[review] Mooer Audio Super Bender (by Bieke)

Woah! Is this the Whammy killer or what? How would I know? I never used a Digitech Whammy before. Really. I’m a total Whammy virgin.

So, my first time, I did it in my garage with a Mooer Super Bender.

It was good. It was great fun. The Mooer was amazingly easy to control, dial in and use.  I thought it sounded awesome! I was fooling around with exotic pitch shifting modes and creating loads of odd harmonies, bending notes to the extreme and blasting dissonant riffs... It all made sense to me now.

Rawr !

The looks

Looks just like a Whammy at first glance, but the Mooer is purple, has the treadle on the right and the controls and display and footswitch on the left, in- and output on the sides and 9V AC adapter jack next to the input. 3 Status LEDS for the 3 Pitch modes: Harmony, Pitch Shift and Detune. You can select one of these with the Mode push button. Then there is a value/memory control that can be used to set the pitch range. A Pedal Range Setting push button lets you switch between up and down position. Whatever setting you’re using is indicated on a display, the toe up setting of the treadle is shown on the left, the toe down position is shown on the right.  The preset is shown in the middle. Yes sir, you can store up to 10 presets, which is nice.

Last but not least, it has a true bypass footswitch and a green status LED.

The Mooer Super Bender looks and feels solid, again, much like a Whammy. It’s not as heavy as a Whammy though. It also has about the same footprint, it’s a little bit taller in comparison and it looks attractive and functional, even if it’s purple. Bright green display. Treadle is really heavy duty and comfortable. Nothing wrong here. The bezel around the status LED is a bit wobbly.

The Mooer Super Bender comes with a flimsy power supply. Not good.

Operation

It is really easy to use. In Pitch Shift and Harmony mode, it lets you dial in all possible settings, up to two octaves up or down.  You can basically set either position (up or down) from -24 to +24, one step is half a note.  12 steps cover one octave. You can for instance have the up position in +12 which is one octave up and the down position to -12 which is one octave down and vice versa, anything goes. So you can dial in all kinds of divebomb, droptune, up or down steelbends, pseudo tremolo bends, extreme up or down pitch shifting or subtle harmonies. Endless possibilities. Covers more ground than a Whammy!

Ahem. Extra points for the Mooer.

In Detune mode you can set it anywhere from 1 (up position) to 30 cents (down position).

You can select between 10 settings. You can switch between preset by pressing down the value/memory control, rotate it to switch between presets that are numbered from 0 up to 9 and releasing the value/memory control once you dialed in the preset of your choice. Storing presets is easy as well, hold down the value/memory control, the preset number will start flashing, rotate the control to the preset number you want to write to, press the value/memory mode once more to store it.

There also are a  factory reset option (it comes with 10 ready to use factory presets) and a calibration procedure.

The sound

This is hard. It’s a fun pedal for sure, and my first impression was really positive. But I had nothing to compare it to. It does polyphonic pitch shifting and harmonies, I thought it sounded a bit like the Electro-Harmonix POG, but actually, it doesn’t. The Mooer Super Bender is supposed to sound like a Whammy.  So I finally bit the bullet and got myself a Whammy IV.

Straight off to the garage for a battle of the pitch shifters ! My head still hurts a little (of course I could not resist  to try both the Mooer and Whammy to get those really high notes).  Also haven’t seen the housecat since.

So here are my findings. I read all about the glitchy behavior of the Whammy.  Some like it, others hate it. I kind of like it, it has a certain charm. The Mooer does not glitch. I did not mind at first, but that was before I heard and experienced that infamous Whammy glitch. Also, it struck me that the Whammy sounds a lot warmer and less digital as compared to the Mooer. What the heck? I never wanted a Whammy before because I’m not the Morello type and I did not see the point of having a whiny, harsh and artificial sounding pitch shifter. Well, the Mooer sounds even harsher and more digital than the Whammy, really synth like if you want to. The Whammy blends the input note with the bended note rather smooth, whereas on the Mooer, the bended notes sound slightly louder than the notes that are really played. Hmmm, not sure which one I prefer here, Mooer can sound wackier than the Whammy for sure, the Mooer can also be set a lot subtler than a Whammy. I cannot decide which I like best. No extra points for the Mooer here.

But there is something fishy about this pedal. So I never really liked compact pitch shifters, thought they did not sound accurate and did not track that well. The Whammy has slightly better tracking than the Mooer, and moreover, the Whammy sounds more accurate than the Mooer (even the Whammy does not sound spot on). Especially in the second octave up, the Mooer lacks accuracy and sounds slightly out of tune. It also adds a bit of resonance in the higher octave range. Also, when bending down in Harmony mode, the Mooer seems to lag a little, the input note gets there first and the harmonies are a little bit late on arrival. Hmmm, can be useful, but then again, it sounds a bit unnatural. I noticed something similar in the lower octave. It triggers a bit slow, cuts the attack and it feels like there is a bit of latency. Annoying for fast players.  One octave up and one octave down tracks fairly well, and it is up to par with the Whammy. Especially for subtle bends, the Mooer is the better choice (more parameter tweaking possibilities).

As for the Detune setting, the Whammy is limited to two settings, more or less a subtle chorus and a thick chimey digital chorus sound. The Mooer definitely is the better sounding one, slightly less subtle but with far better control of the detuned signal.

The verdict

There is no such thing as a perfect pitch shifting pedal.

The Mooer Super Bender is a decent alternative and less expensive version of the classic Whammy, with improved parameter tweakability, 10 memory settings and true bypass as a plus.

Soundwise, the Mooer works great for subtle harmonies, and for extreme synthi pitch shifting. Tracks OK, polyphonic pitch shifting OK, no glitches. I was less impressed by the highest octave, which sounds slightly out of tune, adding a bit of resonance (a very short delay), and the slow triggering of the lowest octave.

I cannot decide between the Mooer and the Whammy.

Back to the garage...

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