Moog may be better known for their synths, but their out‑of‑production Moogerfooger effects change hands for silly prices. And now they’re available in software form...
Moog’s Moogerfooger hardware pedals were produced in various forms between 1998 and 2018, and they’ve always been iconic: large, wooden‑ended, and with controls straight off of a Moog modular. More importantly, the Moogerfoogers’ signal chains were all‑analogue, and in some cases their role and functionality virtually unique in the world of pedals. Add in a dash of rarity, as in the case of MF‑104 delay (which, despite having several model revisions, was only ever produced in small quantities), and in no time you’ve got mystique going hand in hand with mind‑boggling secondhand prices. Having used a full set of Moogerfoogers for a couple of projects, I can personally attest to their strong character and often fascinating creative potential, but having missed the boat when they were offered for sale new, I could never really justify owning any myself.
Until now: the Moogerfoogers are back, the full set, and this time as a really quite affordable bundle of analogue‑modelling plug‑ins. The seven Moogerfooger plug‑ins in the bundle resemble the hardware pedals’ appearance and abilities, and where more capable or flexible hardware revisions of the originals were produced, it’s these that have been copied. As we’ll see, there are also quite a few plug‑in‑only niceties which add significant flexibility, particularly in relation to stereo operation. The minimum system requirements are Mac OS 10.13 or Windows 10 64‑bit, and the formats available are VST3, Audio Units and AAX. Copy protection is via iLok, but a physical dongle is optional: an authorisation can exist on your hard drive for offline use, and there’s a generous three activations per licence.
Four Moogerfoogers occupy sonic territory that should be familiar to most readers, and first up I’ll look at the MF‑101S low‑pass filter, which is a stand‑alone Moog ladder filter. The filter response is switchable between 12dB/octave two‑pole and 24dB/octave four‑pole, and the highest cutoff frequency is a conspicuously low 12kHz. Indeed, this filter make your tracks darker‑sounding even when it’s fully open. High settings of the resonance knob cause it to ring easily or go into full‑on self‑oscillation, as you’d hope.
An envelope follower modulates the cutoff frequency (either polarity is possible) according to the input level, and with variable response rates. The original had only a two‑position Smooth/Fast switch, but here there’s also a Follow Rate knob. Obvious musical uses are for auto‑wah, and for shaping drums and other transient‑rich signals.
The four‑pole setting in particular has that inimitable heavy, thick Moog quality, with the potential for strong resonance. Interestingly, there’s less low‑end loss with high resonance than some other Moog‑style filters out there (including various Moog analogue synths, as well as plug‑in options like Arturia’s Filter MINI): no more than 8‑10 dB at worst, I quickly calculated, and it’s a pleasing tilt of the response rather than any sort of anaemia onset.
Hidden settings accessed from a notional ‘rear panel’ include a couple relating to use with stereo signals; the original hardware was mono, of course. It’s a reminder, if any were needed, of the versatility and convenience of these plug‑in versions, and many of the other models include similar features.
Moving on we swoosh, rainbow capes trailing voluptuously, over to the MF‑103S 12‑stage phaser. It’s actually switchable between a six‑ or 12‑stage design, which is to say how many parallel filters are employed. Roughly speaking six sounds more ‘classic’ (immediate Jean‑Michel Jarre Oxygène territory) and 12 more complex and psychedelic. A Sweep knob shifts the frequency centre of the filter bands, and resonance determines their propensity to ring and sing and become audible in their own right.
As is common for phasers, an LFO can modulate that Sweep knob for you. It’s got two rate ranges: a glacial 0.01‑2.5 Hz, and a ‘normal’ 1‑250 Hz, which is how the knob is calibrated. Low rates can be subtle and beautiful, generating almost unnoticeable but nevertheless constant change. High rates encroach on FM territory, generating clangorous tones: this makes sense of the Stun and Kill markings on the LFO Amount knob.
The 103 has its own additional stereo settings. It can recreate what the hardware could do, which is to have a two‑channel output, one carrying the main signal and one with an inverted filter response (where filter peaks became troughs, and vice versa). This gave some stereo involvement when the channels were panned in opposition, but a level mismatch arose with high resonance settings. Thankfully the plug‑in can optionally go one better, running two separate phasers in parallel, under the hood, and inverting their LFO phase. This is arguably better sounding, and generates the full, swirling ‘far out’ effect typical of other stereo phasers.
To my ears the MF‑103S sounds very good, imbuing instant character and nostalgia. Generally it’s a stronger (and literally louder) flavour, and a more bass‑ and middle‑dominated sound, than several other plug‑in phasers I compared it to. A quick check with a spectrum analyser shows its band frequencies never rise above around 4kHz, whereas the (unashamedly digital) alternatives easily extended to 20kHz. Consequently, while the 103 excels in a sort of guttural, almost distorted character, it doesn’t readily pull off subtle, silky, sizzly ‘hi‑fi’ effects. Horses for courses...
Next up, what for many aficionados is the Holy Grail Fooger: the MF‑104 delay. Original units are mono and fully analogue, using a bucket‑brigade design. That term relates to the way that thousands of ‘cells’ in the analogue circuit pass the input signal along sequentially by fractions of a second to produce a cumulative delay, as a bucket of water might be passed along a line. Steep filtration was designed‑in, to prevent the analogue clocking that runs the system bleeding through into the audio signal, and the result is a massive loss of high‑frequency content that becomes the basis of the delay’s character. MF‑104s are astonishingly dark‑sounding, offering a syrupy warmth and weight, and effortlessly vintage vibe.
As a matter of geeky Moog history, the first MF‑104s were as simple as could be: a delay line and a feedback control. Delay times ranged from 40 to 800 milliseconds, dialled in over two switchable ranges, 40‑400 and 80‑800 ms, with the short range having a slightly brighter tone. The later MF‑104M added an LFO to modulate the delay time, and it’s this model on which the plug‑in is closely based.
In short, it’s...