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 a wonderful‑sounding delay, with a very strong character. The tone shift of the switchable time ranges has been maintained, and there’s rampant self‑oscillation above the Feedback knob’s 8 setting. The creative scope includes entirely conventional tempo‑sync’ed echoes, beautiful meandering modulated warmth via the LFO, naïve amp‑like slapback sounds, and synth‑territory Radiophonic‑style effects. The dark character is complex and more than just a matter of filtration; I tried several other multi‑purpose delay plug‑ins with onboard filters and could get somewhat close to the MF‑104, but I could not match it.
Furthermore, this plug‑in is hugely more versatile than the hardware. First, there’s a ping‑pong mode, which extends the range into spatial stereo treatments. You can also choose bipolar or unipolar LFO polarity, or introduce some analogue ‘slop’ in the delay timing (which also charmingly loosens the stereo image of mono mode). Also, a ‘spillover’ option that lets delay repeats continue on after the pedal is bypassed, which was a common hardware modification in original units, is just a click away. More fundamental still, and bordering on heresy for Moog purists perhaps, is a selectable tone control. A Legacy setting preserves the inky‑black original sound, while Analog opens it up significantly, and Modern makes this 104 a full‑bandwidth, clean, correct, digital delay alternative.
Interestingly, though, there are some ways in which a real 104 has an edge. Originals had a tap‑tempo switch that has disappeared here. It’s justifiable, given the possibility of DAW tempo sync’ing, but that same switch would let users dial in ‘illegal’ delay times outside of the normal knob range, which would cause clocking artefacts and side‑bands in the audio path, giving unpredictable but often interesting results. The same was possible using MIDI control too. Equally, the extended delay times (up to 1.4s) of yet other MF‑104S variants produced over the years are not available, even as an option.
Finally, in this first part of the review, we come to the MF‑108S Cluster Flux. (Try saying that after you’ve had a few ales!) Despite the faintly alarming name, this is more or less another bucket‑brigade delay, but one that majors on shorter time ranges: around 0.5‑10 milliseconds in flange mode, and 5‑50 ms for chorus. Notably, the feedback loop can inject echoes that are out of phase, which vastly increases the scope for complex cancellation and interactions within the ‘clusters’ of echoes that can build up. Straightforward flanger and chorus sounds are easily achieved but the 108’s repertoire extends to vibrato and experimental FM‑like timbres too, helped by another onboard multi‑wave LFO with a 0.05‑50 Hz range.
Original MF‑108s always gave the option of mono‑to‑stereo use, with the content and phase characteristics of the right output being configured by internal DIP switches. Those options and more are offered in the plug‑in’s extended settings, including (once again) ping‑pong stereo alternation, Legacy/Modern audio bandwidth, timing randomisations and LFO polarity.
In use, the MF‑108S proves to be a flexible, sometimes strident, often warm and cuddly‑sounding chorus/flanger effect, working well on guitar, bass, piano, synth pads and string machines, in mono and diverse stereo variants.
Dark Side Of The Foog
The remaining three Moogerfoogers are more unusual and experimental in nature. I’ll hazard a guess that they’ll polarise opinion: depending on what fields you work in you could either love them or rarely use them. I’ll summarise what they’re about, anyway.
The MF‑105S Multiple Resonance Filter Array (MuRF) does, at least, offer musical possibilities that are easy to grasp and deploy in conventional productions. It’s a bank of eight filters with switchable bass or mid‑leaning frequencies, and can be used in a static way, like a complex tone control. When all eight filter faders are down, the plug‑in passes no audio, and when they’re all up they produce a tubby, bandwidth‑limited version of the input. Things get more interesting when you use the onboard step sequencer to ‘animate’ the bands. There are 11 preset patterns for each of the bass or mid filter voicings, and you can also write your own with a simple built‑in 64‑step sequencer which can sync to your DAW. Individual bands are triggered momentarily, opening and closing according to an adjustable envelope that goes from brief blips, through bell‑like decays, to ‘backwards’ shapes. Additionally, a simple onboard sine‑wave LFO with just a single on/off switch can very subtly (indeed) modulate the frequencies of all eight bands in a phaser‑like way. The manual says its rate is derived, somehow, from the pattern. I’ll take its word for that, because it’s certainly not connected to the Rate knob, nor DAW tempo, and I found what is going on here impossible to pinpoint.
The MuRF seems ripe with rhythmic potential, but if there’s a limitation it’s the limited bandwidth it imposes on processed audio. Everything takes on a bass‑ or middle‑dominated tone unless plenty of dry signal is allowed through, in which case the primary effect is diluted. For that reason it’s probably better suited to electric guitar sounds than drum loops or synth pads, unless you’re happy to lose both their low and high ends.
