The first classic, affordable Moog synthesiser is now available in software. We go back to the 70s to look at the future of Arturia’s latest creation…
Product: Minimoog V
Price: $129 Download: $99
Do they never eat, do they never sleep, those Gallic R&D boys and girls at Arturia! Following hot on the heels of the Moog Modular V, the company went on to release the CS-80V and now here’s another new Moog synth emulation.
They can do it, one suspects, because of TAE (coming up). Arturia has developed this remarkable technology which, we assume, new instruments can be built around more easily than they can be created from scratch.
Although the first Moog synthesisers were modular, Bob Moog had many requests for a more compact and easier-to-use instrument. This lead to the development of the Minimoog which first appeared in 1971 and which was called the Model A. Three other models followed, culminating in the Model D which was the final and most common version which most people today associate with the Minimoog name and it is this instrument on which Arturia’s Minimoog V is modelled. Over 12,000 Minimoogs were sold up until 1981 when production ceased.
The Minimoog V installs easily. You get both PC and Mac formats in the box along with stand-alone and plug-in versions. This is now becoming a standard method of distribution (rather than separate PC, Mac, stand-alone and plug-in versions) and should be encouraged. A nice touch during the installation is that you can choose the wood finish of the cabinet. You also choose which plug-in formats you want to install – VST, DXi, RTAS and Pro Tools 6. The installer suggests the directories and then goes off and does its stuff. As with Arturia’s other synths, the Minimoog graphics are not scalable but they fit more comfortably in a higher resolution screen such as 1280 x 1024.
The way of TAE
TAE or True Analogue Emulation, is Arturia’s proprietary technology for the digital reproduction of analogue circuitry. There were many problems with analogue circuits – when the components got warm their characteristics would change leading to tuning problems, for example. Also, because of limitations in analogue components, filters, for example, were never ‘perfect’.
You might think that a digital implementation of a filter, then, would be just what we need but the truth is, digital carries with it its own problems. A ‘perfect’ filter, for example, sounds unnatural, a ‘perfect waveform’ lacks the warmth of an ‘imperfect’ analogue waveform, and most digital oscillators produce aliasing (unwanted frequencies) in the high frequencies.
Arturia’s TAE technology generates anti-aliasing oscillators and rounds off the corners of the waveforms to make them warmer. It also more accurately duplicates the response of analogue filters, again, making for a more natural and warmer sound.
The Minimoog was one of the easiest synths to program – doubtless greatly helping its popularity – and Arturia’s version is no less so. The controls are divided into five sections – Controllers, Oscillator Bank, Mixer, Modifiers and Output. Below the controls is a keyboard with pitch bend and modulation wheels plus associated controls. However, as you’d expect now from Arturia, the instrument is packed with many extras which we’ll get to in a moment.
Hard but flexible
The basic modus operandi is fairly simple. The modules in the synth are hardwired which means the routing between them is fixed inside the instrument. However, the software implementation allows a flexibility that was not present in the original.
The program has two modes. In Closed mode it works very much like the original Minimoog albeit with a few extras. However, click on the Open button or on the top of the fascia and the front drops forward to reveal a new set of controls on top of the machine.
But let’s look at the basic controls first. There are three oscillators, each with a choice of six waveforms. The third oscillator can be used as an LFO. The output from these goes to the Mixer where it is mixed with noise from a noise generator which can be set to white or pink. Pink noise sounds like a filtered form of white noise, a surf sound to white noise’s wind.
From here the sound goes to a 24dB/octave low pass filter. There is only one filter in the Minimoog and this is it. Filters were always a distinctive part of Moog synthesisers and contribute greatly to the warm, fat sound. The filter has its own envelope generator with simple ADS (Attack Decay Sustain) controls. The missing Release phase is the same as the Decay phase although this can be deactivated by a switch next to the keyboard in which case the Release time will be almost zero.
