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Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

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Moog Music was already there for you with modular products if you wanted to live out a Keith Emerson fantasy and had thousands of dollars burning a hole in your pocket. For some, that may read like learning the Leerjet company is happy to indulge your dream of flying — so long as you’ve got a few million dollars and time for pilot lessons.

Okay, so what about everyone else? Hot on the heels of the discontinuation of the Minimoog Voyager, the Mother-32 might just be Moog’s new answer to what synthesis lovers everywhere might crave. It’s a desktop (but also rack-able) semi-modular synth, and at just US$ 599.

The Moog Mother-32 isn’t massively expensive. It doesn’t need other modules to go with it. (This is Moog’s long-awaited entry into Eurorack, in case you were wondering — but it also stands happily on its own.) It doesn’t even insist that you connect a single patch cord: it’s a very sensible semi-modular design, with loads of patching options when you like them, but also the ability to start making sound right away.

So, if you have caught Eurorack fever, this will fit right in. But if you haven’t, it’s finally an instrument that brings back some of the appeal of semi-modular design.

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In fact, while it’s semi-modular, it approximates a lot of starter modular rigs. What’s onboard:

  • 10-octave analog oscillator with variable pulse width
  • Analog white noise generator
  • Voltage-controlled mixer
  • Moog Ladder Filter (low/high-pass types) — of course, it’s a Moog (accept no substitutes and whatnot)
  • 32-step sequencer, with 64 pattern recall. (Weirdly, that looks a bit Elektron-like because of the buttons!)
  • External MIDI control

You combine that with a 32-point analog patchbay.

It also looks beautiful, with black, laser-etched extruded aluminum and (it’s a Moog!) wooden sidepieces.

Moog is also fully accessorizing this, with 2- or 3-tier rack kits and a nice soft carry case. If you do want to use this as the beginning of a slow descent into the wallet-draining, life-destroying power of Eurorack — uh, I mean the “joys of modular synthesis” — there’s a 60 HP Eurorack case — power supply not included.

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Actually, if I had any kneejerk concern about this, it’s that I would look hard at what the Eurorack community can offer, since part of the appeal of modular is customizability. This is by contrast a very Moog-y offering, the vanilla stuff. If you fancy vanilla, this is, well, premium vanilla. If you fancy rum raisin, you might look at other builders. (Full disclosure: yes, I eat ice cream in the long Berlin winter. So sue me. It’s delicious. Love both those flavors. I… lost track of what I was writing about.)

But it’s tough for small builders to compete with Moog’s $ 599 price — and some will find the Moog character (in aesthetics, build, and sound) a big draw.

For a sense of the sound, Moog invited synthesists Erika, Max Ravitz, and Bana Haffer to contribute video. (Erika can absolutely kill it doing techno, too, by the way, with her Ectomorph all-hardware show at Panorama Bar last month — more on that on CDM soon.)

More:
http://www.moogmusic.com/Mother-32

The post Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Read the article Bob Moog wrote when he met Leon Theremin

Friday, September 4th, 2015

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It’s hard to imagine what the evolution of the synthesizer would have been without Leon Theremin.

For one, it was Theremin’s invention that first captivated Robert Moog. Theremin kits were Dr. Moog’s first product and many would say, his first electronic instrumental love. That impact was significant, too, on a whole generation — actually, even my own father made building a kit Theremin one of his early experiences with electronics.

The fall of the Soviet Union still has ripples felt in the electronic music world today. And surely there’s no more poignant moment in the intertwining of post-Cold War history with musical invention as Leon Theremin’s 1991 visit to the USA — at 95 years of age.

Robert Moog wrote up that experience for Keyboard Magazine (USA), along with writer Olivia Mattis. Much of the history will be familiar, but it’s moving to read about the event.

The gathering with Lev Sergeyevich Termen may have been the single greatest convergence of the 20th century’s electronic inventors ever — John Chowning (CCRMA, FM synthesis), Don Buchla, Roger Linn, Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim, Max Mathews, and Dave Smith were all there. (It’s also remarkable to think how much Chowning, Linn, Oberheim, and Smith continue to contribute as teachers and inventors today, not to mention the ongoing contributions of Moog, Buchla, and Theremin instruments.)

