossed on the back plate, before being replaced by a Block embossed "MXR."
So, aside from the aesthetics, is there a difference between the sound, tone and quality of Script versus Block logo MXRs from that era?
If you base it purely on the asking prices of vintage MXR pedals, the answer is yes. The used gear "market" clearly favors the Script versions. Depending on the model, they can range anywhere from $200 to as much as $400 or more (not all MXR pedal models were available in the Script era). Script Phase 90 pedals, especially if they are housed in the rare BUD box enclosure, can approach $400, while Script versions of the Noise Gate/Line Driver can be had for under $200. Script Distortion + pedals generally go for $200 to $250.
Conversely, many of the Block versions are well under $150 generally, and in some cases well under $100 down to $50 for certain pedals. Block logo Phase 90s and Distortion + pedals typically go for $100 to $150 depending on condition, while Block Phase 100s are in the $130 to $200 range. Block logo Noise Gate/Line Drivers are under $100.
I always try to keep the site well stocked with an array of vintage MXR pedals. You can check them out at SmallAxeMusic.com.
...1978 MXR Distortion + Block Logo: around $100 to $150 depending on condition...
...1975 MXR Distortion + Script Logo: typically $200 to $250 depending on condition...
Is there a difference beyond looks and price?
Until recently, I personally had never owned a Script MXR pedal. My own lineup long included two MXR Distortion + pedals (from 1977 and 1980), a late '70s Phase 100 and an MXR Analog Delay (which I don’t believe was available in a Script version. Please correct me if I am wrong but I have never seen one).
My own MXRs look slightly rough around the edges but appearances can be deceiving. They sound great. There is a distinctly organic and warm tone about them, and I am quite content with my Block logo versions. However, as a result of running this website, I was able to acquire Script versions of the Distortion Plus and Noise Gate/Line Driver pedals.
I recently played the (two different) Script log and several Block logo Distortion + pedals side by side, and I could not tell a meaningful difference. The Script version was slightly better at fuzz, and definitely sounded a little softer and less harsh. But they both sounded amazing to me, so to each his/her own, I guess?
I also was able to compare a '77 Script Logo MXR Dyna Comp compressor pedal with a '79 Block Logo Version. Maybe I could say that the Script version was ever so slightly richer and warmer sounding? Maybe a tad thicker? It was not a material difference. Both sounded incredible on top of my bare guitar tone. I don't think the Script Dyna Comp sounded $150 to $200 better, however, which is often the price spread between the two models.
I also saw a Phase 100 Script versus Block comparison on YouTube, and to my ears, while they sounded slightly different, I couldn't say definitively that I liked either one materially better than the other. In fact, I kind of liked the Block Phase 100 a bit more because it sounded a little thicker to me. Of course, caveats apply that I was viewing a demo on a computer screen with substandard audio quality.
Here is the demo, so you can judge for yourself.
My view is, for the money, there is not enough of a difference in sound to turn down a great deal on a Block logo vintage MXR pedal. In fact, with Script versions fetching top dollar, the Block pedals are likely only going up in value. Of course, if you have a little extra to spend on a Script version, you will not regret it. But don’t let the perceptions based on pricing allow you to miss out on what will be, in my opinion, an amazing Block logo MXR pedal that will bring you tons of sonic enjoyment and likely will only gain in value over the years.
Perhaps you have a different view. I would love to hear your perspective.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.