Korg Mr. Multi
I never made it through Citizen Kane. I know it’s widely regarded as a classic. I tried watching it three times and fell asleep each time. There was a period in my late adolescence where I figured I’d make my entrance in the world of grown-up media; consuming what was widely regarded as the finest examples, then separating the wheat from the proverbial chaff. After waking up from my third Orson Welles narrated nap, I came to a conclusion: just because something is considered a classic doesn’t mean it’s destined for universal acclaim. A piece of art can be enshrined because of its contribution to the medium. As for Citizen Kane, I’m probably never going to attempt it again.
Take the Boss Slow Gear for example. Is it a classic? Yeah, I’d say so. Do I want to play it every time I pick up an instrument? Let’s just say I never reach for one. The point is that if I want to pull a random classic pedal from the cabinet, there are a few I’m going to pull far more than others. Like this week’s pedal, the Korg Mr. Multi. I love this pedal—it is one of my absolute favorites.
Almost everyone knows Korg as a synthesizer company, though there were inroads made into guitar effects as points. Korg began as Keio in 1963, and a full nine years later released its first pedal, the F-1 Synthesizer Traveler. This was a pedal that could only have been released in Japan—it contained all sorts of strange stuff including a “singing” function and something Keio referred to as a “traveler,” which would find itself into some of Korg’s classic synths.
After the F-1, Korg’s guitar division went mum on the guitar front, and in my mind they started working on the Mr. Multi immediately afterward. Nine years after the F-1—and now under the Korg name—a pair of foot-controlled pedals dropped in 1973 that largely flew under most radars. Not mine.
The Mr. Multi is quite simply a triumph, and I am happy to share it with you if you’ve never heard of it. All the way back in 1973, before the Phase 90 was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, just six years after the first wah pedal was released, the Mr. Multi delivered both with an amazing twist.
Housed in a standard wah enclosure with a clever take on actuation, the Mr. Multi offers up just two rotary switches; one two-position and one three-position. Both are rather unconventional; the two-position switch cycles between “Pedal” control, in which the foot treadle controls the position of the band-pass filter, and auto mode, where the effect cycles rhythmically, much like a modulation pedal. In this mode, the treadle controls the rate of the modulation.
The other switch is where the magic happens. The topmost position gives a standard, well-voiced wah effect that sounds just right and not overthought. However, the center position gives you… a phaser? Yes, that’s right, back in 1972, there was a foot-controlled phaser unit. The third position is where the Mr. Multi earns its honorific, combining both phaser and wah into what Korg calls “Double Wah,” a massively huge and goopy filter that can be adapted to both oscillation and foot control.
While most wahs contain an inductor and are derived from a solid-state Vox MRB circuit, but the Mr. Multi echews this route with a circuit path composed entirely of op-amps with a fistful of FETs sprinkled in for good measure. The board is filled with the hallmarks of Japanese pedals of the era; plenty of epoxy-coated standing resistors, matte transistors with characters printed on top and skeletal, delicate trimpots. Like many pedals of Japanese origin, the insides are dense and meticulously routed.
Let’s get back to the Double Wah setting. If you’re looking for a filter effect that pairs well with even the most punishing fuzz or distortion, this setting is the one. Feed even the most demanding collection gain into the Mr. Multi for some truly synth-like flavors, or place it before to emphasize thick slabs of guitar frequency.
In Auto mode, the onboard low-frequency oscillator (LFO) can get slow enough to hold the first note of a solo in suspended animation, and ramp it up or down in an exceedingly expressive manner to inject some organic motion into the rest. The LFO never gets raygun-fast, giving you some tasteful movement as you glide through the full range of the treadle.
In 2020, I am exceptionally shocked that this circuit hasn’t resurfaced in some form almost 50 years later. It doesn’t bludgeon you with too many options, and what few are given compliment the pedal’s tone beautifully. If I had my way, I’d have one cabinet just for Mr. Multis and another for everything else. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go play now.