Strymon needs no introduction for guitarists who are familiar with the modern boutique pedal scene. Pedals including the TimeLine, BigSky, El Capistan, DIG, & Deco brought about a meteoric rise for Strymon to solidify their reputation among the elite developers of DSP based guitar pedals. Each of their previous offerings has sought to become the pinnacle of the type of effects they create, arguably with great success. The Mobius is Strymon’s take on creating the ultimate all-in-one modulation pedal.
Featuring 12 unique mod effects ranging from classic to cutting edge with many of the effects containing several variations therein (ex. Chorus contains 5 different modes!), the Mobius blows away nearly any other stompbox that comes to mind in terms of the sheer variety of sounds available. It also features stereo operation and Pre/Post mono routing for using different mod effects at different points in your signal chain. And it’s all housed in a familiar TimeLine/BigSky sized enclosure with a simple knob interface, a digital LED screen, and 3 foot-switches to round out what appears to be an extremely formidable modulation pedal.
Here’s a feature rundown before we dive into our Strymon Mobius review.
- Studio-class modulation algorithms deliver meticulous and detailed modulation experiences
- Five front-panel tone shaping knobs: Speed, Depth, Level, Param 1, Param 2 (Param knobs assignable per preset)
- Additional menu-driven parameters deliver extremely flexible tone shaping options and versatility
- 200 easily accessible and nameable presets, save and recall at the press of a switch
12 Modulation Machines:
- CHORUS: Full featured Chorus with five distinct modes—dBucket, Multi, Vibrato, Detune and Digital.
- FLANGER: Deep and rich Flanger with a wide palette of sonic possibilities. 6 unique fl anger algorithms.
- ROTARY: Accurate implementation of a rotary speaker cabinet commonly used with tonewheel organs and guitars.
- VIBE: Recreation of the late ‘60s “vibe” circuit which was one of the first modulation effects of it’s time.
- PHASER: Highly flexible phaser with 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16 stage, and barber pole modes. Feedback control and selectable LFO waveforms.
- FILTER: LFO synced filter with three filter types, eight LFO waveshapes and variable resonance.
- FORMANT: Filter type that emulates the human vocal tract and also features selectable LFO waveforms.
- VINTAGE TREM: Three distinctively different classic tremolo sounds from the ‘60s.
- PATTERN TREM: Pattern synced tremolo with user definable patterns and selectable LFO waveforms.
- AUTOSWELL: Auto volume swell triggered by input signal. Rise time and envelope shape are variable. Speed/Depth knobs add chorus.
- DESTROYER: Mangles your audio with bit & sample rate reduction, filters, and vinyl noise. Vinyl warping controlled by Speed/Depth knobs.
- QUADRATURE: Advanced frequency shifter, AM ring modulator, and FM modulator all with selectable LFO waveforms.
- Three rugged metal foot-switches for preset selection, effect bypass, and Tap
- LED display for preset info, BPM readout, and extended parameter control
- Full MIDI implementation allows extended control for those with more complex rigs
- Sturdy and lightweight dark blue anodized aluminum chassis
Ins & Outs:
- Stereo input and output
- Expression pedal input with selectable control over any knob or combination of knobs, savable per preset (also configurable as external tap input)
- MIDI input and output
- Pre/Post Mode for flexible routing, allowing you to put Mobius in two different places in your mono signal chain
- Ultra low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and D/A converters
- 110dB typical signal to noise
- 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
- +8dBu maximum input level easily handles instrument and line signals
- Premium analog front end and output section
- Super high performance DSP in a compact form factor
- 32-bit floating point processing
- True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching)
- Selectable high-quality Analog Buffered Bypass
- Selectable Tap Subdivision, savable per preset
- Optional Global Tap Tempo mode
- Included 9V DC power supply (300mA required minimum)
- Dimensions: 6.75″ wide, 5.1″ deep
- Designed and Built in the USA
As mentioned previously the Mobius is similar in size to the Strymon BigSky & TimeLine pedals, housed in the standard enclosure for Strymon’s flagship multi-algorithm products released so far. At a glance there’s one noticeable difference with the Mobius: it has 2 less surface knobs than the BigSky & TimeLine. Fortunately, this results in no less depth of control as the Param 1 & Param 2 knobs are assignable to any of the parameters located in the sub menu. The 2 most commonly used sub-parameters are already assigned to the knobs for the selected effect or factory preset. If you’re unsure which parameters are assigned, a slight turn of either Param knob will display the parameter name on the LED display. It’s very intuitive in use, and knob-o-phobes who like to keep things simple will still be able to dial in great sounds without the need for much, if any, menu diving.
