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Why are moog synths popular?
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Morbius



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 3
Location: East Tennessee, USA

PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 6:45 pm    Post subject: Re: Why are moog synths popular? Reply with quote

analogcontrolfreak wrote:
Why are moog synthesizers, popular?


1. They were the first.
2. So many 'legends' used Moogs (because of #1).
3. The sound.
4. The user interface and design is top-notch, because Bob used musicians to help refine the designs.

I started using Moog modulars back in the early 70's. At the age of 15, I was hired by a recording studio to patch/program their Moog 2-P for all of their sessions. As a matter of fact, I did the synth-sounds on the very first "Weed Eater" TV spot.

I've used quite a few Moog modulars, including George Harrison's (which was at another studio I worked at)... for Sam Samudio (Sam the Sham & the Pharos) when he did a single in 1978 called "The Wookie (parts I & II)" just after the first Star Wars movie came out. I've also used ARP-2600's and an ARP-2500 that I bought from Ardent Studios in Memphis for $3,000. I now have a 'monster' 158-space studio system (3-cabinet, 5 tier), and a 48-space portable system (2-cabinet), both by Synthesizers.com.

All modular synths have their +'s... and -'s... including Moogs. Don't get me wrong... I love moog modulars, and in their day, there was just something magical about them. On the down-side... Moog's were/are not at all stable. Osciallator-drift was a major issue. Keith Emerson was one who encouraged Bob to refine the design so that the oscillators were more stable... but still, even the newer ones would drift. Retuning was frequent, and also depended on the environment... esp. the ambient room temp. ARP osciallators were much more stable by comparison, sounded a little different... and the ARP line definetly had some interesting concepts and designs.

These days, I doubt seriously if I would ever buy a Moog modular (now remember, I love Moogs!).... but here's why:

Unrefurbished... now matter what it is... a single module, or a whole system... it's gonna be real pricey... and if it's NOT refurbished with up-to-date components, it's gonna output problems, trouble, grief, and will cost a fortune to get it refurbished.

If it's been refurbished... it's gonna cost you even more, and unless it's got some sort of 'historical value', your money might be better spent buying from one of the many modular synth companies that are alive and well... and making modulars using current technology. The stability is there... the cost is much, much, less... and service (if you ever need it) is a non-issue.

I know several people who have bought Moog modulars (and others) in the last 4 years. And really, without exception... the costs were outragious... and in retrospect (except for a historical system) the new owners said that at the end of the day, it was way too expensive, and they should have just bought a Synthesizers.com, MOTM, Blacet, Cyndustries, or one of the other 'current' synth companies... but NOT an antique. One friend of mine has several modular systems that he rents-out to studios in NYC. He says that his Moogs (and other 1st generation synths) are always maintenance-intensive. Aquiring parts can be an issue, and he has to pay for a tech, just to keep them running.

These days... to buy a current-day modular, the cost can be 1/3 (or less) than a Moog modular... and it's all brand-new... with new designs and components. Do they sound like a Moog? Yeah... a couple of them really do, and in side-by-side comparisons, the original Moogs didn't always win. much of the so called 'fat-sound' you so often hear people talk about, is really just good technique. If you know what you're doing, you can convince anyone that they are listening to a Moog.

Some of these new modules even come as kits for DIYers, and yeah... they ARE analog. Most of these companies are in the US, so you don't have the monsterous shipping and weird-ass, and expensive taxes. It really is the best way to go if you've always wanted a modular synthesizer. One of the companies even offers an "Entry Level Plan", where you get a new module every month. There are support and user-groups for just about all of these... so if you need some info or help, it's just a mouse-click away.

Like I keep saying... I love Moogs... but, in the real world... you sometimes have to let go and move on. Don't believe me? Ok... I have audio and a few video clips on my website, and you're welcome to see and hear for yourself.

http://unisynth.com
~Morbius~
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 7:49 am    Post subject: Re: Why are moog synths popular? Reply with quote

Morbius wrote:
much of the so called 'fat-sound' you so often hear people talk about, is really just good technique. If you know what you're doing, you can convince anyone that they are listening to a Moog.

