One thing we should get out of the way is the proper pronunciation of Moog. Because Moog synthesizers have such an otherworldly sound and presence, there’s a natural tendency to pronounce their name with a drawn-out “oooo” sound, like a cow mooing. However, the actual pronunciation rhymes with the word "rogue." Keep this in mind, especially when we cover the Moogerfooger products later in the article.
The story of Moog is really the story of modern synthesizers themselves. The company’s founder, Robert Moog, was a New York City native who was an exceptional electrical engineering student. He founded the company at age 19, selling theremin parts and complete instruments (the theremin was one of the world’s first electronic musical instruments). Listening to the needs of his customers, Moog developed new technologies that are still used as the core components of synthesizers today: voltage-controlled amplifiers and ADSR envelope generators. He shipped the first Moog modular synthesizer in 1964.
It would be six years before Moog had its first bona fide hit product. Released in 1970, the Minimoog Model D was a compact, all-in-one synthesizer that musicians could carry with them easily from the rehearsal space to the stage and studio. However, its portability wasn’t the defining factor that magnetically drew artists to it. They were in love with its punchy, original sound. However, not everyone was smitten with this innovative instrument.
Synthesizers came to be feared by some musicians, due to their ability to convincingly mimic the sound of strings and horns. They were banned by the American Federation of Musicians for a short period of time, out of fear of putting session musicians out of work. However, this prejudice was short lived. It wasn’t long before popular musicians had hit songs with the Moog playing a major role, making it obvious that the synthesizer was just another creative instrument for musicians to play. The next time you hear Gary Wright’s 1975 hit "The Dream Weaver," when you’re waiting in line at the bank, you can silently thank Robert Moog.
While it’s common to associate synthesizers with unnatural, cosmic sounds, these instruments are much more nuanced and downright musical than you may realize. For example, a Minimoog plays a central role in the classic song "Stir it Up," by Bob Marley and the Wailers, a group that’s famous for their earthy, rustic tones. The sound of Moog is so widespread in popular music, that it’s a part of the fabric of everyday life, whether you realize it or not.
While Moog’s modular synthesizers of the 1960’s were an important evolutionary product, it was really the Minimoog of the 1970’s that became an indispensable must-have creative tool for a great number of musicians. That’s why, when Moog Music was revived in the early 2000’s, a new model called the Minimoog Voyager was its flagship product.
Designed by in part by Robert Moog himself, the Minimoog Voyager borrowed the best elements of the original Minimoog Model D, such as its signature punchy tone for creating stunning leads and fat bass sounds. Like the original, it’s a monophonic analog synthesizer with three voltage-controlled oscillators, a noise generator, and an external audio input. The Voyager added the ability to save up to 896 presets, MIDI in and out, and a large touchpad area to control modulation—and make it an overall more expressive instrument to play.
The Minimoog Voyager is available in a few different permutations. The most basic model is the Minimoog Voyager Performer Edition. However, using the word “basic” as a descriptor is unfair, because this instrument is anything but. It’s handmade in Moog’s factory in Asheville, North Carolina, and features a steel chassis, a handcrafted wooden cabinet, a 44-key Fatar keybed, and a control voltage/gate expansion port.
While the visual presence of a Minimoog Voyager Performer Edition is a sight to behold, you can up the ante with the Minimoog Voyager Electric Blue. This model has all of the features and goodness of the Performer Edition, with an eye-catching “Fractal Blue” finish, which appears almost black in color, but features flecks of blue. Its control panel features blue backlighting; the Pitch and Modulation wheels radiate blue light; and all of the LEDs are blue as well.
The big fish of the lineup is the Minimoog Voyager XL, which features a larger 61-note keybed, an extensive patchbay on the front panel, and a lengthy ribbon controller with Pitch and Gate control voltage outputs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Minimoog Voyager is also available in the Rack Mount Edition, which lacks both a keyboard and the touchpad, but it has a backlit control panel. You can link up to 16 of the Rack Mount Edition Voyagers together to create a polyphonic monster of a synth.
Just as you don’t need to be an electronic-dance-music producer to get great use out of a Moog synthesizer, you don’t even have to play keyboards to find something you will love from Moog. They manufacture an outstanding line of effects pedals called the Moogerfoogers and the recently announced Minifoogers. Like their synthesizers, these effects are all analog. They offer ultra-rich analog delays, ring modulation, boost, overdrive and more. They are creative tools that can be used to enrich guitar tone, as well as being used in the studio, and patched in with the synthesizers.
If you want to get a nice taste of what Moog is all about without making a large investment in hardware, they produce an award-winning range of apps for iOS. The most well-known of the bunch is Animoog for iPad, which is a polyphonic synthesizer that utilizes the touch interface to expand the creative expression of the instrument. You can slide your fingers up and down on the virtual keys to modulate notes, and a large X/Y touchpad area enables you to adjust parameters in real time. A version of Animoog was recently released for the iPhone, as well as a real-time effects and sampling app called Filtatron.
Moog Music has been producing some of the world’s greatest musical instruments and effects for nearly half a century, and we couldn’t be happier to be offering their products to our customers. Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you have any questions about Moog Music products, you can ask a B&H sales professional at our SuperStore in New York City, give us a call at 1-800-606-6969, post a comment below, or join us online for a Live Chat.
There are a couple of historical errors in this article that should be corrected.
The first Moog modular synthesizer shipped in 1964, not 1961. In 1961, Bob was still making and shipping transistorized theremins. It wasn't until 1963 that he developed the prototype circuitry for what would be come the Moog synthesizer (a term that wasn't adapted until 1967).
Also, the Minimoog was created in 1970, not 1972.