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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.
- 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
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.