Nick Jennison reviews the MOD Dwarf—the compact audio arsenal housing countless audio processing setups you can take with you anywhere. It is durable and streamlined to endure road use, so this could very well be a gamechanger when it comes to taking the tones you love at home or in the studio, everywhere you want to go.
As guitar technology marches ever forward, the line between software and hardware becomes more and more blurry. Plugins are so good these days that they easily rival the tones that the best modellers can offer, but we’re still not quite at a point where plugins are a viable gigging option. Laptops, no matter how powerful, aren’t reliable or rugged enough to be your entire rig, and controlling them presents an issue in and of itself.
Straddling these two disparate world is Mod Devices. The smallest of their pedal-format processors, the Mod Dwarf appears at first glance to be a traditional modeller, but is, in fact, a hardware plugin host. Using the open standard LV2 plugin format, it allows you to load any number of virtual devices (both from Mod Devices themselves and countless third-party creators) and patch them together completely freely in the browser-based editor. There are the usual “guitar-y” candidates like pedal, amp and cab models, but you can also load synths, sequencers, drum machines… you name it!
With such limitless possibilities, it’d be very easy to make the Mod Dwarf a thoroughly intimidating device to use, but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. You set up and programme your “rigs” with the browser-based editor, which gives you visual representations of the devices you have loaded laid out on a virtual “pedalboard”, with an unlimited number of purple “cables” for patching these devices together. Once you’re happy, you can save your finished setup to the device itself, which you can access and tweak with the footswitches and knobs on the pedal. The three pedal modes allow for switching between presets, switching between “snapshots” within a preset, or to control parameters that you’ve selected in the editor. It’s a fair amount of setup work, but the result is slick and easy operation in the heat of battle.
The unit itself offers an impressively full-featured I/O given it’s tiny size. It has a pair of 1/4” inputs and outputs that can be used either independently or paired in stereo, MIDI in and out over 1/8” TRS and a pair of USB sockets for connecting to controllers and computers, a headphone out and a Control Chain socket for integrating the Mod Dwarf with other Mod Devices processors.
The Mod Dwarf is a hugely deep device in a tiny box. It can fulfil just about any role in any rig, from an effects pedal in a traditional guitar setup through to an entire signal chain in one box. As far as the sounds it can produce, the sky is the limit. If you’re not into how the “stock” amps/cabs/pedals sound, you can just download some more! It’s a peek into what the future of guitar will look like, and it’s only going to get better with time.
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