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A Quick Overview on the Best of the Mooer Mini Drives, Fuzzes and Distortions and their Alternatives

Big Muff Style FuzzBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionDistortionDriveDumble Style OverdriveFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzGermanium FuzzMarshall Style DistortionMetal DistortionMooerOCD Style OverdriveOverdriveSilicon FuzzTubescreamer Style Overdrive+-
2018GPXMooerMiniDriveStortion700-min.jpg

After doing the recent Mooer Micro PreAmp pedals overview I thought I should check in on its original range of Overdrives, Fuzzes and Distortions to see how well those still stand up. In fact I have 3 of these pedals that I use every now and again - and the Blues Mood is one of my favourite mini pedals of all time, it was even one of my favourite overdrives for a good couple of years.

 

Most of you will be familiar with most of these as they can pretty much be found everywhere, and are most players favourite second choice when space is tight on the pedalboard and they have to fit in that one more flavour. Others see this as a cost effective way of getting to grips with the best of what the original inspiration pedals offer at a fraction of the price. There are two obvious Boss clones here - the Blues Mood (BD-2) and Ultra Drive MKII (DS-1) that have been cloned / copied in their Keely modded iterations - so you get access to actually pretty rarified tones as such.

 

For many players this is a question of cost - i.e. getting their hands on more affordable pedals, while for me it’s always about quality and relative standing within that enclosure-size category - i.e. does that pedal warrant its place on your board.

 

I thought that there were more of these, but the total complement of Mooer ’drive’ pedals is as follows - with their original inspirations in parenthesis:

  • Black Secret : based on ProCo Rat V1
  • Blade : based on Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff
  • Blue Faze : Based on Dunlop Silicon Fuzz Face
  • Blues Crab : based on Marshall Blues Breaker MKI
  • Blues Mood : based on Keeley Phat-modded Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
  • Cruncher : based on MI Effects Crunch Box V1
  • Flex Boost : based on Xotic AC Booster
  • Green Mile : based on Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer
  • Grey Faze : based on rare Dunlop Germanium Arbiter England Fuzz Face
  • Hustle Drive : based on Fulltone OCD V1.x
  • Rage Machine : based on Digitech Death Metal Distortion
  • Rumble Drive : based on Lovepedal / Hermida Zen Drive
  • Solo : based on Suhr Riot Distortion
  • Triangle Buff : Based on Electro-Harmonix Triangle Big Muff Pi
  • Ultra Drive MKII : based on Keeley Ultra-modded Boss DS-1 Distortion

While for some of these there are newer and better alternative equivalents out there, a large number of these still holds their relevant place in their respective category - I will briefly review each, give my verdict as it pertains to me, and state notable alternatives!

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by name:


Black Secret (ProCo Rat V1) - £40

I've had this for a while as a sort of second-string Rat, and it's more than equal to the task and a very good copy of the original - with the additional and much needed 'Turbo' mode for a little more aggression still. I have about half a dozen or more Rat type pedals, and the Rat is not even my favourite type of Rat! The top chair goes to the Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler. For minis though I have this and the BYOC Lil' Mouse - and I actually prefer this in some ways as it has a touch more volume to it. There are a couple more Mini Rat's that are worthwhile but fairly hard to come by - KO Amps Pocket Mouse, and Shift Line's now discontinued La Rat - each of these is a really handy clone of that core sound and you will get very slightly different mileage for you money. I still think the Black Secret is good enough to hold its own - and it does have that second more aggressive mode which gives it an edge.


Blade (Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff) - £54

This is not really one of my favourite tones - it is a touch lacking in body and textural complexity for me to fully appreciate. I again think the Mooer does a credible simulation here of the original - although the former sounds to have just a touch more 'body' to it. I feel that if you're into this sort of sound then the Mooer easily does the pedal justice - and at a fraction of the size and about half the price. I rarely like EHX pedals in their original format in any case though and prefer the various JHS modded versions - those are the ones I have acquired.


Blue Faze (Dunlop Silicon Fuzz Face) - £40

Actually a really decent simulation of a Silicon Fuzz Face - with a few provisos - firstly the slight drop in volume when applied, and secondly the lack of overall output - I feel it needs a bit more oomph. In the traditional Fuzz operating style I recommend you use it with both dials dimed - and then you control the saturation with you guitar volume knob. I'm not sure I would personally get this although it sounds pretty decent - there are so many really good mini fuzzes around - made with genuine vintage analogue components - where you get a slightly better feel and texture overall - at this price point thought it's really excellent. I would rather deploy my EWS Little Fuzz Drive here - which has slightly more range, or spring for one of the recent MXR Mini 108 Fuzzes. That said this Mooer is still pretty decent and it actually sounds great. As a massive fan of fuzz I may just have to add this to the collection anyway.


