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This article was originally published in issue #14
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As the choice of FX pedals grows more insanely large ever day, real estate on our pedal boards isn't keeping pace. Cue the curiously named Mooer range of micro pedals. Not just small, they are inexpensive, too. But are they any good? Rick Graham started out a sceptic....
Recent years have tended to see the really exciting advances in the pedal market coming from boutique, or at least, smaller makers, with the honourable exception of TC Electronic. For the most part, the big guys have trundled on, but the cutting-edge stuff has tended to be coming from elsewhere. Which makes it all the stranger that a virtual unknown, Shenzhen Mooer Audio, from China, has unveiled something really new and quite exciting - a range of tiny, simple effects pedals that sell for very affordable prices.
Now cheap, Chinese-made, pedals from brands you don't know aren't exactly uncommon - but just look at these. They really are tiny. You could cram loads on your pedal board (a major issue for many players today is shortage of space on the board) and they wouldn't cost a fortune, even if you bought a dozen. Part of the size reduction strategy has been to dispense with battery power - they all need step-down transformers. But given their intended location is a pedal board, that's hardly a problem. But are they any good? To find out, we borrowed four from what is already quite a large range. Watch the video first, then read on!
BLUES CRAB (See main image above)
This pedal is a classic Blues overdrive and features a gain control along with a level control and an additional tone control. The gain knob is a standard size control but looks bigger, due to the tiny size of the pedal, which it shares with all these Mooer units. The level and tone controls are tidily concealed but are easily accessible for any changes you wish to make. It is a well constructed pedal with a full metal shell for durability and is powered by 9V DC power supply. The Blues Crab is also True Bypass. In action this pedal is surprisingly good and is great fun to use. Using it as a boost give a real sweetness to the tone and cranking the gain made for a lovely creamy lead tone with lots of sustain.
This Phaser pedal is as straightforward and simple as it's possible to get. There is one main control and a two-way toggle switch. The main control allows you to change the speed of the effect and the toggle switch gives you the option of either a vintage phaser sound or a more modern effect. Like the previous pedal it has a full metal shell and is powered by a 9V DC power supply and is also a true bypass pedal. Fired up, this pedal is seriously addictive with a real warmth of tone thanks to the full analogue circuit. The '1974 vintage' setting offers a real psychedelic, warm phaser effect and the 'modern' a much deeper and richer sound. Turn this pedal on and you'll not want to turn it off!
This reverb pedal is a little more feature rich than the previous Mooers, offering one main decay control as well as additional level and colour controls, which enable you to alter the level of the reverb effect and the colour of the reverb effect according to taste. There is also a three-way toggle switch offering three different settings: Room, Spring and Shimmer. The 'Room' setting allows for different sized true acoustics reverb, from short room to deep hall. 'Spring' offers a classic spring reverb effect and 'Shimmer' giving more space to the effect. Again this pedal comes with a full metal shell, is powered by a 9V DC power supply and is true bypass. The quality of the reverb from this pedal is very good indeed and is highly addictive and the different reverb types on offer here as well as the easily tweakable parameters are mightily impressive.
The final pedal of the four, the Trelicopter, certainly has the coolest name of all! This classic optical Tremolo comes with one main speed control with additional depth and bias controls. The speed control does what it says on the tin, while the depth control allows for manipulation of the depth of the tremolo effect and the bias changes the colour of the tremolo effect. Like the previous pedals, the Trelicopter has a sturdy metal case, is powered by a 9V DC power supply and is true bypass. In action, the quality of the tremolo is impressive and addictive in equal measure and the sheer range of speeds available at the turn of the main control is staggering. The same can be said of the depth control. I must warn you, though, that you'll enter a time warp with this pedal whereby hours will pass as you play with the settings but it will feel like only minutes! Again, a very good quality effect with lots of tweakable parameters.