Monday, November 25, 2013

Mooer Lofi Machine review & sound demo

Mooer Audio makes really interesting and affordable miniature size effects and there's been quite a lot of buzz online about their gear. Mooer has quite an impressive line of effect pedals and their Micro Series -line covers everything from distortion and dynamics to filters/equalizers and modulation. There's way over 40 different effects available so there's plenty of options to choose from.

I bought my Lofi Machine from Ebay and I got it for 75$ (about 55€) including shipping. Pretty amazing deal and the shipping time was decent (about two weeks from China to Finland). If you're planning to buy Mooer effects, I recommend that you also check out Ebay for good offers.

Mooer Lofi Machine

Mooer Lofi Machine is a bit crusher/sample reducing pedal that basically alters the sample rate and bit depth of the audio signal. The sample rate is adjustable (with "sample" potentiometer) between 31250-60 Hz and the bit depth (with "bit" potentiometer) between 16-5 bits. There's also a "mix" knob for adjusting the balance of wet and dry signal.
There's an audible resonance peak that moves higher in the frequency range when the bit depth is reduced and it's possible to "tune" the effect to the notes/chord that are being played. Minor adjustments make all the diffence here. I don't know exactly how bit crushers work, but the resonance peak is clearly resulting from the bit depth reduction and is thus more pronounced on lower bit rate settings.

The "sample" potentiometer adjusts the sample rate and turning it clockwise adds static noise and digital artifacts to the signal. With a careful tweaking I did manage to find a setting where the added artifacts were present only when a note was played.

The controls are sensitive and even small adjustments, especially with the "bit" potentiometer, make an audible difference. IMO this is a double-edged sword; there are tons of different tones/shades available but recalling an exact setting again is hard.

Mooer Lofi Machine The mode switch selects between three presets: synth, guitar and bass. It's pretty much like a tone control/low pass filter from bright (synth-mode) to dark (bass-mode). Lofi Machine produces quite different sounding digital gurgles and artifacts on each mode and like always, experimentation is highly recommended!

Mooer Lofi Machine doesn't just look nice, it also feels good. Build quality is excellent and the switches and potentiometers, even the super small ones, feel sturdy and reliable. The enclosure is extremely small and that helps to preserve valuable pedalboard real estate. Jamming everything in such a small enclosure seems like a challenge, but the pedal is well engineered and it was actually pretty easy to disassemble and put back together for the photoshoot.

Mooer Lofi Machine gutshot

Mooer Lofi Machine gutshot

Mooer Lofi Machine gutshot

Mooer Lofi Machine gutshot

..and here's a nice sideview shoot showing the layered design:

Mooer Lofi Machine gutshot

Does it sound any good?

I have always liked bit crusher plugins on computer and unlike one might think, bit crushers can sound very musical and be far more than just mere tools for sonic mayhem and noise. Overall there's something about imperfections and noise that I find very appealin and aesthetically pleasing. Needless to say, I was super excited to try this pedal out!

I've been playing with this pedal for about a month now and I can say that it's definitely going to stay on my pedalboard. It's a versatile effect that can go from pretty lofi-esque tones to nasty arcade sounds without sounding too harsh. There's a lot of subtle sounds available and it doesn't go over the top like some other bit crusher effects. The Lofi Machine also interacts especially well with Digitech Whammy IV by adding some delicious lofi-flavour to those glitchy badly tracked whammy chords. I just love it!

Overall I'm very pleased with this effect: build quality is good, the pedal looks pretty and it also sounds excellent. Mooer seems to be a quality brand and I'm tempted to try out their other effects too. If you're interested about Mooer pedals, check out Prymaxe Vintage for some nice demo videos!

It took me way too long to get a sound demo online (sorry about that!), but here's a little live looping song that gives you an idea how this pedal sounds like. It's not a proper gear demo showing different settings, but I feel that it gives a good example how well the Lofi Machine works in a song context.

Direct link to Youtube:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Live sketch #4 - "Crazy Legs" (Live Guitar Looping - Pigtronix Infinity Looper)

Here's a little jam from yesterday! I just got a brand new Pigtronix Infinity Looper and wanted to try it out.. It works very nicely indeed!

