Moog MF Drive Review

 

In this article I’m reviewing the Moog MF Drive from Moog’s Minifooger line of pedals aimed at guitar and bass players. The MF Drive boasts all analog circuitry that is inspired by American and British tube amp tones. Its combination of gain-staging, tone, and filter knobs combined with a resonate peak switch and expression input beckons players to plug in and start experimenting with sounds and harmonic textures. Other pedals in the MF line include the Flange, Chorus, Boost, Ring, Trem, and Delay which cover the gamut of a classic pedalboard. You only need to venture elsewhere for the reverb.

The Minifoogers’ matte-black brushed metal exteriors make me imagine them as the hardworking soot sprites from Spirited Away. The soot colony come alive when they have a job to do, and the MF Drive is the outgoing one that scuttles up to befriend you. The Minifoogers’ sloped-front enclosure echoes the design of their larger Moogerfooger cousins. While Moogerfoogers are bigger and more complex modular-friendly hybrid pedals akin to what you’d expect if you cut out the dedicated panel section of a classic Moog synth, Minifoogers come in a compact pedalboard-ready size that drops most of the modular pretense while pragmatically being powered by a battery or standard 9v pedal power. A guitar player only has to deal with a mono I/O, expression input, and a few sensible knobs and switches. Players don’t need to be familiar with synth concepts to get full use from them.

 

Features

  • All analog circuitry, featuring premium OTA & JFET
  • Gain knob from clean to distortion
  • Drive switch: down is +6.8dB to +48dB & up is +16db to +57dB
  • Filter knob featuring Moog’s 4-pole ladder filter
  • Output knob
  • Tone knob used to control the dark to bright voicing
  • Peak switch: when engaged (up), adds +15dB boost at the Filter cutoff
  • Expression input for controlling the filter
  • Standard 9v power
  • True bypass foot-switch
  • Cast aluminum casing

Visit Moog for more info about the MF Drive.

 

 

Sound & Performance

I started with a close to blank-slate setting on the MF Drive: Gain all the way down, Drive switch down, Output at 12 o’clock, Tone at 4 o’clock, Peak switch down, and Filter all the way up

Guitar through the MF Drive

At these basic settings, the MF Drive adds a slight colored boost that makes the guitar tone more vivid. When the resonate Peak switch is engaged, the level-set Output needed to be raised to 2 o’clock. Moog’s documentation states that when Peak is engaged, this lowers the overall sound due to the shift in harmonic energy.

With Gain, Tone, and Filter knobs maxed and the Drive & Peak switches on, I found the MF Drive highly responsive to playing dynamics. Playing the strings softly, the guitar sound was bathed in a warm gentle glow. Going all the way up to strumming and picking urgently and ferociously made the guitar growl with a reverberating sting. With the Filter at about 10 o’clock, there seemed to be an intense scooped-out midrange to explore where the high-end snaps and crackles above a broad low-end rumbling across the horizon. This makes the MF Drive a fine tool to flexibly emote more dramatic passages of playing.

With the Peak switch disabled, all the frequency energy is there to explore. Adjusting the Tone knob down adds a bone-shaking girth to the low end. It’s not an even adjustment of tone, but it is exciting to explore. A high Gain setting with the Drive switch enabled set fire to the harmonic mid and high-end fuzz. Here, the dynamics of the player break through the dark heavy energy, igniting kerosene above the dark surface. Only the lower Tone and Filter settings at around 10 o’clock can contain it.

With the Peak switch enabled, there is a resonate and creamy swoosh when lowering and raising the Filter knob. With an expression pedal plugged into the Expression input, the MF Drive is fully capable of doing dream-like wah style filtering sounds. Even without a foot-pedal, in moments of longer fadeouts or feedback, tweaking the Filter knob up and down in a motion similar to note-bends and vibrato add some interesting phrasing which makes the Filter knob a playable aspect to the MF Drive. With the guitar volume, MF Drive Gain knob maxed, Drive and Peak switches on, and Tone at minimum, I increased the Output and lowered the Filter to get some self-resonant explosive feedback squelches and horn sounds. Although trying to play live with the resonant feedback and maxed Output could get unwieldy and hurt some ears, with some control and intention there could be some great sounds to sample and add effects to later later in your signal chain.

