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This article was originally published in issue #26
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Morley has been a household name in the pedal world since the 1980s, producing high-quality, built like a tank, road-ready pedals used by big names such as Steve Vai, Mark Tremonti and George Lynch. The pedals are renowned for both their indestructibility and reliability and the new M2 look like being no exception.
Morley sent us all four from the M2 range to check out, including a Passive Volume pedal, Passive Expression pedal, Wah and Wah/Volume pedals, each built in the traditional Morley style with a large steel base and heavy duty foot pedal. For the review we’ll check them out individually. One note we should add is that Morley's website suggests two of them - the Passive Volume and the Wah volume - are not available in the USA, which seems strange as they are manufactured there, but that seems to be the case.
M2 Passive Volume Pedal (Model M2VO)
The M2 volume pedal features a passive design, meaning no battery or power adapter is required for its operation. This is great news for people with limited power options and means you'll never have to change a battery mid gig. As such, the M2 volume pedal is a very simple affair with no switches or LEDs but rather, a smooth taper foot pedal mounted on the large rectangular base, making this instantly recognisable as a Morley pedal. As with the other panels in the range this volume pedal is built using cold rolled steel for a very solid, road ready design that feels pretty much indestructible. The downside of this design is the sheer size of the pedal - you're going to lose a lot of pedalboard real estate with the M2VO, however, the quality construction and components mean that you'll never need to worry about the pedal breaking down.
Plugging straight into the unit and out to our studio amp, no coloration of tone or loss of signal could be heard. Due to its passive design the M2VO is always on, so it's great to know that your original signal remains intact while passing through the pedal. The pedal taper is extremely smooth and easy to control pushing from toe up to toe down position but there seems to be less control in the other direction where the pedal felt more stiff, however, this should improve over time and use. As such, smooth volume swells are very easy to achieve and since most people will be using the pedal in this downward manner, the upward stiffness is not so much of an issue.
The M2VO is a great volume pedal that does its job with no fuss and will last forever, just be aware that this is a big beast that will take up significant room on any pedal board.
M2 Passive Voltage Control/Expression Pedal
The Expression Pedal in the M2 range is almost identical in design to the M2VO pedal in that it features a passive circuit with a very simple control layout, with no LEDs or switches to speak of. A single TRS output socket is provided to connect to your desired Voltage Control ready device, so it’s necessary to acquire a stereo TRS jack to operate anything with the pedal. Construction is identical to the other pedals in the range with a super-solid cold-rolled steel bass and foot pedal featuring a smooth taper in the downward motion. As with the Volume Pedal, the upward motion was slightly less smooth and harder to control, a bigger issue with an Expression pedal but certainly not a massive problem and one that will improve with use.
Plugged into the Expression input of an Axe FX II, the pedal was recognised immediately and worked flawlessly with every parameter dialled up. No calibration was required and the range of the pedal is more than enough for accurate control of whichever parameter it was assigned to control.
The M2 Expression pedal is a very simple and effective solution, just slightly hampered by its sheer size and that slightly stiff upward motion. If you need your pedals to be built for abuse on the road then the M2 is a no-brainer.
M2 Wah Pedal (M2WA)
The M2WA is a back to basics take on the classic Morley Wah and as such features a simple design with a single bypass switch and foot pedal plus the addition of an LED for visual bypass indication. Unlike the passive models in the range, the M2WA must powered by either a 9V battery or by a power supply. With a tiny 6mA draw the M2WA won’t tax any existing power supply solutions and should give a great battery life for gigs. The pedal also features a buffered ‘True Tone’ circuit design to ensure that your signal level is retained when the pedal is switched on or bypassed. Some purists may prefer a true bypass solution but with the M2WA bypassed we could hear no discernible difference in tone. Morley have been clever enough to add in a quick clip battery door for easy battery changes and the M2WA is built to the same indestructible standards of the rest of the M2 range. As such it is also very large at up to twice the width of some other manufacturer’s offerings and this may put a few buyers off if they are sensitive about pedalboard space.
In use the M2WA sounds fantastic with an extremely musical Wah sweep that is great fun to use. In both directions the taper is smooth and even making this an easy and musically satisfying pedal to control. An included level control allows the user to dial in exactly the level required when the Wah is engaged, adjusting for any level drops or adding a subtle boost for solos. Morley have really voiced the pedal well allowing access to all of the classic tones that we all love. For those requiring a simple and classically voiced Wah pedal, especially one built to last, the M2WA is a great choice - just make sure you have space on your board for it!
M2 Wah/Volume Pedal (M2WV)
The M2WV is essentially a combination of the Volume pedal and Wah pedal in the M2 range. Unlike the passive M2VO this pedal required a 9V power supply or battery to operate, thanks to the addition of the Wah side of the circuit. The pedal is constructed identically to the M2WA, except that the bypass switch now switches between Wah and Volume operation. The same exacting construction is used (with a nice quick clip battery compartment) and the pedal feels super solid, as always. The Wah tones are identical to the M2WA and the Volume side of the pedal performs with the same smooth taper of the M2VO. As such, the size issue is less of a concern with this pedal due to the combination of two pedals into one housing. It’s still a big beast but will save space compared to a separate Wah and Volume solution.