Blues Crab (Marshall Blues Breaker MKI) - £40

Per my recent 4 Sizes Blues Breaker article I'm not aware of much competition in the Mini Blues Breaker stakes. I don't feel this is quite as good a pedal as the Moore Blues Mood, but it's still pretty excellent in is category - as Mike Hermans demonstrates in the above demo. I feel it could do with a mode switch and a little more range - to get closer to my admittedly exceptional Analog.Man King of Tone and Wampler Pantheon - obviously different sizes and different price range. If you wand a decent flavour of Blues Breaker on your board, then Blues Crab is a pretty decent candidate, but it in no way competes with the larger masters of the genre.


Blues Mood (Keeley Phat-modded Boss BD-2 Blues Driver) - £55

I think pretty easily my favourite in the range. I used this as one of my major drives for a good couple of years and I loved how it sounded and reacted. It has plenty of volume on tap, a really good range of gain and actually a really richly textured and full bodied core tone. I have recommended this to so many people - with the proviso they listen to Mike Hermans demo first - pretty much everyone of them has then bought this pedal. It is currently more of a second stringer for me as I have both the Keeley Freak Fuzz modded Boss BD-2 and the JB-2 on rotation ahead of it in said slot. A really truly great pedal though!


Cruncher (MI Effects Crunch Box V1) - £40

I have the MI Effects Super Crunch Box V2 as my favourite Brown Sound pedal in my chain. This is based on the earliest junior version of that - the original Crunch Box - and it does a commendable job of recreating that glorious sizzly drive/distortion. It's not that dissimilar to the Suhr Mini Riot - which is the inspiration for Mooer's Solo Distortion q.v. I would probably have the Suhr Mini Riot ahead of this, but this is still a very decent sounding pedal in its own right - with tonnes of range on tap. Another excellent Mike Hermans demo above offers supporting evidence for this.


Flex Boost (Xotic AC Booster) - £45

This AC Booster clone makes for a really excellent and balanced boost and low gain overdrive. This is in effect Mooer's lowest gain Overdrive and it has a really even texture and timbre to it. I of course rocked the Xotic EP Booster for a considerable while - which is a more coloured boost than this. I feel this one is actually rather underrated - it's a great little pedal which should make most players happy - it has plenty of range onboard with decent tone-shaping too.


Green Mile (Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer) - £43

The most ubiquitous overdrive pedal obviously has a million clone or so - but this is one of the better ones and does include an additional Hot/Warm voicing switch - which is nice. I actually have a number of mini Tube Screamer type pedals - including the OneControl Persian Green and Strawberry Red, Keeley Red Dirt Mini and of course Ibanez's own TS Mini. In my recent 4 Size Tube Screamer overview I selected the KHDK Ghoul JR as my preferred Tube Screamer type at this enclosure size - but per Mike Hermans demo above - you can't really quibble about the quality or value of this pedal - it sounds great, but does have a whole lot of competition - it's still one I could consider myself getting as Mooer pedals usually have decent range of gain and volume which is not always the case for these mini style pedals.


Grey Faze (Dunlop Germanium Arbiter England Fuzz Face) - £54

ctually made with a genuine Germanium transistor this is a truly great little fuzz really - I don't know why I haven't properly encountered it before - but it's something of a secret weapon. There are plenty of smaller silicon style fuzzes of every type - but the Germanium ones are still rather rarified. I am really pleasantly surprised by this one - in fact both the Mooer mini fuzzes sound great - but this one has the edge for me. You could spring for a mini JHS Foot Fuzz or Zvex Fuzzolo - but this is right up there too.


Hustle Drive (Fulltone OCD V1.x) - £43

The OCD crunch is one of my favourite drive tones and this is an excellent replica of that tone - with the same HP/LP voicing switch as the original and pretty much the exact same dynamics. This is clearly one of the stars of the Mooer mini range and one of my perennial. I think Mooer did such a good job on this one that other makers don't see the point of offering other mini alternatives! I've long had this in the collection as a backup to the full-size OCD, and the more likely current OCD-style pedal of choice the rather fantastic Hamstead Odyssey. In any case - this one gets top marks from me alongside the Blues Mood - I think they are the two real standouts in this range - along with those fuzzes too.