And of course, because of history (hello, KGB), these inventors had never really had the opportunity to meet face to face. They had “met” through their instruments. Moog and Mattis also write eloquently of ghostly guests:

For the audience, the thread of continuity and tradition linking Theremins early instruments with the world of synthesizers and MIDI is clear and strong. If you looked hard, you could almost see the spirits of Maurice Martenot, Friedrich Trautwein (inventor of the Trautonium), and Laurens Hammond joining the audience in frenzied applause.

The Thereminists were notable, too — not only daughter Natasha Termen, but Clara Rockmore, reunited with Mr. Termen. Max played with Natasha, via his “Radio Drum” — a full decade before those sorts of gestural interfaces would enter popular consciousness (via Minority Report, the Wii, Kinect, and so on).

And we get Termen, the ‘cello player turned inventor turned KGB asset, in his own words. On the reason for the instrument:

The idea first came to me right after our Revolution, at the beginning of the Bolshevik state. I wanted to invent some kind of an instrument that would not operate mechanically, as does the piano, or the cello and the violin, whose bow movements can be compared to those of a saw. I conceived of an instrument that would create sound without using any mechanical energy, like the conductor of an orchestra.

I became interested in bringing about progress in music, so that there would be more musical resources, I was not satisfied with the mechanical instruments in existence, of which there were many. They were all built using elementary principles and were not physically well done, I was interested in making a different kind of instrument. And I wanted, of course, to make an apparatus that would be controlled in space, exploiting electrical fields, and that would use little energy. Therefore I used electronic technology to create a musical instrument that would provide greater resources.

And there’s more. There’s a Theremin lesson for Lenin, with whom Termen claimed kindred interests because the Soviet leader was “interested in how the whole world is created.” And there was Albert Einstein — yes, that Albert Einstein — taking up residence in the Termen studio in order to explore visual music and synesthesia:

Einstein was interested in the connection between music and geometrical figures: not only color, but mostly triangles, hexagons, heptagons, different kinds of geometrical figures. He wanted to combine these into drawings. He asked whether he could have a laboratory in a small room in my house, where he could draw.

There are electric cellos made for Stokowski and Varese, and the tale of imprisonment (along with Tupolev) and nightmare suspicion under Stalin, the removal of electronic instruments from the Conservatory in the late 60s because electricity is only “for electrocution.” Well worth reading the piece in its entirety:

PULLING MUSIC OUT OF THIN AIR: AN INTERVIEW WITH LEON THEREMIN [Moog Legacy]

But no reason to feel overly nostalgic or lost in the shadow of history. I think what Termen says about music from space and electrical fields is just as evocative today as it was a century ago — to say nothing of an Einsteinian flatland of geometric music. In a reversal of the Yogi Berra quote “the future ain’t what it used to be,” maybe it’s even more.

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The post Read the article Bob Moog wrote when he met Leon Theremin appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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MOTU releases “Bob Moog Foundation Encore Soundbank” to benefit Bob Moog Foundation

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

MOTU and the Bob Moog Foundation have released of the Bob Moog Foundation Encore Soundbank, a new and exciting collection of instrument and percussion sounds produced in commemoration of Bob [Read More]
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See the Exquisite Drawings Bob Moog Made of Prototypes, Circuits

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

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We’re all touched by the musical inventions of technologists. But it’s something special to see those creations in their original hand.

The Bob Moog Foundation has been posting circuitry, panel layouts, and prototype drawings made by Bob Moog (many in his hand) — and they’re beautiful. Don’t drink a lot of coffee before drawing plans if you want yours to look anything like this.

You’ll see a range of creations — oscillator circuits from classic modular units, synth control panels, and even a percussion controller and tape heads. I’ve pasted a few here, but go to the Moog site for the full collection and lots of notes:
http://moogfoundation.org/schematics/

Via SonicState: Moog Circuitry Revealed

SonicState reports that if you’re near Ithaca, New York, you can see more in person through the end of May at a special exhibition.

