Famed purveyors of the cool and unusual, Moog (rhymes with “rogue”) have come to market with a sub-$200 overdrive pedal. At the heart of the MF-Drive are the OTAs, FETs, and the powerful filters that have made Moog’s incredibly rich analog synths famous. What happens when analog visionaries dabble in the primordial dirt? Wonderful, wonderful things.
What we like: TONE. This pedal has tone for days—it leaps out of your speakers and lays claim to its turf, and it does so at a variety of settings that offer a huge palette to choose from. Want a rich OD that stays true to your base tone? Not a problem. Want a Marshall in a box that sounds like an amp as opposed to a familiar EQ curve? Can do. Want big, open dirty boost? It’s here. Want a weird, ripping effect that sounds like time slowly speeding up? Just plug an expression pedal into the expression jack (I’ll get back to that in a minute).
Session after session, I found magic settings that I didn’t want to leave. What’s really remarkable is that all these tones are generated by two sweepable tone filters: the Tone control (clockwise adds top and cuts bass) and the Filter control, which is Moog’s “ladder” filter, which seems to cut and boost top and lows and low-mids simultaneously. I would expect such a format to maybe generate one usable tone at some crossover point, and was thrilled to find so many great tones at different points in the controls’ respective ranges.
I also would’ve expected the Peak toggle to sit, unloved, in the off position—it adds 15dB boost to the corner frequency selected by the Filter which, I imagined, would add some showy honk and little else. It can add the honk but, guided by my ever-lovin’ ears, it also added radical and amazingly useful top end that changed my guitars’ tones dramatically. For example, a dull neck humbucker delivered a lovely ‘70s Strat-type chime when I pulled back the Gain knob and cranked the Filter to open up the top end while using Tone to reduce the low end. My favorite setting delivered a rich roar that had the definition, muscle and almost-off-the-chain dynamics of a HiWatt-Fane stack—and this wonderful sound came out of my Deluxe Reverb-like amp with open-back 2x10 cab.
For settings that delivered what one might consider “natural” or “transparent” responses, I liked the two filters somewhere past 1 o’clock, with peak engaged. Fuzz settings or, say, settings reminiscent of Monster Magnet, Queens of the Stone Age and even the Black Keys could be found with varying combinations heading counterclockwise into the dark side. Meanwhile, the expression pedal can be used to generate what sounds to me like a note slowly coming out of a blackhole and entering our reality.
Concerns: However, in the time I had the MF-Drive, I was never able to dial in a setting that allowed me to get both a usable sweep and a base tone that I Iiked. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but I will fiddle with as many knobs as I must if it gets me something cool, and even I was daunted.
And speaking of fiddling, you may very well find the tone of your dreams here, but be prepared to put in the time: You need to balance the Tone control, Gain (which also adds top end), and the Filter to achieve desired results. Those who balk, I’d urge you to consider how much time you’ll spend demoing other pedals, because I do think you will be richly rewarded you when find your own sweet spot. On the other hand, if you know you want a dirt pedal with boosted mids and reduced low end, you could probably save yourself some time.
Tone: Massive low end. Huge gain range. Chiseled note clarity if you want it. Dynamics. Insane flexibility. Bravo, Moog.
Build quality: As noted, you’ll likely want to invest some time in twiddling, but the sturdy knobs feel good and it’s easy to tweak with confidence, knowing that you can get back to that awesome setting you had a moment ago. That said, the sensitivity of the expression pedal implementation was disappointing, but in a sub-$200 overdrive pedal I feel like some allowance can be made.
Value: There’s so much on tap here, all for the price of your typical dirt pedal.
Overall rating: It’s hard for me to imagine anyone with patience not finding several tones they love in this box. How many pedals have you bought that didn’t have ANY lovable tones? It happens, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen with the MF-Drive.