Tom Morello’s spectacular demo of his signature MXR Power 50 amp-in-a-box overdrive is a reminder that he is still one of guitar’s most radical innovators

Thirty years have gone by since Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled debut album introduced Tom Morello as one of the great pioneers of electric guitar

And yet every now and then he does something to remind us that, when it comes to imaginative, iconoclastic guitar playing, there’s few that can match him. Today, it’s the first demo for his MXR Power 50 signature overdrive pedal.

The Power 50 is the first signature Morello drive pedal, and this demo might convince you that it is the only one you really need to grapple with his tone. Designed to replicate the sound of his Marshall JCM800 2205 through a Peavey 4x12 in a pedal, the Power 50 could be considered it basecamp for mastering Morello’s off-road adventures in sound.


(Image credit: MXR)

Once you have the tone, then you can sequester the services of your pickup selector as a killswitch, turn slides and Allen wrenches into analogue, manual samplers of instrumentation traditionally found outside of the hard rock and metal guitar idiom. That, after all, is what gave RATM’s propulsive union of rock and hip-hop its energy and authenticity.

In this demo video, shot for MXR, Morello showcases how all he needs is that tone, and with the Power 50, he plugs into a variety of tube combos, plus his nine-year-old son’s Fender practice amp, to prove once more that the tone is in the player, but also the efficacy of the Power 50 in impressing its sound upon whatever amplifier it is being played through.

Upon the Power 50’s launch, Morello promised that you didn’t need to hit the vintage stores to put together his rig, the same set up he has used since 1988. You just needed the pedal.


(Image credit: MXR)

“I’ve made 21 studio albums, and that amp, that head, and that speaker, and that tone has been on 21 of them,” he said. “It’s been my signature identifiable sound since Day One of my career. If you want to have the sound that has been on those records, you don’t need to find an amp and speaker cabinet from 1988. You can get that sound with the Power 50 Overdrive, no matter what your setup is.”

Well, this demo supports that theory. And, also, the idea that watching Morello write riffs in the moment, turning his control circuit into a slicer effect, a machine, his technique remains as groundbreaking today as it was back in ‘91.

You can pick up the MXR Power 50 for $/£189. And head over to Dunlop for more details. As for Morello, he has been busy, releasing his second solo record of the year, The Atlas Underground Flood, and roping in the likes of Alex Lifeson and Kirk Hammett for an album littered with guest appearances from a wide range of genres.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.