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NPD Mu-Tron III


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I found a great condition Mu-Tron III recently. I’ve been interested to try one for a very long time but never quite got round to it.

 

This one has just had a full service and calibration. It’s all original except the power input has been changed to a UK three pin custom made adapter which is super neat and convenient. Though of course it takes batteries too. 
 

I saw a few that had been modified to true bypass but I read that this can alter the way the gain control behaves so I wanted it standard. The bypass does take some very top end out of your signal but it’s by no means a bad sound and in fact as the gain control works with the pedal ‘off’ you can use it to get some grit if you like. 
 

When it arrived I left the parcel to acclimatise for a while before opening it up and I realised how nervous I was to try it. Partly I wanted to discover it doesn’t live up to the hype as I’ve found with so many pedals of late. In such case I was able to send it back and chalk it up to experience but the only way to know for certain was to try one. So I put my sensible hat on, picked up my Stingray and plugged everything in (backwards at first, as the input is on the other side)

 

The feeling of playing the pedal was akin to playing a new instrument entirely. The second I turned it on everything sounded perfect. I didn’t even touch any knobs or switches, just started with everything on 5. 
 

I have many filters and have tried a lot over the years. Favourites of mine really squelch when pushed rather than ‘whistle’ and remain responsive when playing finger or slap. In ‘high range’ The Mutron is very interesting in that you can play softly and it’ll sound almost like your normal sound, and when you dig in the depth and squelch becomes apparent, making any toppy clank go all gloopy. It’s like your clean sound with a seriously funky topping. It never sounds harsh even with the peak on 10, it just sounds wetter and more sparkly. I feel like when you dig in, rather than sending the top end into harsh zone it deepens the background of the note. 
 

In low range you get the seriously warm depth with a quickness of decay that means your next note is always a surprise, catching the filter at some point along its bouncy journey. Again the clean sound and the character of the bass always feels present without sounding separate, but the effect is very obvious and all encompassing. It sounds cliche but it just sounds ‘musical’ and makes you want to dig in and be inside your bass in a fully sexual way. 
 

With a big smile on my face I took my five fingered hand on the end of my right arm and selected my index finger to push the ‘down’ mode switch which clacked agreeably over on its axis like a mad one way see saw. I’ve never really liked down mode sounds before, and haven’t really experimented much as a result. Normally I find when the filter closes the note becomes a bit muddy and therefore you don’t get much time to identify the note clearly before you go too subby, if you see what I mean. But this gives a really nice growl that goes down to your rubbery note below with some extra stank. I’ll definitely use that. 
 

I was fully prepared to not like this pedal; even hoping not to - the prices they go for are getting silly but this is one time that the hype really is deserved. It has so much character in build and sound; it’ll probably only go up in value and after all it’s the pedal everything since is based upon. 
 

I’m really happy with it, as you can tell. My wife said it looks like R2D2 which is cool too. 
 

A couple of pics. I think mines quite an early one, 1974 ish, ‘pat pending’.

 

DSCF2318.jpg

 

DSCF2333.jpg

 

 

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Glad you like it Ped and great write up. They really are superb and very musical filters, and like you say fully worth the hype. The old Mu-Trons just have the funk mojo and they have a slightly dirty lovely gain stage that provides the Mu-Tron with a filthier quack that is hard to find in other filters.

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The ‘squelchy’ feel of this comes from them being optical filters, instead of OTA chips, as well as a couple of other things, but an optical filter will always respond differently to an IC.

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3 hours ago, Bo0tsy said:

Glad you like it Ped and great write up. They really are superb and very musical filters, and like you say fully worth the hype. The old Mu-Trons just have the funk mojo and they have a slightly dirty lovely gain stage that provides the Mu-Tron with a filthier quack that is hard to find in other filters.

Thanks mate I think I’ve read some of your posts on the subject over the years! 
 

 

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1 minute ago, paul_5 said:

The ‘squelchy’ feel of this comes from them being optical filters, instead of OTA chips, as well as a couple of other things, but an optical filter will always respond differently to an IC.


Absolutely - and I gather they’re not allowed to make them like the used to due to some of the components, cadmium etc? I’d say my FX25 is ‘squelchier’ in terms of sort of a spluttery raspy squelch. The mutron has more of a juicy 3D warmth which never gets out of control. It’s like the fx25 is a rowdy teenager and the mutron is a mischievous old man with a sparkle in his eye 😆 

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Probably my favourite filter ever. Wish I never sold mine now! I had it modified by the guys at the GigRig with 2 Virtual Batteries (pre-production prototypes IIRC) so that it would take a standard Boss 9v and could be daisy chained with other pedals. If it wasn't so damn huge, had a bypass LED, and didn't have so much tone suck in bypass, it would be the perfect envelope filter, bar none!

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4 hours ago, Higgie said:

Probably my favourite filter ever. Wish I never sold mine now! I had it modified by the guys at the GigRig with 2 Virtual Batteries (pre-production prototypes IIRC) so that it would take a standard Boss 9v and could be daisy chained with other pedals. If it wasn't so damn huge, had a bypass LED, and didn't have so much tone suck in bypass, it would be the perfect envelope filter, bar none!