Veterans and tweakers will have no problem delving into what’s below the surface. A simple press of the Value knob pulls up the submenu for the selected effect machine. Then you simply turn the Value knob to select the sub parameter you want to adjust. Press it again on the selected parameter and turn the knob to edit the value. When you’re finished simply press the Type knob to exit the parameter menu.
To assign a parameter to one of the Param knobs you simply select the parameter you want to assign from the parameter menu, then push and hold the Value knob while turning the Param knob you want to assign it to. This lets you customize your effect presets for quick control of the parameters you use most frequently for that particular preset.
There are other nice little touches to the interface and display. Pressing the Type knob lets you alternate between viewing the preset name or the BPM/Tempo (displayed as either bpm or Hz, set in the global menu). Also, when using the Speed knob to change the tempo or anytime the tempo is being displayed, you can turn the Value knob to adjust the tempo in tiny increments for precisely syncing the Mobius to a song’s bpm.
The Pre/Post routing is an invaluable addition to the Mobius that essentially makes it act like 2 separate pedals placed at different points in your signal chain that you can use separately, although one at a time. It works by splitting the stereo ins and outs into 2 mono signal paths. For example, this would allow you to place wah, autoswell, or vibe effects near the front of your chain and chorus, flanger, or other effects later in your chain. You could also have an effect placed in front of your amp or in the amp’s effects loop. There’s a Pre/Post option in each preset for setting your preference. Then whenever you activate that particular preset, the effect will be applied at the selected Pre or Post position in your signal chain. Pre/Post routing is one of the Mobius’ most valuable features that may warrant it taking the place of two other modulation pedals on your pedalboard.
While the Strymon TimeLine & BigSky specifically mention having an “analog dry path”, the Mobius does not. It appears that the pedal converts your entire signal to digital, processes it, and converts it back to analog when the pedal is active. When the pedal is bypassed, your original analog dry signal passes through unaffected. Fortunately, the 32-bit Sharc DSP processor, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, 110dB signal to noise ratio, and 24-bit 96kHz A/D & D/A conversion all add up to superior signal transferral and audio processing so that your guitar tone remains in tact. I wouldn’t have known the dry mix sound was digital, and you most likely wouldn’t have either.
Sound & Performance:
Now we’re going to dive in with the Mobius and discuss how it lives up in actual use, focusing on each individual effects machine. The goal is to see where this pedal excels and see if there are any shortcomings with any of the algorithms. Often multi-effects pedals do some things well while lacking in other areas, so let’s see if the Mobius is really the ultimate modulation pedal.
5 modes: (dBucket, Multi, Vibrato, Detune, Digital)
Starting with the Chorus machine (which will most likely be the first effect you hear when first engaging the pedal), you have a choice of 5 different modes all based on Strymon’s dBucket architecture. The dBucket mode in particular is an analog chorus emulation which is just as warm and gooey as you’d hope, minus the extraneous noise that often comes with antiquated bucket-brigade chip technology. The Multi mode expands upon the analog style chorusing with multiple LFOs for an even ‘bigger’ and more lush chorus effect. The Vibrato mode is excellent for providing some characteristic ‘wobble’ to your guitar. Detune gives you a clean detuned effect that helps make your instrument sound a bit bigger and fuller in the mix by blending in a slightly detuned signal with your dry signal. And finally, the Digital mode expands from the Detune machine will full-on digital chorusing via LFO for a pristine, rack-mount style “studio” chorusing sound.
