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: