It’s the most dreaded scenario of a serial tone fiend: all of a sudden, after countless hours spent twiddling with your amp and pedal settings, you fall out of love with your guitar tone. In a desperate effort to juice some life back into your beloved rig, you scour the internet and trawl through gear forums for what seems like weeks, trying to justify the purchase of another new pedal which you are absolutely certain holds the key to the divine zone of heavenly tone. In a fever, you drop half your weekly pay cheque on this said box of knobs and circuitry (and probably an obscene amount for shipping, too), waiting anxiously for the postman to deliver your new pedal – the fabled ‘last one’ – only for you to plug it into your amp and find out that after all this effort, your tone still sucks.
So, where did you go wrong? Well, there’s a good chance this issue can be put down to two possible solutions: a) You’re just not very good at guitar (sorry) or b) You didn’t purchase the Mooer Preamp Live.
If you’ve been keeping up in the world of effects units over the last couple of years, you’ll know that Mooer is a bit of a disruptor to the industry. They’ve recently built up quite the reputation for their faithful micro-sized clones of popular stompboxes from yesteryear, and their innovative Ocean Machine collaboration with Devin Townsend was one of the most hyped gear releases of 2017. After delivering the goods with their flagship entry to the world of multi-effects with the GE200 earlier this year, Mooer is back at it again with the Preamp Live, a versatile 12-channel digital preamp designed with the gigging musician in mind.
Straight out of the box, it’s pretty obvious that the Mooer Preamp Live means business. A three-band EQ, volume, gain and switchable boost/gate knob allows for extensive amp-style tone shaping, and you’ll be able to squeeze just about any desired tone out of these controls alone. Below, a master volume and presence knob offer further flexibility over dynamics and signal brightness, which turns out to be extremely useful switching in between different systems. I initially tested the Preamp Live through a chimey old Vox AC30, and the presence knob worked wonders to tame the jangly natural tone of the amp to suit the style I was playing. There’s also an FX Level knob with a variety of modes to suit those using the Preamp Live in conjunction with the effects loop on their amp, while independent speaker cabinet simulation for each output opens up a new world of tonal potential. Ever wanted to pair a saturated Mesa-styled head with a Fender cab? This bad boy will do it with ease.
By tap dancing your way across the Preamp Live’s four footswitches, you’ll be able to access up to 12 fully customisable preamp settings, which are stored in banks of four and kindly colour coded with LEDs to help you find your way around the unit in a dimly lit environment. While the 12 presets loaded onto the Preamp Live are definitely inclined to those who favour heavier tones, with some light tweaking, you’ll be able to get the characteristics of a spanky Fender clean or a gritty UK combo on the verge of breakup in no time. Stepping on the footswitch of your selected channel twice will activate the Preamp Live’s extremely flexible two-stage boost function, injecting a fat dose of gritty colour to your signal to cut through the mix. Mooer have made a bit of a name out of themselves for the quality and transparency of their Micro Boost pedals, and the one tucked into the Preamp Live carries on this tradition with great pride. Holding down that same Boost control will activate an adjustable pre- and post-noise gate feature, filtering out any harsh amp noise or hiss from your pickups to give you ungodly high gain tones with no strings attached. For those about to rock, Mooer salutes you.
If for some reason you’re dissatisfied with the 12 different preamp options tucked into the unit, the Mooer Preamp Live boasts an intuitive Tone Capture feature, which samples your own amplifier’s preamp section. By stomping on the first and fourth footswitches simultaneously – a feat much easier said than done – the Preamp Live stores a digital sample of your preamp signal, which can then be modified and saved onto the unit. These Tone Capture samples, alongside all other 12 preamp banks, can be stored, modified and even shared online via Mooer’s Preamp Live software, available both on desktop and mobile platforms, offering a user-friendly interface that even the most technologically inept (me) can navigate.
Of course, new age digital preamps aren’t for everyone. It’s certainly hard to beat the magic and mojo of an old beat-up pedalboard or analogue effects unit from yesteryear. For the modern guitarist, however, it would be quite hard to beat the sheer power of the Mooer Preamp Live. If you tend to operate in the realms of heavier genres, this unit is an absolute must-have. It’s no secret that Mooer have been aiming for the big leagues with their innovative effects units in recent years, and with the Preamp Live, it looks like they just might have met their mark.
Hits and Misses
So many tones, so much versatility
Blessed boost function
Intuitive software interface
Simultaneous footswitching is a bit tricky to master