Autowahs or Envelope Filters have been favorite effects for bass ever since Bootsy Collins flipped the funk over with the classic Mutron. Well, the VFE Mini Mu is heavily inspired by the Mutron III…
The Mini Mu has 3 knobs and 3 toggle-switches apart from the mandatory foot-switch and LED. If we take a look at the knobs first, the upper left knob is named LEVEL, and it simply functions as an overall master output control.On the upper right side, you find a GAIN knob that not only sets the gain, but also affects the sensitivity of the filter. The lower knob is named PEAK and it sets the amount of feedback as well as the resonance in the filter sweep.Next up are the toggle switches. The upper one is labeled DRIVE, which may be a bit confusing if you expect it to have anything to do with ‘overdrive’, as it simply allows you to set the filter to ‘drive’ up or down. The MODE switch lets you select between HP (high pass), BP (band pass) and LP (low pass) filters, while the frequency RANGE switch can be set to HI (high), MD (mid) or LO (low).
Finally, you will aldo find two internal trimpots, where the top one trims the overall sensitivity of the filter and the lower one allows you to adjust the brightness of the LED indicator.
There are 4 rounds of sound clips in this review:
- Bridge Pickup
- Sensitivity Trimpot Adjusted
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
You get a lot of control options with the VFE Mini Mu, which should make it very versatile. And I think that it is, but having said that, it also means that there is a learning curve. It takes time to adjust it to fit your exact bass and playing style, and my guess is that is you change bass, add another pedal before the Mini Mu or even change strings, you may need to fine-tune it again. It is very sensitive, but it is indeed possible to make it create some super funky tones.
If you listen to the last round of sound clips, you can hear that there is a big difference in tone when you tweak the internal sensitivity trimpot. The test should be taken with a grain of salt as I simply set the control knobs and switches exactly as in the original versions, and this would probably not be how you would do it. You might want to set the knobs a little different to counter-adjust for the added sensitivity of the GAIN knob. And again, many of the control options interact – especially the MODE and RANGE switches affect each other. However, the decision to use the exact same knob settings was made to let you judge the different in a 1:1 context. In this particular case, I liked the tweaked (increased by a quarter turn) sensitivity setting for fingerstyle, but the original setting for the more nasal-sounding bridge pickup and the slap styles.
The quality is very good. All components are top-notch, it is very silent and all knobs, switches and connectors feel super solid. No remarks in that department whatsoever.
The design is also quite nice. the footprint is similar to an MXR pedal, which makes it just a little smaller than the ‘standard’ Boss or TC pedal size. On the physical side, I found the power input to be placed a little too close to the input jack. I always mention this if that is the case. It’s not a huge problem, but it does make the use of angled jacks less flexible as it will have to be twisted in the opposite direction. Once fixed on the board, no problem, but it could have been easier if the power input was further apart from the input jack or on a completely different side of the pedal.
As for the control design, I like most decisions and as mentioned in the versatility section, it offers a lot of control, but also a learning curve. The one thing I missed – especially since it is so sensitive – was a blend option. Having a bit of the original signal blended in would have increased the versatility and not least flexibility quite a bit.
Today (2016), a new Mini Mu is sitting at $209, which is fair for a hand-build, high-quality pedal. Admittedly, it is more expensive than factory alternatives from e.g. MXR or Eden, but I still think there is value to be found here. Good value, not spectacular, though.
If you have the time and patience to really get to know this pedal, it will pay you back in spades. But if you just want a one-great-sound-out-of-the-box kind of pedal, you may want to look elsewhere. At the end of the day, this probably comes down to how much of a controlfreak / tweakhead you really are.
Good value for money
A fairly steep learning curve