It does have some subtle capabilities, though. Like the original units, when used in stereo (via, you guessed it, another ‘rear‑panel’ setting) odd‑numbered filters output to the left channel and even numbered filters to the right, immediately ‘stereo‑ising’ mono signals. Oh, and via the CV modulation scheme the potency of the LFO can be massively increased: then it really does behave more like a phaser, and the ultimate span of frequency bands is vastly increased.
The outer limits of the Moogerfooger universe are represented by two more pedals, both capable of some pretty wild sounds. The MF‑102S ring modulator combines your input signal with an onboard sine‑wave carrier oscillator to produce two new signals, at the sum of and difference between their frequencies. The carrier can be pitched statically in the ranges 0.6‑80 Hz and 30Hz‑4kHz, and also modulated by an LFO, switchable between triangle and square wave, and running at between 0.1 and 25 Hz.
Used with audio‑spectrum carrier frequencies the 102, like all ring modulators, will destroy the normal harmonic series of your input signal and generate all sorts of metallic, clangorous timbres. Odd, swooping frequency components are generated when an incoming monophonic melody or bass line (say) is used against a fixed‑frequency carrier. It’s great for drums and other non‑pitched effects — it can be very Forbidden Planet or Kraftwerk, depending on how you use it — and LFO modulation allows for sirens, wobbles, lasers, and otherwordly trills. At the same time, there’s a less chaotic side to the 102. Used with the lowest carrier frequencies (up to about 15Hz) it can become a tremolo or, in stereo guise, an autopan.
Finally, at the edge of all things, is the MF‑107S Freqbox. This is a synth oscillator covering a 25Hz‑1.6kHz frequency range, offering classic triangle, sawtooth, square and pulse waveforms via a continuously variable knob. The original 107 was touted as a potential additional oscillator for the likes of the Minimoog Voyager, to be incorporated via an XV‑351 CV expander. However, it can also fulfil an unusual effect‑like role. Moog advised original 107 purchasers, accurately, that the sounds you get from it are not processed versions of your input, but the sound of the onboard VCO being modulated by the input. Actually your input can survive intact, courtesy of a Mix control, but where’s the fun in that?
The two types of modulation are hard sync and linear FM. If that sounds familiar from the synth world, the difference here is that VCO waveform resets (for sync) and pitch ratios (for FM) are not nicely controllable from dedicated additional control oscillators but are driven by the input signal, with all the broadband harmonic complexity that’s likely to entail. Added to that, the VCO’s base frequency and its amplitude can both be controlled by an onboard envelope follower which tracks the level of the input signal.
If all that sounds chaotic and uncontrollable, I can assure you that it is. Used as a straight effect for a typical guitar or keyboard part, or on a full mix, sync‑based results tend towards fizzy high‑frequency distortion overlaid on the input signal, often very edgy and audible. It’s a little reminiscent of sample‑rate reduction effects, though more complex and unpredictable, and when the VCO frequency is similar to or lower than the lowest components of your input signal there’s full‑on sonic degradation and ultimately silence. The theory of oscillator sync predicts that, and it’s interesting to explore the limits there. FM is wilder, and used alone obliterates any sense of pitch in the input signal, often producing overtly synthetic, Dalek‑like, ’60s sci‑fi clusters and drones. Using the envelope follower to modulate the VCO frequency, you get a wobbly, dynamic version of the same. Add in sync at the same time and, well, good luck!
The Freqbox can, to some degree, be used in place of a distortion pedal. It’s better, I think, to see it as a sort of 1960s Stockhausen tone‑generator spin‑off. Its output is often extremely synthetic, anti‑musical, and more suitable for Radiophonic‑style effects than anything else. It may not see day‑to‑day use, but it certainly fulfils a role that very few other plug‑ins can, and has a similar magnetism to other ‘out there’ modular processors.
These new Moogerfoogers may be just plug‑in versions of the real thing, but for many people they will be easier to use, they won’t take up half your floor (or wall) space, and they have the distinct advantage of allowing multiple instances in versatile mono and stereo applications. They’re also about three‑hundredths of the price of a typical full hardware set on the secondhand market, assuming you could ever find one for sale! I did not carry out a forensic side‑by‑side comparison of analogue and digital, but I can say without hesitation that the plug‑ins will take you on the same creative and sonic journeys as the hardware originals.
