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Practical Dwarf Mod Modular Guitar Pedal

Mod Devices’ Duo is they are certainly unique in the world of effects processors. They are basically computers in a performance-friendly format that builds virtual pedalboards with open source plugins and a browser-based interface. They’re not without their flaws, though. The Duo X flagship is prohibitively expensive at $ 765. In particular consider that the platform and the company are still relatively untested. And the original Duo was both expensive at $ 449 and had very rudimentary on-board controls. The new it doesn’t solve the pricing problem, unfortunately. Although it was originally planned to sell for around $ 365, it is now listed on on the company’s website. But it offers much more complete control than the DUO in a much more pedalboard-friendly format than the Duo X.

Note: The demo below is recorded directly from the Dwarf Mod using the integrated amp simulations and some light EQ and compression. Any noise in the recording is due to the pre-production power adapter.

One thing that Mod Devices has shown skill is to build robust hardware. Like her previous products, Nana feels ready for the road. It’s probably not as dangerous to your fingers as the much heavier Duo X, but it’s also very sturdy. The three pedals are solid, the four buttons offer satisfactory responses and the three endless encoders have a satisfactory amount of resistance. The single screen feels a little tighter than the dual display interface on the Duo and Duo X but has never been an issue.

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Around the back there are always a lot of connection options:

  • Ads and stereo outputs

  • TRS MIDI in and out

  • USB-B to connect you to a computer for audio, MIDI and build virtual pedalboards

  • USB-A for thumb drives and USB MIDI controllers

  • Helmets out for quiet practice

One thing you won’t find, though, is an expression pedal port, which is disappointing. Effects like the Super Whammy plugin (obviously an emulation of the ) basically asks for one.

The Mod platform had a at the beginning of April, but frankly it is not probable to notice that a great difference in regular use. There is a file manager now for uploading audio, MIDI and pulse response files. There are also plugins that take advantage of those features, so you can customize your cab sims or import a pre-programmed MIDI sequence for one of the synthesizers.

Nana Mod

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The biggest improvement, however, is the addition of a momentary option for footswitches. This means you can charge an epic delay and activate it only while holding down the switch to add emphasis to certain notes. The effect will always stop if you touch the pedal twice, then don’t sacrifice any functionality, making it just less convenient.

The Nanu is supposed to allow you to build pedalboards directly on the device. Unfortunately, that feature wasn’t even ready to be tested. This would be a huge step for the platform. Having to be connected to a computer to customize your effects chain is a bit cumbersome and means I’m inclined to just leave the Dwarf on my desk, rather than put it on my pedalboard.

That this potentially changing feature for the Mod family isn’t even ready is a big disappointment. Because otherwise, Nana’s core doesn’t feel dramatically improved from the Duo X. There are a few more plugins and some of the cabin and amp simulations look just better, but nothing changes the Mod platform from an interesting idea with a lot of promise in a must-have study tool.

Nana Mod

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Even the internal CV (voltage control) feature, which was pretty messy when I reviewed the Duo X last summer didn’t see much improvement. You can control almost everything with CV, but it still requires less immersion and is not particularly intuitive. And the number of custom-built modules for CV is limited unless you’re willing to wander into the beta section of the plugin store. To be fair, if you’re using a Mod Duo, Duo X or Dwarf, you’re probably not afraid of experimental software. Honestly, the whole thing feels like a big beta test at times. And it’s worth noting that some of them don’t even have a UI (as indicated by their pond-shaped Altoid icons).

It’s this kind of inconsistencies and lack of software polish that continues to be the Achilles heel of the Mod platform. Whether it’s in UI (or lack thereof), or the difference in volume between various plugins, or CV implementation. While the hardware is undeniably excellent, the software feels unobtrusive.

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