The Tone parameter is particularly useful, allowing you to fine-tune your chorus. You could slightly darken a Digital chorus for a warmer sound, or you could try brightening up an analog chorus. The range isn’t too extreme but confined to a musical range that helps you get the most out of this effect.
The chorus LFO modulates in a standard sine wave for that characteristic swooshing chorus sound. Additional LFO options could have been interesting for more weird and wacky chorus sounds, but if you’re looking for bizarre and unusual, that’s still to come later. As is, these chorus sounds are among the best I’ve heard in a digital pedal, and I really like the dBucket’s warmth, clarity, and noise-free cleanliness. Also, you must hear this machine in Stereo. It sounds huge!
6 modes (Silver, Grey, Black+, Black-, Zero+, Zero-)
The Flanger machine emulates the style of various bucket brigade flanger pedals. While the original form of flanging came from using to tape decks and slightly changing the speed of of one to warp the sound, traditional pedal flangers use LFO controlled delay lines to achieve a similar effect. Strymon made every painstaking effort to reproduce these sounds in the digital realm, and the effort paid off.
It’s a bit challenging to verbalize the intricacies of each of the Flanger’s modes, as they’re all variations of a similar theme. Ultimately, I find myself even unable to pick a favorite as each mode has a unique sonic character to make it a great choice depending on the sound called for in a given situation. But as far as offering a word of advise when exploring these sounds, keep the Manual & Regen parameters mapped to the Param knobs and spend some time adjusting them in each mode individually. The modes each respond a little differently, and the Manual & Regen settings are the keys to coaxing the best results from each one. The great thing is, their various textures are all generally pleasing to the ear if you’re into flanging at all.
One minor thing to add: I’d love it if there were a momentary through zero option similar to Strymon’s Deco where you could either press the preset’s foot-switch or Tap to manually apply flange in certain sections of riffs. This is a feature I would love to see in a software update if possible. Strymon is always diligent about optimizing and improving their products, so I’ll cross my fingers for that one.
The Rotary machine is the Mobius’ emulation of a Leslie Rotating Speaker Cabinet. This effect was originally achieved by using hulking speaker cabinets in which the speakers would spin to create a mesmerizing ‘pulsing’ effect as the emanated sound circled around. A foot-controlled pedal was also used to change the speed of the rotating speaker.
The Rotary does a commendable job of capturing the sound and feel of an actual rotating speaker cabinet. This is another machine that sounds incredible in stereo. The Depth control acts to simulate the distance of two stereo microphones to achieve a canyon wide panning effect. Even in mono it’s still fantastic; I actually spent most of my time testing the pedal in a mono rig which is more familiar to most guitarists.
There are several other authentic touches as well. A Horn Level control adjusts the output of the virtual horn driver to reduce or increase high-end. The Preamp Drive lets you boost the ‘tube preamp’ to overdrive the sound a bit. My favorite aspect is the Slow Speed parameter that gives you 2 distinct speed settings. You can even set the Tap foot-switch to switch between the 2 speeds on the fly with an Acceleration parameter determining how fast the change in speed occurs. This is truly a standout algorithm and one of the best Rotary simulations you’ll find outside of Strymon’s own Lex pedal (which has a few more parameters but no tap tempo).
2 Modes (Chorus, Vibrato)
The classic “Uni-Vibe” style of effect was actually an attempt at creating a rotating speaker emulation. It failed miserably, but it turned out to be a very interesting effect in its own right that is still highly sought after to this day. Its effect is similar to a phaser that uses a light source and an array of photocells to create its distinctive throbbing sound.
The Vibe machine acts as you’d expect with Speed and Depth controlling the rate and intensity of the effect. A parameter for Low End Contour beefs up the bottom end for a massive vibe tone. Headroom lets you create a pristinely clean vibe sound, or you can grit things up for a more vintage vibe tone. The Headroom’s effect on your guitar is more noticeable with cleaner tones. Adjusting the Waveshape value warps the waveform to make it sound more lop-sided, a characteristic trademark of some vibe pedals. There’s even the expected “Chorus” & “Vibrato” modes, and while Chorus is typically the default vibe sound, they’re both worth experimenting with.