About the value for money aspect: notwithstanding daft valuations of original units, the pricing for this bundle seems more than fair to me. Outstanding, maybe. There’s an awful lot to enjoy here, and many of the units offer a refreshingly different feel and sound to more generic equivalent plug‑ins you might have on hand. Aside from the undoubted sense of historical vibe, possibilities for analogue‑style overdrive, and to build little self‑contained modular effects setups with CV, are unique and non‑trivial selling points.
I suspect they might become go‑to choices for many users...
There is still room for improvement. Not so much in the core sound or signal‑processing abilities, and I could even live without the out‑of‑spec delay time options that I mentioned for the MF‑104. What I miss is some external control options beyond CV, especially via MIDI. Currently none of the plug‑ins publish themselves as MIDI destinations to their host DAW, and I think they really should. To be able to play the Freqbox’s oscillator via MIDI, as was possible on the original via CV, would make it quite a bit more useful and usable. The same goes for the MF‑102 ring modulator. Equally, there is no built‑in MIDI Learn facility to quickly link hardware controllers to the knobs. Your DAW may well offer alternative ways to set that up, but as it stands a preset like the MF‑107’s Foot Theremin, which was described in the hardware unit’s manual with the VCO being played via an expression pedal connected to it, is not quick or easy to set up. Hopefully this sort of thing can be added in a future update.
That aspect aside, I’ve got nothing but praise for these virtual Moogerfoogers. I suspect they might become go‑to choices for many users for a variety of tasks, especially colourful creative treatments. The connection to Moog history is obvious and can be inspiring, and at all times their invitingly chunky interfaces belie the versatility within. They’re fun to use, great sounding, and full of creative potential: a super achievement.
While the individual Moogerfoogers are all very different from each other, they share a number of common features in plug‑in form. First, and directly impacting on sound quality, is a pair of knobs labelled Drive and Output. They control input gain and output level, respectively, cutting and boosting by about 20dB. The point of Drive is on the one hand merely functional: a bit extra can help envelope followers get going for weak input signals, for example. On the other hand it’s intimately tied to sound quality, because these plug‑ins are designed to be creatively overdriven. Distortion ensues, and it’s generally of a good, complex, transistor‑like quality. All the Moogerfoogers have a virtual LED that lights green, amber and finally red to show the extent of the overdrive. The Output knob then compensates for overdriven levels, and there’s even a tiny, subtle ‘link’ button that will tie Output to Drive, so that the overall level emanating from the plug‑in remains much the same however much you tweak either control. There’s subtle stuff afoot here too, because negative drive amounts can do some weird (and weirdly desirable) stuff to plug‑ins with resonance or feedback stages. Probably due to internal electrical noise modelling: that’s present for all of the Moogerfoogers, over 100dB down, regardless of setting.
Second, Moog have cleverly implemented a CV control system that works between all instantiated Moogerfoogers in the host DAW project. A button exposes virtual CV input sockets for (in most cases) all of the main parameters, and then a click on one of these reveals a pop‑up menu of available modulation sources. The menus will typically include other LFOs or envelope followers, in unipolar or bipolar fashion, and there’s also a DC (static level) option that can skew internally modulated values. Something that’s less expected, but very welcome, is that audio signals from elsewhere in your DAW can become audio‑rate modulation sources via a single‑channel side‑chain input.
Finally, all the units get a fully‑featured preset system. Factory presets include examples from the printed manuals of hardware Moogerfoogers, but there’s a nice option to hide them entirely and only display user‑saved patches in the pop‑up list. Those, incidentally, are stored in folders in your OS as discrete files, so they’re easy to share. Also welcome is a dedicated A/B compare switch, that lets you temporarily restore preset or saved settings from a more recent tweaked state.
Whither the 106?
Eagle‑eyed readers will have spotted that there’s no MF‑106. That’s not a missing plug‑in: as Moog nerds will already know, there was never a hardware 106 either. As far as I’m aware no official explanation has ever been given for the omission. Some have speculated one was planned but never made it to production. Others that a naming clash with Roland’s well‑known and widespread Juno‑106 synth was consciously avoided; but in which case, why not also with the SH‑101?
We’ll probably never know, and the gap lives on as one of the many quirks of the series.
- The same retro synth aesthetic and strongly‑flavoured sound as the original hardware...
- ...but with many more options for stereo usage and full audio bandwidth operation.
- Easy‑to‑use CV facilities significantly expand modulation options.
- Good value for money.
- Would benefit from better MIDI control options.
A beautifully realised plug‑in bundle that recreates all seven desirable (and borderline mythical) Moogerfooger effects pedals in your DAW, with some significant enhancements.
$298.80 (discounted to $178.80 when going to press). Prices include VAT.