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The post See the Exquisite Drawings Bob Moog Made of Prototypes, Circuits appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Bob Moog Foundation unveils Historic Schematics from Archives

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

(Top) Recording Head, (Bottom) 901-A Oscillator Controller. The Bob Moog Foundation has released 15 new schematics from its vast archives of hardware, conceptual drawings, photographs, vintage [Read More]
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Moog Music releases Theremini Advanced Software Editor for Mac & Win

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Moog Music has announced that if you are a registered owner of the Theremini you can unlock its unseen world of sonic possibilities with the free Moog Theremini Advanced Software Editor for Mac [Read More]
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Bob Moog Foundation to feature Modular Synth and host Synthesis Innovation at NAMM

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

The Bob Moog Foundation is returning to NAMM. Furthering the success of their educational project, Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, and their preservation efforts of the Bob Moog Foundation Archives, the [Read More]
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Moog Werkstatt-Ø1 synth kit

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Read more about Moog Werkstatt-Ø1 synth kit at MusicRadar.com


Originally available exclusively as part of a synth-building workshop at Moogfest 2014, Moog’s Werkstatt-Ø1 is a compact synth with a decidedly DIY ethos.

It is, in effect, part budget-friendly analogue synthesizer, part educational tool; offering both affordable access to the basic components of the classic Moog sound, and an easy entry point into the world of audio electronics and synth hacking.

“Assembling the Werkstatt is actually exceptionally easy”

Whilst attendees of Moogfest’s Engineering VIP workshop got to solder the pieces of their Werkstatt together under the watchful eyes of team Moog, the general release version ships as a simplified kit, designed to be assembled without such supervision.

The DIY aspect of the instrument goes far beyond this initial encounter, however. Moog have created an official, interactive website that acts as a hub for modification projects, and offers a wealth of educational materials, all designed to allow even complete novices to get creative with their Werkstatt.

What you’re werking with

Assembling the Werkstatt is actually exceptionally easy. There’s no soldering involved, and the process entails little more than screwing the printed circuit board into the metal chassis and attaching a few washers and buttons.

You’d be hard pressed to say that there was any real sense of achievement to be had from putting the kit together. What the assembly process does do, however, is make it so that the user’s first encounter with the Werkstatt involves getting a good, close-up look at the synth’s well-labelled innards.

Component wise, the Werkstatt essentially offers the core basics of a Moog synthesizer. There’s a single oscillator with a frequency control allowing it to be tuned from 8Hz up to 16kHz. The oscillator is switchable between saw and square waveshapes, with a pulse width control for the square setting.

Beyond that the synth features a single 4-pole ladder filter with cutoff and resonance control, ranging between 20Hz and 20kHz.

For modulation there’s an LFO with rate control, which can be switched between square and triangle waves, and a basic envelope shaper with Attack and Decay knobs and a Sustain on/off switch. Both of these can be routed to modulate the filter cutoff, oscillator frequency or square pulse width.

There’s also a VCA section which can be switched between On mode (resulting in a continuous drone) or following the Envelope. Along the bottom edge of the synth is a single octave button ‘keyboard’ – which is actually more responsive than it first looks – with a Glide control.

Finally, along its right-hand edge, the Werkstatt features a micro patch bay with VCA, VCF, VCO Linear FM, VCO Exponential FM, LFO CV and VCF Audio inputs. There are also two outputs a piece for each of the Keyboard CV, Trigger, Gate, EG, LFO, VCF, and VCO.

Included in the box with the Werkstatt is a handful of basic single pin patch cable of varying length, which allows Werkstatt users to create more complex modulation set-ups straight out of the box, and also comes in handy once you begin to enter the realm of modifications.

Aside from the patchbay, the only other in or out ports on the Werkstatt are a power in for connecting the supplied wall transformer, and the main 1⁄4-inch jack out.

Living up to the legacy

“Turn it on and start tweaking the ladder filter and it is immediately obvious thatthis is a proper Moog synth”

Basic it may be but, as one would expect from Moog, the Werkstatt-Ø1 is still a quality bit of kit.