The Vibe machine is particularly suited to being used in the Pre position when playing the Mobius in a mono guitar rig. This allows you to place the Vibe in front of your distortion, overdrive, or fuzz pedals. You can still experiment with the Vibe in Post for a heavier phasing effect or in a stereo setup, but Pre is where the Vibe belongs for most classic vibe tones.
7 Modes (2 stage, 4 stage, 6 stage, 8 stage, 12 stage, 16 stage, Barber Pole)
The Phaser machine in the Mobius is one of the most in-depth phasers you’ll find in any pedal thanks to its many stage options available and the Barber Pole mode that’s capable of infinitely rising or falling phasing sounds.
If you want classic “Phase 90” style tones, the 4 stage mode has you covered. 6 stages gets a little funkier. Taking it to higher stage settings gets more intense and wacky. Cranking the Regen creates the more bizarre and extreme phasing sounds. Even at their most intense the modes are all still quite clean and clear. If you want to dirty it up a little, the Headroom control is present in this machine as well for adding a hint of grit.
The Barber Pole mode is a standout for me. Max out the Depth and set the Waveshape to Ramp for infinitely rising phasing or to Saw for infinitely falling phasing sounds. Both directions are awesome, and these are some of my favorite sounds the pedal produces. The Mobius is the mothership of intergalactic phasing sounds. Having it synced via tap tempo or MIDI Beat Clock is a dream come true.
If you’re running the Mobius in stereo, the Spread option is particularly fun for some extra wide phasing sounds.
3 Modes (Low Pass, Wah, High Pass)
The Filter machine gives you 3 distinct modes with which to modulate the tonality of your guitar signal through envelope filtering. This is the only mode I actually have any complaint with really, but that’s not because it falls short at what it does. There’s just a couple things I’d like to see that are absent. But I’ll get to that after I talk about the Filter actually does.
The Filter machine lets you utilize an LFO waveform to modulate the filter to reduce or increase certain frequencies. The High Pass and Low Pass modes act as expected, allowing you to filter out low or high frequencies, respectively. You can even use the Envelope+ or Envelope- Waveshape options to have your input signal control the frequency filtering. This is especially useful with the Wah mode for auto-wah style effects. The Frequency Mid parameter selects the frequency focus area and range while the Resonance can be used to accentuate the frequencies at the cut-off point. This lets you customize your wah sound and filter response in general.
I absolutely love envelope filtering effects, and I wish the Filter machine had a way to manually sweep through the full range of the HP & LP filters via expression pedal or MIDI CC. This would be great for manual synth-style HP/LP filtering. A Waveshape “Off” option might do the trick. While it’s fun to use an expression pedal to control the wah (you do so by turning down the Depth knob and assigning the exp pedal to control Frequency Mid), this isn’t as effective for foot-controlled filtering through a wide frequency range. Being able to deactivate the LFO (with a Waveform “Off” option) and assigning an exp pedal to control Depth or using the Depth MIDI CC might be more effective. You can hear that cranking the Depth lets the LFO sweep the frequency through a wide range; but you can’t deactivate the LFO for manual filtering. With a Waveshape “Off” option the Depth could perhaps then be used with Frequency Mid to set the perfect filter range for manual control. Perhaps alternate HP & LP modes could be utilized to achieve the ideal synth-style filtering. This is the only serious let down I’ve found with the Mobius, and it could be remedied in a future firmware tweak if Strymon agrees that a Waveshape “Off” option would be a worthy addition. Until Strymon ever ventures into releasing the ultimate harmonizer/guitar synth pedal, I’m hoping they’ll make this little tweak so that us guitar & synthesizer lovers can get our filter fix!
The Formant machine uses formant filtering to emulate human vocal sounds. You can select 2 different vocal characteristics with the Vowel 1 & Vowel 2 parameters, and the LFO will modulate between them. You can also control the formant filter with your picking dynamics via the Envelope Waveshape or use an expression pedal for vocal sounding wah effects. Expression control is an especially fun way to use this machine, and you can carefully articulate the vocal sounds as you play for great talking guitar effects. Simple and incredibly fun.
3 Modes (Tube, Harmonic, Photo-resistor)
The Vintage Trem machine offers 3 different styles of tremolo modeled after the various trems found in old 60’s amps. The Tube mode achieves a smooth pulsing sound; vintage Tube tremolos would alter the bias on the output tube circuit to achieve a similar effect. This can get pretty “throbby” at fast Speed settings, but it always retains a smooth sine dip and swell.
The Harmonic trem adds some tonal filtering to create a pleasing, ethereal atmosphere. Combine this mode with some huge ambience from the Strymon BigSky and experience heavenly bliss.
The Photo-resistor mode emulates a bulb/photo-resistor tremolo for a harder trem that’s choppy with a more square sounding feel. This mode is a lot of fun to use with an expression pedal with a 16th note Tap Division for fast rhythmic tremolo effects with ring mod like undertones.
This is a very simple machine that’s quite versatile thanks to its 3 different tremolo modes. But if that’s still not enough tremolo for you, the Strymon Mobius has another surprise in store…
The Pattern Trem lets you create pattern sequenced tremolo effects. Have you ever heard of a pedal called the Goatkeeper? Pattern Trem is like that but better, the “Goatkiller” basically. Up to 8 beats can be sequenced with anywhere from 1 to 16 tremolo cycles per beat. You can have silence or your full signal occur in selected beats. There are 7 waveform options to customize the overall feel of your rhythmic patterns. You can even hit the Tap foot-switch once to restart the sequence, handy for syncing the pattern in a live situation. Also, you can use the Pattern Trem machine as a standard tremolo in case you want to keep it simple but take advantage of the unique waveforms available in this machine.
The Autoswell machine creates automatic volume swells based on the input signal. This is similar to using your guitar’s volume knob or a dedicated volume pedal, only easier and automated, assuming you set it up right. The Rise Time controls the volume ramp in seconds (and fractions of a second) to determine how long your guitar will take to rise to full volume after picking a note. The 4 Shape options help determine the “feel” and response of the swell curves to suite how you’re playing. For example, the Ramp Shape has a consistent increase in volume through it’s slope; other options will rise fast, then slow down, or vice versa. It’s best to experiment with these for the greatest effect. The Depth & Speed knobs add a chorus effect to the swelled signal. It’s not applied if the Depth is turned down, but it can add extra interest and movement before your guitar is fed into a delay pedal and/or reverb.
Strymon describes the Destroyer as “an intricate tool to mangle your audio”. This effect is awesome and could have been released as a unique standalone pedal. To start, it’s a full-fledged bit-crusher with extensive Sample Rate & Bit Depth control from 96 kHz down to 750Hz and 32 bits down to 4 bits, respectively. The machine’s name is appropriate as this effect can absolutely destroy your guitar and crush it to oblivion.
But that’s not all the Destroyer does. It has 8 optional Filter Shapes emulating sound sources including a 70’s clock radio, bullhorn megaphone, Victoria phonograph, a cell phone, an apartment intercom, and more.
You can also add Vinyl dust noise with its dedicated parameter control. This sprinkles a little snap, crackle, and pop over your signal. If you raise the Depth knob from here, you’ll add a little warped record style modulation that syncs together with the noise to the tempo set by the Speed knob. A Mix parameter lets you blend in some dry signal if you still want your audience to hear that there’s a guitar under all the dust and dirt.
This is one of the most fun and unique machines that just begs to be used for at least one song in your set. Come on… you know you want to.
4 Modes (AM, FM, Positive Frequency Shifter, Negative Frequency Shifter)
The Quadrature machine is another signal mutilating effect that will mangle your guitar beyond recognition if you’re feeling adventurous. AM/FM modulation and Frequency Shifting cover ring modulation and all kinds of utter frequency destruction. The Quadrature warps chords and single notes alike by manipulating amplitude and shifting the frequencies of your audio signal. This results in all kinds of bizarre and atonal sound effects. If you’re careful you can tune it in just right to harmonize with certain notes. But it’s often more fun to just get lost in the chaos and create a cacophony of crazy sounds.
