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It’s difficult to describe the impact Bob Moog’s products have had on the music industry. From his company’s humble beginnings as a Theremin-kit builder, Moog Music grew to build synthesizers that were nothing short of revolutionary and featured prominently on groundbreaking records from the Beatles’ Abbey Road to the Doors’ Strange Days. And while the popularity of his creations waxed and waned in popular perception, they have remained sonic fixtures of ’70s prog, hip-hop, and contemporary electronica, ambient, and experimental music.
When they debuted in 1998, the Moogerfooger series of pedals were a runaway success. They packaged some of the most desirable features from Moog synths into units like their Low Pass Filter and Ring Modulator that made more sense to guitarists and musicians on the go. The newest addition to the family is the MF-108M Cluster Flux, a relatively more conventional, multi-effects unit that offers Flange, Chorus, and Vibrato effects with the ability to tweak them wildly.
Keepin It Retro
It’s hard to imagine any serious gearhead navigating the populous forest of stompboxes without being intrigued by a Moogerfooger. While they might be overlooked by many tone-traditionalists, they are things of beauty. They more likely resemble the interior of a Rolls-Royce than your standard, gloss-painted effects box. They’re big and heavy—the hardwood sides are made of walnut—and even smell like a luxury car when you pull one out of the box (save for the plush leather).
At the core of the MF-108M Cluster Flux’s circuit are a set of high-voltage Panasonic bucket-brigade devices (BBDs). Seven knobs and a rocker-switch on the front panel tailor the output from the BBDs. The left-hand, Delay section controls the delay Time and Feedback, which goes from 0 at the middle setting to + or - infinity in the counterclockwise and clockwise directions, respectively. The LFO (low-frequency oscillator) controls include a rotary switch for selecting Sine, Triangle, Square, Ramp, Saw, or Random wave shapes. Rate controls oscillation speed, while Amount adjusts LFO modulation of the delay time.
In addition to the Flange/Chorus voicing switch, Drive (gain), Output Level, and Mix knobs, the Cluster Flux also has an LFO Tap Tempo switch that you tap three times to set the LFO rate. The LFO Rate, LFO Amount, Feedback, Time, and Mix can also be controlled separately through expression pedals plugged into the crown of the Cluster Flux. Finally, a MIDI input allows for MIDI-control interfacing, useful for computer sequencing or synching with a drum machine.
The Real Deal
With a Fender Stratocaster and a ’68 Fender Bassman running into a 4x12 cab with V30 Celestions on either end of the Cluster Flux, the Moog was as rich-sounding as the classy exterior suggests—kicking out oscillations in deep waves with controllable, bubbly chaos. The suggested setting for a Vibrato in the manual was super, comfortable, and gave off a gooey and rapid pulse—very warm and vintage—if a bit on the bright side. Rolling off the Time and Rate brought me back to a recognizable Chorus swirl with a robust low end.
Even at more radical settings, the analog circuitry of the Cluster Flux does a great job of preserving the original tone of the guitar, though the high-sustain qualities of humbuckers have some advantages over single-coils. The more sustained the input signal, the more the Cluster Flux can contort into a more bizarre version of the original signal. Holding single notes on the Les Paul and pushing the LFO Amount and Rate controls with a Ramp wave yielded synth-like qualities that did justice to the kings of krautrock. With the addition of a separate delay and compressor pedal, the effect was akin to something gone beautifully amiss in a mad scientist’s lab.
Much of the value of the Cluster Flux lies in the six waveform options. And in some ways this is the key to experimentation and some of the more unusual applications of the Cluster Flux. For example, one control configuration may work well with the Sine wave, but become awkwardly jarring with the Ramp wave. You’ll have to dedicate some time into exploring these nuances and guiding the controls, or you may get lost in the water. However, a little patience and imagination goes a long way with this little toolbox. And getting lost (if you have the time) is really half the fun.
You’ll certainly get what you pay for with the Cluster Flux. It contains two highly useable effect platforms that can give you beautifully traditional oscillation sounds, color a quiet whisper-tone, or stir up a whipping sonic-downpour. And it’s a beautiful piece of US-made, analog craft. With a price tag of about $550, I suspect most of Moog’s business will come from analog-synth fanatics and high-end studios. But it’s a source of delicious and traditional oscillation tones too, and a perfect unit for home recording with its ability to handle any range of instruments or vocals (just listen to how a bass guitar can become a wizard’s staff behind this thing). And given how extraordinary the output from the Moogerfooger can be, it may be worth a concerted listen—and a few hours of hands-on investigation—if you have the cash to spare.
you can’t decide between the vintage flange of a Leslie, or a sonic voyage to Mars.
you don’t foresee enough use for these effects to justify the price.
Street $550 - Moog Music - moogmusic.com