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Headrush MX5

Amp & Effects Modelling Processor By Bob Thomas
Published December 2021

Headrush MX5

It may be super-compact, but the MX5 punches well above its price tag. What’s not to like?

In the four years since I reviewed the HeadRush Pedalboard (SOS September 2017:, the brand’s first guitar amplifier and effects modelling processor, the HeadRush range expanded to include the more compact Gigboard and the highly specialised Looperboard, which is dedicated entirely to the art of looping. Now, in keeping with the current trend of squeezing quarts of software into pint‑sized housings, we also have the HeadRush MX5, a super‑compact amp and effects modeller that contains all the software power (if not all of the facilities) of its larger modelling stablemates.


With a footprint about half the size of an A4 page, the MX5 is one of the smaller modelling floorboards around. Its black, all‑steel wrap‑over top panel carries the MX5’s rotary controls, four‑inch colour touchscreen, footswitches and expression pedal, with all input and output connectors mounted at the rear. By way of contrast, its bottom and sides are moulded in bright red, impact resistant ABS. The touchscreen dominates the front panel and, while obviously smaller than the seven‑inch screens of its stable mates, its legibility does not seem significantly compromised. In keeping with its reduction in size, the MX5 has been given only three footswitches, each with its own individual RGB LED, the colour of which echoes that of its assigned on‑screen function.

The touchscreen may be smaller than those of the larger Headrush devices but it remains easy to read and use.The touchscreen may be smaller than those of the larger Headrush devices but it remains easy to read and use.

The MX5’s only rotary controls are the Main output volume and a push‑to‑enter encoder. The latter can be used to navigate around the touchscreen, to select functions and to alter parameters. The final front‑panel feature is a wonderfully petite expression pedal that features both adjustable tension and a toe switch, with a positive mechanical action. A second, external expression pedal can also be connected, courtesy of a rear‑panel quarter‑inch TRS jack socket. Other quarter‑inch TRS jack sockets carry the MX5’s stereo effects loop and balanced main stereo outputs, with TRS minijacks being provided for headphones, auxiliary audio input and MIDI I/O. A USB connector facilitates connection to a Windows or Mac computer.

Curiously, the description of the DSP has changed: the “Powered by Eleven HD Expanded” and “Powered by Multicore System” logos, which adorned its older stablemates, have been replaced by the simple statement that the MX5 features “custom‑designed DSP system and powerful multicore processing”. No matter the change in description, the review MX5 runs HeadRush 2.3 software, just as its Pedalboard and Gigboard siblings do. Booting up takes 15 seconds, which isn’t the longest wait at home, or in the studio or rehearsal room, but it could make accidentally pulling out the MX5’s external plug‑in power supply an agonisingly long and embarrassing experience on stage! It takes only six seconds to power down.

Models, Rigs & Blocks

Like the Gigboard and the Pedalboard, the new MX5 features 46 amplifier models, 15 cabinet models (each with 10 microphone emulations), 300 impulse responses, and 63 modelled effects. Also like its stablemates, the MX5 can store a virtually unlimited number of third‑party IRs alongside those from the factory. Using the built‑in USB Transfer Function, which makes the unit appear as an external drive to Windows or Mac computers, the onboard IRs can be copied, dragged and dropped to and from the computer and the MX5’s onboard Impulse Responses folder.

Models can be freely combined to form a Rig (HeadRush’s term for a preset), a process that is based around the touchscreen, with or without the use of the encoder knob. Each rig has 11...

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