Below the filter is the Loudness Contour envelope with the same ADS controls. The sound then passes to the Output module on the right which has a master volume control, a detuning knob and a Polyphonic toggle switch. The original Minimoog was monophonic (only able to play one note at a time) but the Minimoog V can play up to 32 notes at once (CPU power permitting). The detune control detunes the oscillators in a polyphonic output to create a thicker sound.
Playing the extensions
So far we have a fairly basic and really quite simple analogue synthesiser, albeit with a sound that’s as Moog as you can get. But Arturia’s Minimoog V combines Moog sounds with technology to create an instrument that’s much, much more than a Minimoog.
Click on the Open button and the top of the fascia panel opens to reveal a whole new set of goodies or extensions as Arturia calls them. They include a modulation matrix, an LFO, an arpeggiator, and chorus and delay effects. The details of the modules, however, are rather small in comparison to the rest of the instrument and on a high resolution screen they can be difficult to see.
The modulation options offered by the original Minimoog were few and limited. On the Minimoog V, the modulation matrix contains six sets of modulation routings, each set with a choice of 12 sources and 32 destinations. Sources include VCO 3, the filter and amplitude envelopes, the LFO, pitch bend and modulation wheels, and various MIDI controllers. The destinations cover just about every controllable parameter such as the VCO frequencies and output levels, the width of the pulse waveforms, the filter envelope, the mixer, and the LFO. This alone adds a whole new dimension to the instrument. Many Minimoog users must have dreamed of more flexibility and now they’ve got it!
If you wanted to use a LFO modulation in the original Minimoog, you had to take VCO 3 out of the sound generation loop and use that. The LFO extension means you can use all three oscillators for sound production – or use it in conjunction with VCO 3 and have two LFO sources. The LFO is used through the modulation matrix and can be routed to 32 destinations. In addition, it can be synced to the tempo of the host application if you’re running the program in a sequencer.
Presets are selected from a hierarchical menu. First you select the bank then the preset within it. Having selected a bank, however, you can then select any of its presets without having to go through the bank list again, making it very easy to audition all sounds of a certain type.
No modern soft synth would be complete without presets. The original Minimoog had none at all while the Minimoog V has 400. There are some superb sounds here ranging from distinctive Moog bases and leads to pads and effects.
The arpeggiator is similar to the those that adorned a range of synths from the Minimoog era. If you hold down a chord, it plays the notes in it in various patterns such as up, down, backwards and random. There are octave and repeat controls and the arpeggiator can also sync to MIDI tempo. Great fun!
The chorus and delay effects play a major part in beefing-up the sound. Controls are few but the effects do an excellent job. The chorus can be used as a thickener or sweetener. The delay can add ambience like reverb or discrete delays and echoes. It’s in stereo, too so you can make the sound ping pong between the speakers. It can also be synced to MIDI tempo.
There’s a lot of good info in the manual including a short guide to analogue synthesis and an example of how to create a sound but it’s rather bitty and not well ordered. It could be a little more comprehensive and an index would be helpful.
If you already have Arturia’s Moog Modular V, this may seem a bit lightweight but if you’ve been put off analogue synths by the complexity of their programming, the Minimoog V provides as easy an entry into synthesis as you can get. Add the effects, arpeggiator and additional modulation routings and you get bags more sound for hardly any more programming. If you like Moogs, you’ll love this!
Superb Moog sounds
Easy to use
PC and Mac versions in the box
Stand-alone and plug-in versions
You’re not a Moog fan
You already have the Moog Modular V
Arturia does it again with a superb Minimoog emulation. It’s not a pretentious instrument but it has over 400 presets, it looks good and it sounds great!
Minimum system requirements
PC: Pentium II 500MHz, 128Mb RAM, Windows 95/98/Me/XP
Mac: G3 500MHz, 128Mb RAM, Mac OS 9.2.2 or OS X 10.2
Mixer with overload circuit
Moog 24dB/octave filter
2 ADS envelopes
LFO syncable to sequencer’s tempo
Chorus and delay FX