Moog MF-105M MIDI MuRF
Who, apart from the grumpiest music purist, doesn’t love a Moog? From the earliest gigantic monster synths to the newest Moogerfooger pedals, Bob Moog’s creations, and those of the company that now bears his name, have helped create some of the most original music ever recorded. With the Moogerfooger MF-105M Midi MuRf (May 2010), Moog shares the wealth of extreme tone-tweaking experience with guitarists again. And for those bold enough to wade into these waters, the rewards are bountiful—if twisted—indeed. The MF-105M Midi MuRF is a multiple resonance filer array, which is likely alien speak to anyone apart from dedicated synth heads. In simpler terms, the Midi MuRF enables you to create everything from subtle, frequency-specific modulation effects to cranium-twisting, space-time-folding LFO effects. The MIDI capabilities—too deep to list here—enable interfacing with sequencers, drum machines, and other MIDI devices, as well as activation of filters if you have a pickup-to-MIDI interface. Reviewer Brian Barr “had great fun creating everything from choppy rhythms to resonant soundscapes” using the Midi MuRF. The worlds you’ll create are likely limitless.
Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo
The bias against digital stompboxes has faded in recent years. But the Strymon El Capistan (November 2010) may have what it takes to knock down the very last bricks in that wall of resistance. It ambitiously attempts to deliver every possible permutation of sound that you could get out of an old analog tape echo machine—from the aural irregularities and glorious signal degradation to the quirks of multiple playback heads— in a single DSP-based stompbox. And the extent to which it succeeds is amazing. One of the beautiful things about the El Capistan is that it emulates the analog charms of tape echoes and gives players access to crystalline digital delay colors with equal aplomb. And it enables variations on the two that are damn near otherworldly. You could spend years exploring the El Capistan and never uncover every flavor of delay within. In comparing the El Capistan with a vintage version of the legendary Roland Space Echo, reviewer Jordan Wagner found that “the pedal’s feel, response, and overall tone were often every bit as musical and organic as its venerable ancestor.” He also discovered that when he “needed a little more clarity to go with the irregularities and character, the El Cap delivered in ways the Space Echo could not approach.” If this pedal doesn’t sell you on what DSP can do, we don’t know what will. But for the open-minded, the El Capistan might just extend their playing voice to an intergalactic level.
TC Electronic PolyTune
Beyond making sure a tuner works accurately and is legible in performance conditions, few of us give much thought to that unremarkable but indispensible box at the head of our pedalboard. It’s safe to assume that even fewer of us sit around waiting for a minor revolution in tuning pedals. But players of all stripes sat up and took notice this year when TC Electronic delivered the PolyTune (April 2010). If you’ve never been jazzed about a tuner, this little number will likely change that. What makes the PolyTune different are its polyphonic capabilities. It can detect pitch for all six strings—simultaneously—as well as display whether they’re flat or sharp and register your corrections on the fly with an automatic switch to monophonic or single-string mode. For anyone who has ever heard their tuning go sour on stage and not been certain of the culprit, the PolyTune has the potential to save a lot of time and embarrassment. And while, for now, it only works in standard tuning (which can be transposed down by as much as a fourth to accommodate dropped and B-B baritone tunings), the PolyTune has already drastically changed the way many players tune onstage—and its USB port enables you to download future software updates (including new tuning compatibilities) from TC.
One of Taylor’s first big breakthroughs came via the magic of octave strings, most specifically when Neil Young took the stage on his well-documented Rust Never Sleeps tour with a 12-string from the then-new company. So it’s no surprise that, three-plus decades later, the little San Diego luthierie outfit that became a guitar industry giant is still dabbling with the expressive potential of octave strings. And with the 8-String Baritone (January 2010)—which features octaves on just the third and fourth strings—Taylor proves they’re still willing to dabble with unconventional instruments. Gayla Drake Paul, despite having a declared reticence to fool with the extra-long scale of a baritone, found it “extremely ergonomic” and even “cuddly.” And predictably, this big Taylor turned out to be a harmonic-hurling tone monster. Paul found that flatpicking brought out “a lovely, warm-but-shiny sound, like polished gold at sunset,” and that fingerstyle work could be easily colored with octave accents without overpowering a tune. Most of all, Paul found the Taylor 8-String Baritone “endlessly inspiring.” And what more could any of us ask from a guitar, no matter how many strings?