I’m going to share a few of my favorite ways to make the most of this machine. Expression pedal control is a must. Try assigning parameters such as Speed, Depth, and Shift to the exp pedal for some semblance of control over the sonic madness. And assigning the Mix parameter is vital if you want to have some sections be dry with precise control over when you apply the Quadrature’s touch to your guitar. Another trick is to use the Envelope Waveshape to dynamically control the frequency shifting that’s occurring. Playing softly lets more of your natural guitar sound come through while picking notes harder mangles your instrument. Or you can just strum like mad for a sonic freakout. Combine this with exp pedal Mix control to apply the dynamic insanity on a whim and without warning. Too much fun.
Mobius MIDI Control
One of my favorite aspects of Strymon’s flagship pedals like the TimeLine, BigSky, and the Mobius, is the complete MIDI implementation across of their functions. The Mobius is just as strong in this regard as expected. All parameters have individual CC’s that can be controlled from you MIDI controller of choice, be it a keyboard, foot-switch, Livid Audio Guitar Wing, or DAW.
I’ve personally been experimenting with using Ableton Live to automate and control pedals during live performances. The Mobius generally responds well to everything you can throw at it whether simply recalling presets and activating/bypassing the pedal or using CC messages to control parameters in realtime. (See our Strymon TimeLine Review for an example video with some Ableton Live & Strymon TimeLine action.) Yes, like with the BigSky & TimeLine, you can automate the Mobius for “foot-free” control by sequencing your effects changes. Imagine having your own personal guitar tech (if you don’t already) who changes all your effects for you. The Mobius feels like it was made for this.
While the Mobius can basically do anything you could imagine with MIDI control, the only issue I have encountered is the lack of a “MIDI Clock On/Off” option on a per preset basis. There is, however, a Global option for turning off the response to MIDI Clock, but sometimes in a complex MIDI rig you’ll find yourself always having MIDI Clock running to keep your gear in sync. It would be nice to have some presets sync automatically by selecting “MIDI Clock On”; however, other presets that utilize realtime Speed control could be set to “MIDI Clock Off”. Granted not many guitarists are taking advantage of the deeper aspects of MIDI control (yet!), but this minor change to the Mobius (& TimeLine) would allow some of us a little more flexibility in our MIDI guitar setups.
As I go back again and again through the Mobius’ effects machines, I simply cannot find any serious faults with the sounds available. This is a truly stellar modulation pedal. The Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Vibe, Vintage Trem, & Rotary are where I tried to look most critically, but I just can’t complain at all. These are superior emulations of those essential effects. They are generally cleaner than analog modulation pedals, but they still have plenty of warmth and feeling. And while the wacky machines like Destroyer, Pattern Trem, & Quadrature may seem novel to traditional guitarists, these effects will be essential to sonic experimentalists.
My few suggestions for improvement could easily be implemented with a software update. To recap, those are: a Deco style through zero flanging option for the Flanger machine, synth-like HP & LP manual filter control via a Waveform “Off” option in the Filter machine, and a “MIDI Clock On/Off” option per preset. But considering the range of great sounds contained within, the Mobius is as close to perfect as I’ve heard in a multi-algorithm modulation pedal.
The Strymon Mobius is without a doubt the most flexible and versatile multi-effect modulation pedal I’ve played to date. With a full range of classic mod effects, all of impeccable quality, the Mobius is unfathomably good at everything it does. An unmatched range of chorus, phaser, vibe, tremolo, and flanger sounds are contained within. What’s more, there are several unique mod machines like the frequency shifting Quadrature, bit-crushing/lo-fi filtering Destroyer, and 8-step rhythmic Pattern Trem to add some unique sounds to your effects arsenal. The Pre/Post makes the Mobius indispensable and likely to replace 2 single-effect mod pedals on your pedalboard. The amount of painstaking detail that went into designing the Mobius and its effects is a testament to why Strymon is one of the premier guitar pedal builders around today.
That concludes our Strymon Mobius review. Thanks for reading.
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