Yes I think I saw a post about that. That’s a good workaround. I’ve been using mine on batteries for nearly a week now and they’re still fine on my battery tester. 
 

When you used the supply did you leave the on/off switch on the pedal in the on position all the time or is it still advisable to turn it off before disconnecting power?

 

I actually rather like the sound of the bypass. Last night I tried experimenting with cranking the gain which gives a nice pillowy overdrive. Apparently some people use it as an OD pedal more and an envelope!

 

What was your favourite mode? Playing it last night I was amazed again at how nice the high band setting is. It goes from super subtle with a slight choke to a really drippy liquid top end with the slightest change in dynamics. And if you ease back and play accents on the G string it makes then thick and submerged. 
 

I don’t have to carry my gear far and mostly play in a studio environment at home or with my band so I’m fortunate that I can love the shape, size and heft of the pedal itself. It’s so 70s. 

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I used to leave it in the “On” position and just power the board up and down as normal. Now I think about it, I had to make a little riser for it because of the battery door locking mechanism. 
 

Regarding the bypass, yes it could sound pretty cool. However, I always found that to have the gain control where I wanted it when the pedal was on, it made the clean signal far too quiet when it was off, so it always lived in a true bypass loop when I had it.

 

My favourite mode was LP, with the “Up” filter, Range on Low, Peak at around 75% and Gain set to where the filter opens just a bit when you play normally, and then wide open when you dig in. For the bass I was using at the time, that was around 30-40%. Classic envelope squelch!

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2 minutes ago, Higgie said:

I used to leave it in the “On” position and just power the board up and down as normal. Now I think about it, I had to make a little riser for it because of the battery door locking mechanism. 
 

Regarding the bypass, yes it could sound pretty cool. However, I always found that to have the gain control where I wanted it when the pedal was on, it made the clean signal far too quiet when it was off, so it always lived in a true bypass loop when I had it.

 

My favourite mode was LP, with the “Up” filter, Range on Low, Peak at around 75% and Gain set to where the filter opens just a bit when you play normally, and then wide open when you dig in. For the bass I was using at the time, that was around 30-40%. Classic envelope squelch!

 

Sweet. Yeah the gain control is interesting. My Stingray gives a consistent level with the pedal on or off but I will try my others! I'm absolutely loving LP, Up, High range, peak on 5 and gain on 5. It's super responsive in a really dynamic way - playing with the envelope 'closed' just gives you a normal bass sound, pretty much - digging in a tiny bit more gives a bit of 'womp' and digging in more gives a greasy squidge over your clean sound. It's like a super well implemented clean blend. Really quite extraordinary 

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I did a little clip, absolute crap but you get the picture. This is high mode, gain on 4, peak on 6, drive up. Playing Stingray. You'll (hopefully) notice that even in this mode, the peaks are really nice sounding and not harsh at all. And the lows never get boomy or indistinct. I tried playing a straight baseline but this thing just makes you want to piss about. 

 

 

 

 

Also here's photo of the pedal just for fun

 

 

08A876AF-CE00-4204-9BC5-F0CDA8AE05A7.jpeg

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11 minutes ago, ped said:

I did a little clip, absolute crap but you get the picture. This is high mode, gain on 4, peak on 6, drive up. Playing Stingray. You'll (hopefully) notice that even in this mode, the peaks are really nice sounding and not harsh at all. And the lows never get boomy or indistinct. I tried playing a straight baseline but this thing just makes you want to fosters about. 

 

 

 

 

Also here's photo of the pedal just for fun

 

 

08A876AF-CE00-4204-9BC5-F0CDA8AE05A7.jpeg

That’s THE sound right there. 

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13 minutes ago, Quatschmacher said:

Any chance of a clip on low mode?

Yeah I’ll do a low mode and down modes too soon. They all sound fantastic whatever you do!

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Just now, lee650 said:

Goodness that just reeks! Funkier than a Mosquitos Tweeter 😍😍


Its possible, using lower gain settings, to have a pretty much clean sound which does a little dance when you dig in. One of the things I liked about Bootsy’s sound was that the envelope stuff never seemed overdone, and I assumed that was due to his multi amp setup but actually it’s easy to see with this pedal how you can get a super funky sound without losing the character and sound of your bass. You could use it ‘always on’ without it getting annoying!

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57 minutes ago, ped said:

I did a little clip, absolute crap but you get the picture. This is high mode, gain on 4, peak on 6, drive up. Playing Stingray. You'll (hopefully) notice that even in this mode, the peaks are really nice sounding and not harsh at all. And the lows never get boomy or indistinct. I tried playing a straight baseline but this thing just makes you want to fosters about. 

 

 

 

 

Also here's photo of the pedal just for fun

 

 

08A876AF-CE00-4204-9BC5-F0CDA8AE05A7.jpeg

 

Any "proverbial audience" would love that funk! 

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