Giveaways January 2015

January 15

Review: Mojo Hand Analogue Filter, Nebula & Luna

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In a few short years, Mojo Hand FX has grown from being a little custom shop in Evans, Louisiana to an ever-growing company, gaining international distribution and a loyal cult following. It’s really no wonder after seeing and playing with a few of their stomp boxes. All Mojo Hand pedals are handmade using the finest components. They have high quality features such as true bypass switching and durable die-cast enclosures with cool-looking colors and finishes.

They sent over a few of their pedals for us to check out: the Analogue Filter 442, the Nebula phaser and the Luna vibe pedal.

Analogue Filter 442

This Analogue Filter 442 is based on the old classic DOD 440 Envelope Filter pedal, which has seen resurgence in popularity lately thanks to groups like Radiohead who use this effect in many of their recordings. The AF 442 improves on a few of the DOD features by adding true bypass switching and a nifty little LED power indicator.

I plugged this pedal in and fell in love with it right away. Without even tweaking a knob first, the gratification was instant. The rich tones immediately encouraged me to be inventive in my guitar licks -- a great tool in increasing creativity. At first plug-in, it was like a “foot free” wah-wah pedal – which can be perfect for live settings. You can run around the stage and add a wah tone to your leads, while other guitarists in the audience believe you have a guy offstage controlling your wah pedal for you!

After playing around with the control knobs a little further, I noticed that it takes a few minutes to understand what the parameters of the controls are and to find that sweet spot. Interestingly, I found that the more I messed around with the two control knobs – labeled Level and Range, just like the DOD 440 – the more confused I got about what they were controlling! The name Level is misleading, since it’s not really controlling the input level or mix. It actually controls the frequency, while Range controls the sensitivity. I understand that they wanted to duplicate the knobs of the DOD 440, but the correct labeling could be a great improvement from the original.

The Range knob was easier to understand – turning it counter-clockwise increases the low end and clockwise increases the highs. After playing around with it for a while, I noticed that turning the knob towards the bass side at about 10 o’clock added a really nice fullness to the tone. After fine-tuning the two knobs to my liking, I was really able to dial in that sweet spot. It’s also very easy to control either knob with your foot if you’re too lazy to bend over!

The 442 works really well with a clean tone to play funky guitar rhythms, or it can be added to a dirty sound to enhance those hard-rockin’ leads. You can go from being very subtle to not subtle at all. If you’re not familiar with filter pedals, you will be surprised to find that it isn’t just a constant sweeping effect like a phaser, but a “threshold sensitive” effect. It really reacts to the velocity and speed of your playing. For example, I played a very fast tremolo on the guitar and the effect kept up flawlessly and continuously. To hear this pedal in action, there are audio samples on Mojo Hand''s Myspace page.

Overall, the Analogue Filter 442 is a very versatile, sturdy, great-sounding effect with inspiring sounds and good looks. And with the original discontinued DOD 440 Envelope Filter going for $200+ on eBay nowadays, you can get that same effect with updated features for less money and more satisfaction.
Buy if...
you want a modern version of an analog filter with better features.
Skip if...
you bow at the altar of the original DOD 440.
Rating...
4.5 

MSRP $179.99 - Mojo Hand Effects - mojohandfx.com

Nebula

The Nebula is a two-stage phaser that is like a modern version of old pedals like the MXR 45 or the DOD 201. It’s a very simple pedal, with just a knob that controls speed and a switch that turns the thing on – you can’t get any simpler than that! Since I’m a guy that is drawn to shiny objects and sparkly things, I was attracted to this pedal before I even plugged it in. This Nebula was a purple metal flake version that was very cool-looking and brought back memories of those little cars I used to ride at the carnival! It is also road-worthy and sturdy, which I can personally vouch for – I accidentally and foolishly pulled my guitar cord and the pedal went flying off my amp onto the hard floor. There wasn’t a dent or scratch on it and after plugging it in, it worked perfectly!

Whenever I think of a phase pedal, I immediately hear Eddie Van Halen playing the intro of “Atomic Punk” or “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” from Van Halen I. This pedal is a lot subtler than that. The tone is beautiful and warm, but not overpowering. With a clean sound, it brings to mind Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.” It has a very useable range; even at higher speeds it avoids being too fast or extreme, staying true to the original intent of the effect.