Synth Bass through the MF Drive

I figured a bass monosynth could mimic a bass guitar and help me explore how the MF Drive could serve synthesizers more broadly.

At the starting setting (the first setting listed above), the MF Drive provided a nice-sounding clean boost, making the bass a little sharper and more focused, similar to the effect of adding a touch of compression that would make it easier to set in a mix. I really liked the effect, so for bedroom producers on shoestring budgets, I would see using the MF Drive for polishing a bass recording as a viable option. In fact, a few days after I wrote that, I had a recording session with a bass guitar player using the MF Drive. The MF Drive was the first choice among four other overdrive and fuzz pedals for how well it helped the bass sit in the mix, while adding a touch of desired overdriven presence to the sound.

With the Peak switch disengaged, a lowered Tone gave my subwoofer a good workout, making the bass sound much heavier and deeper than it could go on its own. The Filter is excellent for smoothing out any rough edges, and when in overdriven territory, any harmonics and pulsing coming from the bass are enhanced.

For sound experimenters and synth explorers, it helps to ask yourself questions like, “What happens when I have a heavily filtered and highly resonant drone murmuring away?” I set both the synth and the MF Drive filters to 11 o’clock, fairly low. The resonance on the synth was turned up to 4 o’clock and the Peak switch was engaged on the MF Drive. I turned the Gain all the way up, and the barely perceptible pulses in the drone became more pronounced with the trance-laden grit of harmonics. This was the moment for me where I thought the MF Drive should be high on the list for noise enthusiasts and sound explorers.

The MF Drive pedal on the bass synth never got out of control. It’s almost like the MF Drive is more polite and fancy on a bass. Whether I added just a bit of Gain or pushed the Gain all the way with the Drive switch enabled, it all seemed in service to enhancing the bass sound in one direction another, rather than overstating the MF Drive’s character. It’s interesting to compare how sounds can get much wilder on guitar with the feedback, sound-shaping, and player articulation yet remain quite refined on bass.

The all analog circuitry is really something special in the MF Drive. The Gain sends the signal to an OTA before the Filter, and Tone sends the signal through an FET for “color” to add British and American amp characteristics. The combination of the MF Drive’s Gain-staging with the Tone, Peak, and Filter options enables a lot of flexibility in the sound-shaping of the overdrive as well as how powerful it sounds. These are some serious quality features that are designed to be highly customizable and react to the player dynamics.

 

 

The Moog MF Drive is one of the more unique and characterful drive pedals for those looking to explore their own tones. Although it would probably not be my first choice for easily dialing in classic Tube Screamer tones, I consider the MF Drive more like discovering other unknown high quality boutique amp tones “in the spirit of” some classic drive sounds but with its own take on things. The MF Drive can do a clean, slightly colored boost, and it can do a range of low rumbling landscapes and punctuated crackling fuzz. The knobs and switches are highly interactive, with some above average features to noodle over. The addition of Peak and Filter communicate the MF Drive’s unmistakable Moog DNA. It’s a bit of a pity there isn’t a Resonance knob, but that’s more my own biased expectation from a classic synth company. The Peak switch is tuned well, and having a filter plus any resonance at all are rare features to have in a drive pedal. The MF Drive is a Moog quality offering with a broad palette that’s well suited to helping you craft your own unique sounds and tones.

That concludes our Moog MF Drive review. Thanks for reading.

Moog Moogerfooger MF-107 FreqBox Review

The Moog Moogerfooger MF-107 FreqBox is one of my all-time favorite effects stompboxes. It hasn’t been covered at Best Guitar Effects, so I chose it for my first review contribution. Among my collection of effects pedals, it’s been like a versatile wild haired member of the band.

