THE FIRST MOOGERFOOGER pedals were relatively conventional: A low-pass filter, a ring-modulator, a phase-shifter, and an analog delay. Then came the decidedly more un-usual MuRF and Bass MuRF boxes, which create modulated-filter effects and generate sequencer-like patterns from single notes. But the FreqBox ($359 retail/$339 street) is more like something reverse engineered from alien technology, requiring a specialized mindset to fully grok. Thankfully, the user manual explains everything relatively clearly, as well as providing a primer on some fundamental synthesis concepts.
To begin with, the FreqBox isn’t really an “effects” pedal at all. It is primarily a single voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO), very much like those found in the legendary Minimoog and contemporary Moog synths—but it has a 1/4" input that accepts a variety of sources, including guitar. That means you can modulate the oscillator in various ways using the audio input signal, including having it track the pitches played by your instrument using the hard sync function, which is sort of like having a simple mono guitar synthesizer if your instrument happens to be a guitar. The input signal can also be used to frequency modulate (FM) the VCO, in conjunction with the onboard envelope follower.
Like all Moogerfoogers, the FreqBox provides an abundance of controls. Drive is an input gain control that can be cranked up for overdrive effects, whereas the overall volume is governed by the Output Level control. The VCO has a Frequency control (which sweeps a range from 25Hz to 1.6kHz) and a Waveform control (which crossfades between triangle, sawtooth, square, and pulse waveforms), along with the Sync on/off switch. The Envelope Amount and FM Amount controls determine how much envelope follower control voltage (CV) and Drive signal modulate the VCO, while Mix determines the balance between the dry and VCO sounds.
The FreqBox is a mono device with 1/4" I/O, but there are also Envelope and Oscillator outputs—for use with other Moogerfoogers, or anything that responds to control voltages—and five inputs for control of Frequency, Waveform, Envelope Amount, FM Amount, and Mix via expression pedals (such as the new Moog EP2, pictured) or other CV sources.
To test the FreqBox, I began by trying a few of the Basic Applications detailed in the manual. “Basic Sync Setup” (triangle wave, medium Drive, with no envelope follower or FM) produced some spatty but edgy fuzz-like effects—especially while sweeping the Frequency with an expression pedal—but the results were inconsistent. Cranking the Drive up and hitting the input with a fuzz, however, kicked the FreqBox into high gear, yielding searing tones similar to wah-sculpted fuzz sounds, but with lots more buzz, bite, and intensity. Adding a little FM increased the growl factor, and a bit of Envelope added some auto-wah vibe. These settings also sounded monstrous on power chords.
When the VCO isn’t synced, the input signal triggers whatever pitch or sound the VCO is set to produce, and controls its amplitude if the envelope follower is on. For example, “Drone” let me dial in a sustained tone and play sitar-like licks over it, and “FM Gong” produced oddly pitched tones reminiscent of ’50s-era synth blips and bleeps.
The FreqBox is a must-have for Moogerfooger enthusiasts—particularly those with a CP-251 Control Processor—but I heartily recommend it to any adventurous musician, engineer, or producer.
Kudos Great single-oscillator synth sounds. Creates wild special effects. Super-flexible control options.
Concerns Requires an understanding of basic synthesis concepts to fully utilize.
Contact Moog, (828) 251-0090; moogmusic.com