Moog Music MF-105M MIDI MuRF Review

Moog is rightfully known for its analog synthesizers, including the Moog modular, the Minimoog, and the Voyager. More recently, Moog brought its modular design to the Moogerfooger Series of effects, which integrate with voltage-controlled synthesizer systems, as well as deliver complex and animated processing for guitar, bass, or practically anything that produces an analog signal.
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The MIDI MuRF sports level sliders for its eight filter bands, animation controls for its LFO and step sequencer, and drive and output knobs, along with level LEDs and an on/off footswitch.

Moog is rightfully known for its analog synthesizers, including the Moog modular, the Minimoog, and the Voyager. More recently, Moog brought its modular design to the Moogerfooger Series of effects, which integrate with voltage-controlled synthesizer systems, as well as deliver complex and animated processing for guitar, bass, or practically anything that produces an analog signal. Enter the new MF-105M MIDI MuRF ($459). Like other Moogerfooger devices, control-voltage (CV) inputs let you regulate a processor with any control-voltage source: for example, pedals, footswitches, another Moogerfooger, and most modular synth gear.

Moog filters are arguably the company''s shining stars, and the MIDI MuRF''s Multiple Resonance Filter (MuRF) array delivers eight resonant bandpass filters with fixed frequencies. The unit excels at creating rich, rhythmic gating effects. You''ll find a review of the original MF-105 MuRF in the April 2005 EM.

SURF THE MURF
MIDI MuRF''s hardware improvements include the addition of left and right ¼-inch analog outputs. Analog input remains monophonic, but odd and even pattern steps alternate between the left and right outputs. In a sense, MIDI MuRF offers two processors in one: A Freq switch reconfigures the filter array to match the MF-105B with a lowpass filter in its lowest band and bandpass filters for the remaining frequencies. Flick that switch to the right, and the filters cover midrange frequencies, as in the standard MF-105.

Even a passing familiarity with analog-style step sequencers makes it easy to understand MIDI MuRF animation. You get a separate pattern generator for each filter, and even their step-counts (64 max) can differ. A downloadable, free software Pattern Editor lets you set up rhythmic patterns. A built-in low-frequency oscillator (LFO) sweeps the bands, and the Rate knob speeds up or slows down the rate of the patterns. With the aid of envelope controls, transitions between pattern steps ranged from spiky, staccato articulations to smooth, sweeping transitions of tone.

Adjusting the Drive knob increases signal at the input stage. Signal strength is indicated by LEDs color-coding from green to yellow to red, as with many level indicators. However, when the signal hits the red zone, it''s not necessarily a warning to back off; I was able to add nice overdriven warmth to the creamy-sounding filters.

ELASTIC BANDS
What really distinguishes the MIDI MuRF from its forebears is in its MIDI implementation. A major change is the ability to sync to tempo with MIDI Clock. With the downloadable MIDI firmware update to version 1.8, you can divide MIDI Clock response into musically meaningful subdivisions, including triplets and dotted notes, from MIDI CC messages.

You''ll find many other pleasant MIDI surprises. Practically every knob, switch, and pedal function is also available through MIDI Control Change (CC) messages. For example, CC messages can vary the wet/dry mix. I rigged my MIDI guitar to send MIDI mod-wheel messages (CC1) to vary the envelope controls (see Web Clip 1). Most obvious, and incredibly convenient, is the ability to switch patterns with MIDI program changes. You can also use note-on messages to advance a pattern by steps, thereby wringing more rhythmic variety from the patterns.

The MIDI MuRF hardware is not all that conducive to visualizing patterns, but the Pattern Editor software presents a panel with a simple GUI that lets you see and hear what you''re doing. (It transmits edits as you make them.) The Pattern Editor bestows other features not present on the unit''s hardware. For instance, the hardware envelope control changes only the attack and release values for each step, but hit the letter A on the ASCII keyboard, and a panel appears on the editor, offering niceties such as the ability to scale the envelope strength, which provides lots more sonic variety to the envelope contours.

MURFY'S LAW
There are a few things I''d like to see in the next MIDI MuRF. You must use the menu rather than the industry-standard Command+Q to quit the editor. It''s a little difficult to set the LFO rate to the right time division when synched to MIDI clock; a incremental knob would help. A MIDI Thru port would be invaluable for passing along MIDI Clock or other messages.

In the short time I had the unit in my possession, the MF-105M MIDI MuRF provided me with hours of musical enjoyment. There''s plenty of sonic flexibility, and it presents the best of both analog and MIDI control options. I highly recommend the MF-105M MIDI MuRF to guitarists, bassists, and anyone looking to add new and exciting animation to their sound.

Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Moog Music MF-105M MIDI MuRF Product Page