While it may sit at the budget end of the company’s product line, there’s nothing cheap about it. The hand assembled parts appear to be of the same quality as higher-end Moog instruments, the metal chassis feels sturdy as hell and, once assembled, with its striking white-on- black design, the Werkstatt looks fantastic.

It sounds the business too. Turn it on and start tweaking the ladder filter and it is immediately obvious thatthis is a proper Moog synth – those classic metallic rasps and squelchy resonant basses that we associate with the ‘Moog sound’ are all available here via a little creative tweaking.

In its basic un-modded state, the Werkstatt excels at creating experimental bleeps and evolving drones, largely due to that handy patchbay, but also because the lack of MIDI or a proper keyboard makes anything that involves a lot of ‘playing’ a little trickier to achieve.

That’s not to say it lacks flexibility – the wide frequency range of the oscillator, filter and LFO means it’s capable of creating everything from deep, rumbling bass noises to rapidly modulated, high-pitch squeals.

Getting under the hood

Is such an essentially basic synth worth this sort of price tag? Yes, although it depends somewhat on what you plan to do with it.

If you’re after a quality, flexible analogue synth at a reasonable price point, but aren’t particularly interested in the modification side of things, your money might still be better spent on something along the lines of Arturia’s MicroBrute, which offers much more ‘out of the box’ flexibility for the price.

If, however, you’re into the idea of, at some point down the line, getting hands-on and taking a guided first step into the realm of basic synth modification, then the Werkstatt-Ø1 is something of a dream come true.

Don’t be put off from trying the Werkstatt if you’re a little daunted by this though. This writer is generally the lazy sort who likes synths to come fully formed, and gets quickly out of his depth the moment someone breaks out a schematic.

Within minutes of browsing Moog’s excellent Werkstatt Workshop site, however, we were genuinely excited by the idea of getting under the hood and trying out some of the projects.

So the Werkstatt isn’t just for hardcore synth hackers and, bearing in mind it offers the basic building blocks of a proper Moog synth for under £300, we’d say it counts as a bit of a bargain really.

Read more about Moog Werkstatt-Ø1 synth kit at MusicRadar.com




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Ronei Leite releases Moog Bass sound bank for Discovery Pro

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Brazilian sound designer Ronei Leite has released 64 new bass presets for DiscoDSP’s Discovery Pro synth, inspired by the Moog hardware synths. Renowned for their distinctive analogue tones Moog [Read More]
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Moog Sub 37

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Read more about Moog Sub 37 at MusicRadar.com


Little more than a year since the arrival of the 25 key Sub Phatty, Moog has released its successor, the Sub 37. It’s bigger, meatier and easier to pilot – the Sub 37 user gets (for a nominally hiked price) a keyboard poised to be the most exciting member of the Phatty line.

Extra toppings

The Sub 37 looks markedly different to its predecessor. There are more keys, more knobs and more switches. Once you’ve removed it from the box, you quickly get the sense that you’re in for a different ride entirely.

The hallmark Moog wood panelling is employed on either side of the synth, with the left cheek being the location of all the unit’s patch points (Power, Audio In/Out, MIDI, Pitch/Filter/Volume CV, KB Gate, and USB).

The sturdy chassis is a steel/ aluminium combo and the 37 keys that give the synth its name feature both aftertouch and velocity sensitivity.

“If there was a hallelujah moment it might have been the news that Moog decided to add a full-on arpeggiator

Since we’re on the subject of keys, we might as well tackle the subject of the keyboard’s Duo Mode or paraphonic capabilities. This means the Sub 37 can play two independent pitches (one from Oscillator 1 and the other from Oscillator 2), both of which are then sent through the much-desired Moog 20Hz-20kHz ladder filter.

This differs from a polyphonic synth in that polyphonic is defined as being able to play ‘more’ than two notes at a time. Switching between the Duo Mode and the monophonic side of the synth’s personality is achieved by simply mashing the Duo Mode switch in the Oscillator section.

Sound sources include the two aforementioned oscillators, a square wave sub oscillator, a pink noise generator, along with an external source control that doubles as a way to feedback the mixer output into itself to fatten up the sound (a la legendary Minimoog of the ’70s).

