The New MXR Joshua Ambient Echo Pedal, The Revival of the Best ’80s Delay Tone?

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

MXR is a brand that I love as a guitar player. Moreover, I’ve been playing the Carbon Copy for ages and it remains my go-to analog delay for that lush, musical, slightly dark, and organic tone.

By saying that, you might already guess what happens to my nervous system every time MXR comes up with a new delay I can lose myself in.

Everything indicates this delay is a one-way ticket to where the delays have no name. But is it only a copy of The Edge’s sound in the Joshua Tree album or does it pack more cool tones under the hood?

Follow me, as I unveil if I still haven’t found the delay I’m looking for or if this pedal is good enough to bullet the blue sky.

The New MXR Joshua Concept

The new MXR Joshua is an ambient pedal. Yes, it’s such a powerful stompbox that I would say it’s too much for a player who just wants a touch of delay here and there. On the contrary, it’s designed and built to occupy a huge sonic space in your performance and a small one on your pedalboard.

So, to set things straight from the get-go, and this comes from a Carbon Copy lover, this pedal is very far from a simple, single-use analog delay pedal. This is not only because it is a digital unit, but because conceptually, this is a pedal that was designed for much more demanding situations and players.

The keywords, when thinking about the Joshua are texture and complexity. This pedal shines when going for the multi-layered landscape someone like The Edge would go for but also something more ethereal like instrumental, ambient music.

Finally, this is also a great pedal to use with a guitar but can also be a great pedal to use with a keyboard, a synth, or even something like a wind instrument.

Enter the new MXR Joshua Ambient Delay, a massive workstation built like a tank with lots of amazing tones to offer.

6 Knobs for Otherworldly Tones

The Joshua has 6 knobs and 2 switches to maneuver through its complex structure. In this sense, I have to say that MXR has managed to make simple what’s multi-layered and complex.

Let’s start with the easy ones:

  • Delay – This knob is very obvious; it adjusts the delay time.
  • Regen – Another obvious knob that adjusts the number of repeats of the selected delay.
  • Mix – This knob allows you to dial in as much delay and dry signal as you need.
  • Mod – This knob handles the amount of modulation you can add to the repeated signal.
  • Division – This knob allows you to set the tempo for the reproduction. You can go from quarter notes to eighth notes triplets or a dotted eighth note.
  • Voices – The last knob is labeled as “voices” because it adds different voices to your sound in the shape of a -1 octave and +1 and +2 octaves. These work as a trail, adding texture to the repeated signal.

Besides these six knobs, the Joshua is equipped with two buttons: Echo 2 and Trails.

Let’s Talk Octaves and Voicing

The Voicing knob is the one that allows you to add octaves to the delayed signal. If you use the pedal with the knob completely to the left (fully counterclockwise), the octaves disappear, but it works as a blend knob, bringing them into the mix as you dial it clockwise.

I wish it had a way of selecting what kind of octave we’re blending in because since they’re polyphonic, they can track chords as well as single-note runs. Therefore, if you are playing an arpeggio of a big chord that involves the lower strings, you might want to disengage the lower octave.

Nevertheless, the addition of the octaves gives this delay an “angelic choir” kind of sound that’s great for ambient music. Besides, there’s no latency; the tracking is flawless. Therefore, you’ll never hear any odd sounds, just beautiful overtones accompanying your notes.

Second Echo and Trails Buttons

The Second Echo button might be a tad confusing for some people. Let me clear it out for you.

What this button does is obviously add a second delay layer to the one you’ve chosen. This is where things get really close to U2 sounds. Why so? Well, the key is that, although you can change it in advanced settings, the second delay voice is tuned to have a quarter-note division. This is regardless of what the Division knob is set to do.

Therefore, for example, if you have your main delay set to an eighth dotted note, then there will be an interplay between the delay layers that feels very close to what The Edge plays on songs like “Where the Streets Have no Name” among others.

The second button is the Trails button and what it does is allow the delay trails to continue after you’ve disengaged the pedal. Why is this useful, you might think? Well, for example, if you’ve ever worked with a DAW before, you know what a “fade out” is when you’re changing parts in a song.

This is something similar, you can go from one sound to the next (maybe from verse to chorus or vice versa) and let the trails of the outgoing sound act as the bridge to whatever comes next.

My take on it is leaving it always on to help the sound have a floating effect.

The Hidden Reverb Trick!

The Joshua is not only a very capable ambient delay pedal, but it also hides a reverb effect within its circuit. Yes, I know, it’s like the clown’s car, features just keep on appearing on this small pedal! It’s like owning a fridge-size rack with lots of guitar gizmos in a single unit.

One of those hidden features is the Reverb unit. You can simply hold down the Trails button and you can dial in how much reverb you want by just adjusting the Mix knob. In other words, the Mix knob becomes the reverb mix knob when you’re holding down the Trails button.

So, just adjust the reverb level you want and witness how your guitar occupies yet more sonic ground. Oh, and mixed with the Voices you’re in real ambient echo heaven.

What Can You Do with This New MXR Pedal?

The above title should be something more like “What CAN’T you do with this pedal”.

Yes, the MXR Joshua is a delay that works wonders for people trying to get a lush, washy, complex, textured, and dynamic digital delay sound. It is also a great platform to create drones since you can use the Control pedal output to use the Joshua as a freeze pedal. This will allow you to play over an infinite-repeat base. Also, you can hook up an expression pedal and bring the delay in and out to create more dynamics.

This pedal houses more than enough power to handle whatever scenario resonates with you. From playing in that cool U2 covers band to entertaining an entire audience playing ambient music.

This new MXR is a true delay powerhouse in a housing that can fit most people’s pedalboard. Therefore, if you’re after a powerful delay unit, this is a must-try-before-you-buy.

Happy playing-ing-ing-ing-ing!

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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