Rage Machine (Digitech Death Metal Distortion) - £50

I actually have little or know acquaintance with the inspiration pedal here - the Digitech Death Metal Distortion - but I absolutely love the texture of the gain on this one. Before Mooer introduced its range of Micro PreAmp - this was its flagship High Gain distortion pedal - and I still think it stands out today. It may not have quite as much body as some of those newer PreAmp pedals, but it has a really glorious texture and timbre - as Mike Hermans once again so aptly demonstrates. This pedal has long been on my wishlist and I will definitely finally land it one of these days - just really really cool - and much much better than the Blade. Beyond this and Mooer's Mirco PreAmps there really aren't any other notable high gain pedals that I'm aware of so if you're a fan of High Gain - then Mooer really has your back.


Rumble Drive (Lovepedal / Hermida Zen Drive) - £54

There is still some contention as to which Dumble-style pedal this one is based on - and why it has the Green and Yellow colour-scheme. Most still say this is a clone of the Hermida Zen Drive - but I always found that a little thin sounding - and this one seems to have slightly more body to it. I actually really rather like this one which has plenty of dynamics to it and a nicely textured drive sound - although I don't always detect the slight fuzzy edge sizzle that I like the Dumble for. I still think the Rumble Drive is a great sounding pedal but I prefer the slightly more sizzle of the OneControl Golden Acorn - which better captures the character of the Dumble that I really like - I would always pick the Golden Acorn over the Rumble Drive.


Solo (Suhr Riot Distortion) - £50

There's nothing wrong with this pedal - it's another pretty great sounding Mooer, but I think I actually prefer the core tone of the Cruncher to this one - which is along similar lines. I'm not sure the Solo quite captures the correct texture of the original - which has a really well balanced crunch and sizzle. This is all kind of moot in any case as Suhr has gotten around to launching its own mini version of the Riot - which I really love the sound of and that is the one I would go for. There's nothing specifically wrong with the Solo - it's a decent sounding pedal - I just don't feel it has quite the same complex balance of harmonics that the originals have.


Triangle Buff (Electro-Harmonix Triangle Big Muff Pi) - £54

This one gets the smoothness of the EHX original, and actually sounds pretty great - I'm not sure it quite gets the full harmonic / textural complexity of the original entirely - but it does get very satisfying when you crank it a touch. I still feel that the OneControl Baltic Blue Fuzz has an edge on this - with its smart Tone and Sustain dials which really let you dial in pretty much most styles of those classic Big Muff Pi's.


Ultra Drive MKII (Keeley Ultra-modded Boss DS-1 Distortion) - £50

I have had really mixed fortunes with the original Boss DS-1's - mainly because I was initially unaware that they were designed to boost slightly driven amps and therefore don't work at all on clean pedal platforms unless you put something in front of them. In any case I found out that several pedal-modders like Rober Keely had realised that players were using the pedals improperly - so those mods give you the additional 'hair' as such to produce the gorgeous drive tones you would expect. I feel both the Keeley-modded inspirations here are pretty much must-haves - this one is nearly every bit as good as the Blues Mood - and for me is certainly much more preferable than buying an underpowered original one.


Final Thoughts and My Favourites!

I generally feel that there isn't a dud amongst these - they are all pretty decent sounding pedals, but there are some real star performers here - I think I can best convey that by doing my favourite 5 and then the next 5 in line - listed alphabetically.

  • Blues Mood
  • Grey Faze
  • Hustle Drive
  • Rage Machine
  • Ultra Drive

All of those are truly great minis and stand up well against pretty much everything at this size, even against larger enclosure types.

 

  • Black Secret
  • Blue Faze
  • Blues Crab
  • Cruncher
  • Green Mile

Those next 5 are pretty decent but have some serious competition, while the remaining 5 need some further tweaking / re-aligment as far as I'm concerned to make them work properly for me. So in short - 5 stellar, 5 pretty decent, and 5 mostly OK!

 


There has been increased competition from a myriad of Chinese clone brands over the years - and some offering even cheaper alternatives - like the mostly good £40 Tone City ones. I still feel that Mooer has an edge over those other mass-produced lines. While it is facing up to ever more competition from the original boutique brands creating their own lines of mini pedals - as Xotic, Wampler and now MXR and Suhr for instance are doing so successfully.

 

There is also the really high quality Japanese OneControl brand with its excellent Bjørn Juhl -designed minis, and LA-based Italian-made F-Pedals which both could do with more advertising really and more exposure. Yet within all of that Mooer still has a place for providing quality pedals at the right price - the sort of M&S of mini pedals I guess. There are lots of pedal snobs out there, but I personally have a healthy mix of pedals from all corners of the world and I rate them not on where they come from but how they play and how they sound. Admittedly there are only a couple of mins currently in my pedal-chain - largely because I get more options and versatility with compact sized enclosures.

 

I think few would be disappointed if they acquired any of those pedals from my top 5 - those all stand up on their own merits.

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