While busier than the Sub Phatty, the rest of the Sub 37 follows the Moog tradition of laying out its operational panel in a simple, logical fashion.

To the extreme left is a small (1.5x1in) but welcome LCD display that heads up the synth’s Programming Section. You can use this to manage any of the 256 presets (16 banks of 16 patches), of which the unit ships with 134 designed at the factory.

You can browse presets by type (bass, leads, etc) and you can use the Compare button to contrast any tweaks you have made to a patch to an existing preset.
With Compare lit, the preset is locked and can’t be altered until you again press Compare and exit that mode.

Similarly, you can move from Preset into a Panel Active mode when you want to strike out with a patch of your own creation. Presets for any bank can also be accessed quickly via the 16 preset buttons available just above the keyboard.

Hallelujah!

If there was a hallelujah moment attached to the announcement of the Sub 37 it might have been the news that Moog decided to add a full-on arpeggiator to their newest creation (something not even included on the flagship Minimoog Voyager XL).

Included in this section are a rate knob (conveniently labelled in bpms) and a companion Tap button in order to have the synth fall in line with whatever tempo the user desires.

The arpeggiator will run -2/+2 octaves but if you double tap either of the up and down octave range buttons you will move into a mode where the arpeggiator “will play all the notes in the original octave, the second octave, the third octave” before heading back down in the opposite direction.

Patterns available include Up, Down, Order (notes are triggered in the order they were played), and Random. Arpeggios can be latched so as to be played continuously without holding down any keys, and the Back/ Forth and Invert buttons add additional pattern variation.

“A big plus that the Sub 37 brings to the table is two modulation busses, both of which have a wide range of routing destinations”

The Sub 37 also includes a 64-step sequencer. Creating sequences is largely a doddle and while in the Duo Mode, the sequencer will actually allow you to enter two separate pitches per step, which presents the user with some interesting pattern options.

If for some reason 64 steps aren’t enough, each preset can be stored with its own sequence, thereby offering the possibility of recalling different patterns that use the same sound.

The Glide Section is similar to that of the Moog Minitaur, where the portamento effect can either be based on the interval between notes (LCR), a fixed time as set by the position of the Time knob (LCT), or an exponential rate of fast to slow (EXP).

The effect can be assigned to either oscillator or both, with CV keyboard gating and legato added via the specified switches.

Meet the mods

A big plus that the Sub 37 brings to the table is two modulation busses, both of which have a wide range of routing destinations. Five waveforms (triangle, square, sawtooth, ramp, plus sample and hold) are on offer as well as a sixth position for the filter envelope or a controller option.

A Hi Range switch in either of the Mod Sections lets you add frequencies in the audio range to the Sub 37’s LFO, while a bipolar +/-5 Pitch Amount knob can be directed at either or both oscillators.

A similar +/-5 knob is available to determine the amount of deviation added to the filter’s cutoff frequency. The Mod Dest switch can take aim at up to seven destinations including one or both of the oscillator waveshapes, the rate of the other LFO, VCA, the noise level, or EG time. But you can also expand the range of either buss destination by hitting the Controller’s switch and deciding how much impact the use of velocity, aftertouch, or the modulation wheel have on the modulation.

You can even use MIDI CC external to the Sub 37 to tweak modulation depth. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

With the Sub 37 being built upon its predecessor’s sound engine (down to the inclusion of the Sub Phatty’s lauded MultiDrive saturation circuit) and also inheriting its DAHDSR envelope functionality (see Outside The Box), what principally distinguishes the newer synth is its ease of use and flexibility.

Moog did well to liberate all the ‘under the hood’ functions to the front panel and then expand the instrument’s key range. And while you might not be inclined towardsa monosynth, the Sub 37’s Duo Mode is an intriguing addition to the onboard sonics as opposed to a gimmicky substitute for polyphony.

Tack on the arpeggiator and the sequencer and you have a very useful and roadworthy piece of kit that’s bound to see you through years of creativity.

Interested? Well, don’t sleep on the Sub 37 for too long. Moog apparently has it set to be a limited edition, and this may be one of the best keyboards currently available at this price. You have been warned.

Read more about Moog Sub 37 at MusicRadar.com




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