I loved this effect even more with a bass. It sounded warm and rich, and even when the speed was at the highest setting, it produced a nice, watery full tone. There was no volume change or drop at all, and the true bypass makes this a high quality pedal.

I really liked that you can control the speed knob with your foot if you need to, which is perfect for making speed adjustments in a live setting. With only one knob to work with, it stays basic and to the point, which is how it should be. There have been many times while I’m recording or writing when I need to call up a sound quickly and don’t have all day to mess with the knobs and parameters, which make the effect ideal in a studio setting as well.

The Nebula is a very solid, smooth pedal. It is a classic, subtle phaser that does its job and does it well.
Buy if...
you need a simple two-stage phaser with a more subtle sound.
Skip if...
you''re an "Atomic Punk" looking for an extreme phaser with a deep, wide sweep.
Rating...
4.5 

MSRP $179.99 - Mojo Hand Effects - mojohandfx.com

Luna

I remember once talking with a fellow guitar buddy about how Jimi Hendrix was so ahead of his time, especially when using effects like the phaser. I was staunchly corrected and told that it wasn’t a phaser, it was a vibe pedal. Is there a difference? Why, yes there is! After listening more closely, a phaser does just that – it phases the guitar sound and adds modulation to a restricted range of frequencies. A vibe pedal was originally introduced in the sixties to emulate a Leslie rotating organ speaker. There is an audible difference, since the vibe pedal has more of that watery, swirling tone. Probably the best examples of a vibe would Jimi’s “Star Spangled Banner” and “Machine Gun” or Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs.”

I’ve played with a few vibe pedals before, but the vibe effects I''ve actually owned weren’t even pedals per se – one was only a pedal effect on my Vox Tonelab, which simulated the Uni-Vibe, and the other was the Uni-V on the Amplitube Jimi Hendrix plug-in. So when I received the Mojo Hand Luna, I was more than eager to check it out. Wow – a real vibe pedal with real knobs that you can turn and a button you can actually step on! And what a nice box it is – an attractive blue sparkle box, sturdy enough to handle any kind of stomping you may do on it.

I plugged in with my Strat first, using a clean sound with the Luna at the end of my signal chain. Open chords sounded excellent in this setting, with a slower speed and the depth right in the middle, using the neck pickup. It is a nice warm, full, swirling tone. The speed seems a lot crazier at higher settings on the Luna – which can be a good thing. I got wild and kicked in the distortion and had even more fun with it! With the speed and depth at 100 percent, you can get some really cool sci-fi effects out of it – such as playing false harmonics and/or doing dive bombs with the tremolo. It’ll have other guitarists running up to the stage to try and see what you are using!

This unit does come with an expression pedal jack, which allows you to transfer the speed controls from the Luna to another passive foot controller. You can also increase the speed of the effect if you want to, which is a nice touch. There’s no worry about volume drop with this pedal. It was the opposite actually, thanks to the volume knob which boosted the guitar signal when kicked in. Other features include true bypass switching and a bright LED power indicator.

There are two minor changes I would make to this pedal. The first thing would be an easier way to change the battery instead of unscrewing the back plate. I understand it’s dependent on the casing, but it can be a time-consuming task, especially when I struggled to get one of the really stubborn screws off and got close to stripping it. Also, I would love to see a stereo option. It emits such great tones, and a stereo output would sound spacious and incredible with the Luna.

To me, a true sign of a good effect is when it inspires you to play with it for a long time, which the Luna did. The sounds were so cool that I was inspired to come up with a few new riffs!

Overall, I really enjoyed the Luna. It would be unfair to compare this directly to a Uni-Vibe, since the Luna was designed from the ground up, but this should satisfy any vibe pedal fan nonetheless. And if you’ve never experimented with a vibe pedal before, the Luna is a great place to start exploring.
Buy if...
you''d like to jump into the cool water of a new vibey effect.
Skip if...
you fear that any kind of "retro" sound will make you seem uncool.
Rating...
4.5 

MSRP $179.99 - Mojo Hand Effects- mojohandfx.com

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