The Moogerfooger line of stompboxes was introduced in 1998 with the MF-101 Lowpass filter. The MF-107 FreqBox was added to the Moogerfooger line in early 2007. It was the first new stompbox to be produced by Moog after Bob Moog’s death. Other notable Moogerfooger releases include the MF-104M Analog Delay and MF-108M Cluster Flux.

The FreqBox sounds similar to a synthesizer because in its interior is actually an analogue VCO that is modified by the input signal in various ways. But while the FreqBox isn’t exactly a guitar synth pedal, Moog’s deep experience in analog synthesis and sound design are showcased strongly in this unique instrument, making it an original sound design tool with many possible uses that extend well beyond what musicians may expect from a typical guitar pedal.

Features:

The FreqBox contains an analog VCO with a continuously variable waveform which can be modulated by the audio input signal. Modulation of the VCO includes: hard sync, frequency modulation (FM), and modulation of the VCO frequency by an envelope follower. The amplitude of the VCO is controlled by the amplitude of the input signal.

Sound Design

  • Analog VCO
  • Front panel knobs for VCO frequency, Waveform, Drive, Output Level, Envelope Amount, FM Amount, and Mix
  • Sync switch On/Off

Hardware

  • Black brushed metal casing
  • Polished wood side panels
  • Metal bypass switch
  • Led bypass indicator

Ins & Outs

  • Audio in & out
  • CV/Expression Inputs for Frequency, Wave, Envelope Amount, FM Amount, and Mix
  • CV outputs for Envelope, Oscillator

Audio quality

  • All analogue circuitry
  • Classic Mooq designed oscillator and synthesis components
  • The input sound is not a processed version of the input signal, but the sound of the input signal modulating the oscillator.

Build Quality

The brushed black metal casing, knobs, and polished wood paneling of the FreqBox look good and relay serious quality. It takes up more space on a pedalboard, so that could be a consideration. I use the FreqBox in many different setups, so I usually hook it up real time on the floor, rather than keeping it dedicated to a pedal board. Although it’s a larger effects box, I think its size also makes it easier to see and tweak, especially in low light.

Visit Moog for more info about the MF-107 FreqBox.

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Sound & Performance:

Sound Sculpting

To get things started, I set the FreqBox’s Input knob so that the sound is the same level when the pedal is bypassed or activated. The FreqBox has a competent Drive with a nice analog warmth, but the real fun is exploring the harmonic distortion and fuzz overtones shaped by the continuous waveforms, FM amount, VCO Frequency, and Mix knob with the Sync mode switched on. These are not classic distortion sounds, but they provide a jagged glow of rich harmonics to explore and experiment with. Players can find a beautiful unique edge that serves a given vibe and cuts through a mix, especially when used with guitar or bass.

Demo With Guitar

Playability

One of my favorite ways to use the FreqBox is to fatten up a drum machine with a bit of drive and use a CV waveform or sequencer into the Frequency input to create bass lines. In this mode, I would have the Sync switch off and the Mix knob about halfway which allows both the drum machine and FreqBox to sound like separate yet entwined instruments. While the drum machine is going, the FreqBox becomes playable as hands are free to tweak the knobs. Without other effects in the chain, the sounds will cut through and the changes can be harsh and drastic. Adding a filter, delay, and reverb to the chain and slowly tweaking the FreqBox’s knobs can create a vast range of evolving textures and melodic sequences to explore in a single session.

Demo With Drum Machine

Overall-Rating-5.0

The Moog MF-107 FreqBox has a significant range of harmonic sound sculpting flexibility from its oscillator & synthesis features and can be used on just about any electronic instrument sound source. Its CV ins and outs work with expression pedals or other modular gear for deep connectivity in any pedal and/or modular setup. The FreqBox’s creative potential makes it one of the most unique, fun, and versatile effects boxes to own. While it’s not a typical guitar synth pedal, the synth-inspired textures produced from this pedal make the MF-107 quite enticing for guitarists, synthesizer enthusiasts, or any musicians seeking interesting new sounds and textures from their effects pedals. Although the FreqBox is currently out of production, I would definitely recommend prowling for a used one if you’re in the market for an inspiring pedal that will take your music in exciting new directions.

That concludes our Moog Moogerfooger MF-107 FreqBox review. Thanks for reading.

MOOG MF Trem Minifooger Review – Best Analog Tremolo Pedal?

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The guitar effects industry is and always has been an eye-filling landscape pockmarked with never-ending, cavernous rabbit holes. Some of us who traverse this plane seeking a sound all our own find ourselves unproductively wrapped up in ancillary selling points, designating ever-changing value and brokering favor based on how high the latest offering sets the bar. I’m particularly guilty of ignoring some truly great pedals in favor of sleek, artfully adorned pieces of hype that I ended up dissatisfied with just as often as I was pleased. The mercurial nature of the consumer-level pedal nerd is not a universally bad thing for the craft of effects-building or for music itself as we often crave and demand new combinations of effects and new ways to use them. While the industry is happy to oblige this demand, an intuitive return to the basics of what makes a core effect great is seldom met with less than a sigh of refreshed relief and familiar nods in acknowledgement of “Yes, I know exactly how I’m going to use that!”

The updated classic has been the crux of many a great company in this, the golden age of guitar effects. For example, MOOG (counterintuitively pronounced “mōg”) has stood conspicuously tall as an innovator in the music industry since the company’s inception in the 1950’s and has lead the charge into modern music without rest, frequently releasing products that build on previous works and change what we think is possible in any piece of music hardware.

For guitarists, the Moogerfooger line of effects pedals, first released in 1998, have become a boutique pedal lover’s wet-dream, offering flexibility and unreal tone, albeit in a massive package. MOOG later released the Minifooger line in 2013 to great critical acclaim, packing simplified interpretations of their legendary Moogerfoogers in enclosures designed to fit comfortably on a pedalboard. The Minifooger line included Delay, Drive, Boost, Ring Mod, and Tremolo and in 2015 was bolstered by Chorus and Flange units and an art update. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Minifooger 03 MF Trem, an intuitive and diverse tremolo that lives up to the MOOG family name.

Features:

  • 100% Analog Circuitry built around a balanced modulator and Sub-Audio VCO (voltage controlled oscillator)
  • Harmonically eclectic range spanning into bass and synthesizer voices
  • True Bypass
  • Four Knobs for Shape, Tone, Depth and Speed
  • Expression input control for Speed (+5VDC)
  • Compact and lightweight

MOOG is the sort of company that can get away with giving their product a name that is literally a number and the function of the product, as opposed to a whacky nickname. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sh*t out of whacky pedal names (I browse Reverb listings in the morning for a laugh) but when you’re flexing the bicep of a company name like MOOG, people will trust anything that comes after it. Luckily for us, MOOG is also the sort of company that is not just known for their innovative and high-quality music products, they practically invented the innovative and high-quality music product.

Skin deep, the Trem is an unapologetic exercise in utilitarian design, bearing an angular black and silver countenance that would make Sol LeWitt smirk in appreciation. As if weaponized, the Trem possesses a bolted-on faceplate with its function and place of origin printed on. Unsurprisingly the cast aluminum enclosure is tightly constructed and appropriately lightweight, making it perfect for travel. Knobs for Tone, Speed, Depth, and Shape are in their logical, upward-facing configurations; the Trem’s mono I/O, 9V power in, and expression pedal input are all top-mounted to save room, effectively making the total footprint (provided you are using elbowed 1/4” cables) a respectable 3”x7”. The importance of size in this case is nothing to sneeze at, considering the tone inside these negligible borders is anything but negligible.

Check out MOOG for more info about the MF Trem!

SOUND & PERFORMANCE:

Let’s talk knobs. With a dedicated pot crossfading the Shape of the modulation from smooth rise/sharp fall to sharp rise/smooth fall, you can dial in a subtle optical tremolo vibe or go ham and knock chunks out of your signal at will. The Tone knob is a low-pass filter affecting only the Wet signal, holding dominion over the entire harmonic spectrum of the signal. This determines how lively the Trem’s reaction is when presented with the harmonic content and dynamics of your playing. Speed is pretty obvious, while Depth is actually a Wet/Dry control. The MF Trem relies on phase cancellation and addition, so as you crank the Depth, more frequencies will be added and cancelled by the Tremolo effect. The Depth and Speed play off of one another in intuitive ways with the Depth slowly doubling the tempo of the modulation the further into full-wet territory you go. To get the most out of the Trem, an expression pedal or control voltage is an absolute must. The expression opens up a much wider range of speeds, pushing the effect into the Ring-mod realm of modulation. Changing the speed in real-time yields beautifully disorienting rotary feels; it was also really fun to dial in a quarter-to-triplet modulation with the output control on my expression pedal and change the tempo in real time.

MOOG includes a printed list of suggested knob positions when they ship the MF Trem, so I’ll run through those as well with my feedback on each.

RAY GUN

The “RAY GUN” configuration has our Shape and Tone knobs maxed, the Depth at noon and Speed set at about 2 o’clock. The sharp rise/smooth fall waveform feels pointy, adding a succinct urgency to the tone. With an expression pedal, this configuration is less of a tremolo and more of a low-frequency ring mod, adding an oscillating metallic chime to your playing even with the treadle heeled. Sweeping up and down through the frequency spectrum after a fuzz is a particularly nice way to add some thickness to your dynamics.

HARD TREM

This configuration is similar to the RAY GUN in that the Tone and Speed are set to five and three respectively, but it calls for the Depth to be brought to nine and the Shape brought back to three. The smoother decay of the waveform rounds out the edges of the Tremolo while still retaining the abruptness of the cancellation. I also noticed while setting up this configuration that the shape knob slowed down the tempo of the modulation the closer you are to the center of the pot. This might be a function of the waveform being lengthened from one end as you dial the Shape knob back for a smoother, er… shape.

OPTO TREM

Next I dialed the shape even further back, to noon. This is where the waveform becomes smooth from its attack to its release. This flavoring, with the knobs nearing the center, is an example of one of the more mild tones the Trem is capable of. If you’ve got a whammy bar and a spring reverb, you’ve got a whole effects loop here.

REVERSE

Crank the shape hard left for a smooth attack and abrupt cutoff, like quick little swells overtaking your tone. Paired with an expression you can get some pretty dope Leslie vibes at higher speeds that cool off into the reverse feel for which MOOG nicknamed the configuration. I really enjoyed putting this after a full wet reverb to get a sound like building momentum while falling down a mile-long exhaust shaft.

MOOG boasts that the Minifooger line’s extended range capabilities make them a perfect addition to bass and synth utilities, as well. At band practice I had the chance to plug a MOOG Sub Phatty synth into the Trem, and unlike many other guitar effects on the market that would fizzle out when confronted with the vastness of a synth’s voice, the Trem’s function remained fundamentally the same, even pushed into extremely low octaves. With such an extensive range of instruments readily affected by it, I’d say the MF Trem is perfectly suited for its $139 price point.

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Overall-Rating-4.5

The MOOG Minifooger MF Trem yields nearly every feel in the tremolo family, even extending into the realm of limited phase and ring-modulation. The way the knobs interact to generate vastly varied tones, even when parameter changes are slight, is a degree of building artistry that reflects MOOG’s synthesizer history in a simply articulated way. Its flexibility makes it the perfect addition to any pedalboard and may even have the analog-leaning studio engineer ready to invest. The market today is soaked in tremolos with similar features, so to give the MF Trem a perfect score I would have liked to see some sort of tap-tempo feature. Failing that, if you’ve been seeking a decked-out, versatile, small-enough-for-your-baby-‘board pound of flux, you’ve found it.

That concludes our review of the MOOG Minifooger MF Trem. Thanks for reading!