Direct link to Youtube:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Electro-Harmonix Freeze Switch Mod

I really like the EHX Freeze and I can get some really nice tones out of it. However, I have  some issues with the 'clicky' momentary footswitch that engages the effect. First of all, the 'click-click-click!' noise is just plain annoying. Secondly, the regular switch is just not sensitive enough to be accurate and it's also too small to be used comfortably without shoes. I have the same problem with my EHX Chillswitch pedal: the effect is perfect, but the switch is just too noisy and clumsy to use. I have no idea why EHX didn't use soft touch switches to start with..

Well, I modded my Freeze pedal and replaced the original switch with an arcade button!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Live sketch #2 - "Take Your Time" (Live Guitar Looping)

Here's a little improvisation I made today. Electro-Harmonix Chillswitch is a super cool pedal and it works soooo nicely with Digitech Whammy 4. Enjoy!

Download this song for free:

Direct link to Youtube:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Harley Benton S-580 WR review - Part 3: Sights, sounds and the final judgement

17.5.2014 Important update! 
I've been having some problems with the low neck angle (=high action) of this guitar and while the neck adjustments made the playability better they didn't completely solve the problem. So here's what I did: Harley Benton S-580 WR Mod - Part 1: Fixing the low neck angle

Direct link to Youtube:

“I’ve studied the early live footage. Townshend’s SG, when ‘windmilled,’ responds with an explosive power that can’t be explained merely by the force with which the strings are struck. More study is required, in that regard.” -Dr. Ricky Fromus

Okay, let's talk about tone. I've been playing my Harley Benton S-580 through my regular amp setup (Fender Super Champ XD) for about a week now and I have compared the tone to my other humbucker guitars. In the first two parts of my review (Part 1 and Part 2) I was a bit skeptical about the stock humbuckers since they sounded muddy and muffled through my portable rig (soundcard-iPad-Jamup app). So, are the stock pickups really that bad?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Harry, wir brauchen den Wagen, sofort!

I’m a big fan of crime television series and back in the day (in the early 90’s) I used to watch German detective series like Derrick and Der Alte. Yesterday I went to Mauerpark flohmarkt and found this fabulous Derrick t-shirt! Now I'm dressed to kill!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Harley Benton S-580 WR review - Part 2: after the adjustments

17.5.2014 Important update! 
I've been having some problems with the low neck angle (=high action) of this guitar and while the neck adjustments made the playability better they didn't completely solve the problem. So here's what I did: Harley Benton S-580 WR Mod - Part 1: Fixing the low neck angle

The Gibson SG was originally advertised as having the ”fastest neck in the world”, but that certainly wasn’t the case with my brand new Harley Benton S-580. The low neck angle (check out part 1 of my review for more info!) caused some problems and the string action was pretty high even when the bridge was set to the lowest possible setting. The neck also had too much relief on it and that obviously made the guitar even harder to play.

About a month ago I finally bought a hex key and adjusted the truss rod and… lo and behold, it made a difference! The action is still too high for my taste. But since I’m planning to use this guitar with alternate tunings and maybe even for slide playing, the slightly higher action might be ok.

I haven't played an SG-style guitar before and the thin body of the S-580 was a total surprise. The guitar is very light and comfortable to play. It's a bit neck heavy, but overall the guitar is well balanced. I feel that because of the thin body, there’s a slight ”slab-of-wood-with-strings”-vibe present.. :) But the guitar feels good and the C-shape neck is pretty much perfect for me! This guitar might not be as good as my Epiphone LP Traditional Pro (360€), but for this price the Harley Benton S-580 is a pretty good deal.

Soundwise I can’t really say much about the guitar since I’ve only tried it on my mobile setup (soundcard-iPad-Jamup app). With a .011-.049 string set the acoustic sound is loud and the body resonates well. The pickups are general low-quality/low-price humbuckers and with my mobile setup they sound dark and slightly muffled. I’m going to do a full sound review with audio samples when I get back to Finland in September. Stay tuned!

