Yamaha MBD-20M Multi-Band Distortion

Yamaha MBD-20M
Multi-Band Distortion

This pedal is from the Yamaha 10 series range of pedals, which were made in Japan in the mid-late 1980s I believe. Given the time period, it was probably intended as a heavy metal distortion pedal… but don’t let that put you off!

It’s not your run of the mill distortion pedal, it has a little trick up its sleeve that sets it apart from the pack - namely that it is in fact two distortions rolled into one; more about that later.

There are four controls; the usual power trio of ‘Out Level’ (volume), ‘Distortion’ (gain) and ‘Tone’ are joined by a mysterious fourth member called ’Balance’. ‘Balance’ is a control allowing you to blend the two distortion circuits.

Distort the truth The MBD-20M splits the incoming signal in to two at a certain frequency, and processes these signals independently - much the same as happens with a studio multi-band compressor or limiter - hence the name Multi-Band Distortion.

The ‘Balance’ control then allows you to mix the two signals however you want…
  • ‘Balance’ control to the left is just the bass - on it’s own, this sounds quite fuzzy, muddy and indistinct…
  • ‘Balance’ control to the right is just the treble and mids - so can be harsh and honky but is really clear and defined…
Start blending the two bands, and there are loads of usable sounds you can achieve with the MBD-20M; from jagged, garage rock tones, through classic rock, to loose, fuzzy distortion perfect for 90s alt-rock and more.

Also, for a moderately high gain distortion pedal - and one that most people would dismiss as being cheap and not worth trying - it is amazingly quiet (even with my P90-equipped Epiphone Casino). I've used plenty of higher-priced/'boutique' pedals which the Yamaha would put to shame.

Mix and match

The MBD-20M works really well in recording and band situations; for rhythm tones, edge the ‘Balance’ control towards the bass side and you'll blend in nicely; for leads and other overdubs, move it to the right and you’ll have no trouble cutting through even the busiest of mixes.

The Yamaha MBD-20M is a workhorse of a distortion pedal. It is very versatile but has nothing too special about it; it won't let you down but it probably won't be your first choice either.