Update: Check out Part 3 of the review.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Harley Benton S-580 WR review - Part 1: first impression

17.5.2014 Important update! 
I've been having some problems with the low neck angle (=high action) of this guitar and while the neck adjustments made the playability better they didn't completely solve the problem. So here's what I did: Harley Benton S-580 WR Mod - Part 1: Fixing the low neck angle

“The sleek body, the slender neck profile, the sharp cutaways - aesthetically and functionally the SG is perfect. Conventional wisdom says the SG has the fastest neck in the world, and based on my research, it’s absolutely true. And, relative to its size, there’s nothing out there with greater warmth and bite. But where does all that power come from?”- Dr. Ricky Fromus
The Gibson SG was first introduced in 1961 and it has been in production ever since. The radical double cutaway design has proven to be timeless: it still looks fresh and exciting after 52 years! The Gibson SG has been the weapon of choice for many great guitar players: Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton (The Fool), Angus Young, Pete Townshend and Jerry Garcia to name a few. According to Gibson website the SG Standard is their best selling guitar model ever.

There is a huge amount of different SG-style guitars available today and almost every other brand offers their own version of this iconic guitar. I've been curious about the low budjet brands like Harley Benton (Musikhaus Thomann) and Jack and Danny (Music Store) because their instruments are probably manufactured by the same companies that make guitars for Epiphone and other more reputable brands. I really don't care what name is in the headstock if the instrument sounds and feels good. Obviously I'm not expecting to get Gibson (or even Epiphone) quality with these prices but I'm excited to see what kind of instument one can buy well under 150€.

After careful thinking I decided to go with a Harley Benton S-580 WR Vintage Series guitar. The price was only 111 € (about 145 $) including shipping.

Harley Benton is a brand created by German retailer Musikhaus Thomann. According to Thomann website ( they order products directly from original equipment manufacturers and sell them under their own brand names (Harley Benton, Millenium, T.Bone etc.). Apparently Harley Benton guitars are manufactured in Korea/China by Saein that also makes guitars for Ibanez, Epiphone and Peavey, but I haven't found any reliable source to confirm this rumour.

I know that Harley Benton guitars and gear have a pretty bad reputation among guitar players and people tend to joke about them quite a lot, but I have played some Harley Bentons before and they have all been good guitars. I own few Epiphones (ES-335 & Les Paul Traditional Pro) and an early 1980's Japanese Fender Squier Stratocaster, so I'm comparing the quality and feel of the Harley Benton S-580 to those guitars.

Because I'm staying in Berlin for the summer and I don't have my regular amp/recording setup with me, the first part of the review will concentrate only on the visual build quality, playability and feel of the guitar. I will do the second part with proper sound demos when I get back to Finland in September.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Madbean Cupcake (DIY Orange Squeezer clone)

My DIY Orange Squeezer project started when I ordered a pcb from Good prices, good service and the pcb's are top quality! All the electronic parts are from

  • Metal film resistors (0,6 W, 1%)
  • Wima Film capacitors (for the mojo!)
  • Elna electrolytic capacitors
  • Burr Brown OPA2134 precision JFET op-amp
  • One sweet lookin' arrow knob (I'm building the one-knob version with a pcb mount 10k 'set-and-forget' trimpot for the bias adjustment.)

The original Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer design uses the good ol' 4558 op-amp, but I'm upgrading it with a Burr Brown OPA2134. Generally compressors tend to bring up some additional noise and I tried to avoid this by using metal film resistors and high quality caps.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

DIY Tips & Tricks: how to use a jewel light in your guitar pedal project

** If you don't want to mess with glue, check out my update here!**

Jewel lights are generally used in amplifiers but with few easy modifications they can also be used in guitar effects. Here's how I added a jewel light on my Box of Rock Clone.

I bought my jewel lights from Ebay and they came equipped with a light bulb. They sell different versions with different voltage requirements, but I didn't pay much attention to those details since I was going to replace the light bulb with a standard 5mm LED. 

Step 1: This jewel light model can be dismantled into three parts. The base (socket for the bulb) of the jewel light is pretty tall and it just doesn't fit on a regular guitar pedal enclosure. So, the black socket and the light bulb are not needed.

Step 2: Below are the parts required. If you're going to mount the bigger "ring part" of the jewel light (shown on the left) outside the enclosure, then obviously you're going to need the nut supplied with it. But in this case just the lens of the jewel light is going to be outside the pedal and the "ring part" itself is going to work as a nut securing the lens in place.

Step 3: Mount the 5mm led bezel inside the lens with hot glue or contact adhesive (= contact glue). Nut of the 5mm bezel is going to hold it in place and prevent the bezel from falling inside the lens. You can set the height of the LED by adjusting the nut of the 5mm bezel.

Step 4: As I said in step 2, the jewel light can be mounted to the enclosure with two different ways. You can leave the bigger ring part of the lens (shown on the right) outside the enclosure OR put it inside the enclosure and use it as a nut to secure the jewel light in place. Latter method requires a smaller diameter hole in the enclosure. But be careful and drill a hole that is exactly the right size. This method doesn't leave much room for error since the rugged edge on the lens that holds it in place is just slightly larger on diameter than the required mounting hole.

Step 5: Enjoy the new über-cool looking pedal that oozes mojo!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Electro-Harmonix Chillswitch gutshots

Electro-Harmonix Chillswitch is one of my favorite pedals. I mainly use it with Digitech Whammy to add some weird stuttering harmonies to sustained notes, but it combines well with other effects too. The concept behind this pedal is pretty simple and one could easily think that they are just selling a simple bypass looper with a momentary footswitch. Well, they aren't!

I bought this pedal because the switching is completely silent. There are no audible "clicks" or "pops" added in the audio signal which is usually a big problem with simple mechanical killswitch/momentary bypass looper -desings. The only problem is that the footswitch itself makes some acoustic noise. I can't understand why they didn't use a silent soft touch switch!? But I do like this pedal a lot and I can highly recommend it if you're looking for a new creative tool.

Anyway, let's see what's inside. Did I pay 39€ for nothing..

.... and here's the BIG surprise:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Zvex Box Of Rock Clone

According to Z.Vex website the Box of Rock is "Z.Vex Effect's first "distortion" pedal, highly specialized to simulate the "everything on 10" sound of a classic Marshall ® JTM45 non-master-volume amplifier". Whatever.. the Box of Rock seems to work equally well on slightly overdriven blues tones and there's is also a separate boost section based on the Super Hard-On circuit.

I hardly ever use distorted tones, but this pedal is versatile enough to suit my playing style. Just don't crank it up to 11 son! Since the idea behind the BOR design is a cranked Marshall amp, I tried to make some simple aesthetic choises that would suit the theme. Marshall style graphics, knobs and a big ass jewel light.

Here's the circuit I built on a vero board. IvIark from Guitar FX Layouts -site designed the layout. BTW those guys are making some serious DIY history: at this time there's way over 450 verified layouts on that site. That is amazing! The Box of Rock design itself is pretty straight forward: three cascaded Super Hard-On circuits, a basic tonestack and another SHO stage (boost) at the end.

This was the first time I ever used water slide decals. The decal was pretty easy to apply, but there was some minor tearing and lifting after I applied the lacquer (as you can see from the final picture). Well, you can't win all the time.

...and here's the finished pedal:

The led indicator is for the BOR-side of the effect, so there's no separate indicator for the boost-circuit. The decal is pretty sensitive and I had to use those nasty white plastic washers on the foot switches to prevent tearing. There's some errors on the finish, but overall this thing looks pretty cool.

How does it sound like? 

My Box of Rock clone sounds crunchy, fat and works very very well with humbuckers. There's plenty of gain on tap, but the effect sounds pretty amazing with lower gain settings too.

Direct link to Youtube:

I like it best when the drive is just slightly turned up and you get a hint of crunch and compression. The tone control works almost like a high end roll-off. I mainly set it almost all the way up since the pedal is pretty dark sounding. The boost section is pretty neat and it definitely adds some extra life and sparkle to your guitar sound. There's A LOT of gain available, so you can really cook your tube amp with this one. Rock on!

Friday, February 22, 2013

On my workbench: 1776 Effects Multiplex delay

Josh from 1776 Effects designed this fantastic delay that emulates three different tape delays: Binson Echorec, RE-201 Space Echo and Echoplex EP-3. I have heard some demos on youtube and it sounds so good.. nice warm analog-vibe. Just what the doctor ordered!

I heard that there's going to be an add-on modulation pcb available in few weeks. So, I'll have to wait for it before I drill the enclosure and print the graphics. This thing is going to be amaaazing!

Friday, January 11, 2013

I got hacked, time to move on..

So, my old site got hacked. I never really liked Wordpress anyway, too much options and hustle.
Anyway, I have a lot of DIY related stuff coming up and I'm also releasing a brand new EP soon! Stay tuned!