Bologna... only a Moog sounds like a Moog! Wink
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Morbius



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 3
Location: East Tennessee, USA

PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 10:41 am    Post subject: Re: Why are moog synths popular? Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:
Morbius wrote:
much of the so called 'fat-sound' you so often hear people talk about, is really just good technique. If you know what you're doing, you can convince anyone that they are listening to a Moog.

Bologna... only a Moog sounds like a Moog! Wink


I get ya on the wink... and I DO know what ya mean... but honestly, members of the Synthesizers.com user's group on Yahoo have set up several tests with polls in the past, so that any/everybody can try to compare. These test have always been honest, impartial, and equal. In other words, nothing was slanted to give one synth any advantage over the other (special mix, effects, etc.). And most people are very, VERY surprised when they discover that their choice wasn't what they thought it was. There are quite a few members who have Moogs and 'dotcoms', as well as others. And these guys can tell you a lot about sound comparisons. There is quite a bit of info on this if you search the archives, as well.

Because the actual parts/components are so much better today than they were 30 years ago, the actual sound quality of today's synths is noticably better than ay of the counterparts of that era (Moog, ARP, whatever). And- we are talking about analog... not digital. In the modular context, you actually have to 'trash' the audio signal a bit to get it to truely sound like one of the 'vintage' synths (which is much easier than trying to clean-up a vintage synth to sound like is modern-day cousin(s)). At any rate, at least on the Moog's, it IS that imperfection that adds that particular characteristic to the sound of Moogs, which most people find so agreeable.

At any rate, at least one of those mp3 comparisons is still on the user's group on yahoo, and all are welcome. I'll post the link to the mp3 file... but, it may be that you have to join the group before it will let you play it http://f3.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/4Oc_Q6q1EySoagJZ96jMPrI14sYi7uFiy5TIkRpAzzrdHP5QAAl21KyOlHeM5xXpMnb1f5iR3lK4JO-_PHfJ/3%20Moogs.mp3

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to the group below. Where our general topic is modular synths, in particular Synthesizers.com .... we do allow a fair amount of freedom to discuss any/all brands of analog modulars, and related gear and topics. No flaming or slamming... we try to keep it friendly and informative.
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/synthesizerscomgroup/
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good insights, thanks. Your comments are consistent with what i've heard and read so far, that the newer equipment, using "better" parts, yields a cleaner, more pure sound, but that the imperfects in the old days create part of the effect.

What i've also heard, and would like your thoughts on, is whether that means that the newer equipment thus sounds lighter, purer but not as ballsy? An equally good but different effect? Also, i wonder what can be done to the sound to modify them in this regard, if so?
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Morbius



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 3
Location: East Tennessee, USA

PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:
Good insights, thanks. Your comments are consistent with what i've heard and read so far, that the newer equipment, using "better" parts, yields a cleaner, more pure sound, but that the imperfects in the old days create part of the effect.

What i've also heard, and would like your thoughts on, is whether that means that the newer equipment thus sounds lighter, purer but not as ballsy? An equally good but different effect? Also, i wonder what can be done to the sound to modify them in this regard, if so?


I still think that part of Moog's sound is the fact that the components weren't/aren't perfect... that is what gives it it's unique character. But also, better components yield a more stable oscillator, which translates to less drift (if any, these days), and much more stable. Today's components are also much less suseptable to temperature changes.

Moog's were/are well known for drifting, and retuning was a must, sometimes every 15-30 minutes. You usually had to let them 'warm-up' for 10-15 minutes to allow them to stablize, as well. The drift could be slight... and you may not notice it at first... but if you broke for lunch during a session, you'd likely have to retune when you returned so that you would be in tune with the previously recorded tracks. APR oscillators were much more stable than Moog's... but then, I regarded ARP as a different animal altogether, and it's kind of comparing apples and oranges.

IMO- Different synths may have a slightly different sound (which is very subjective), but the average listener is probably not going to be able to tell much difference, and for many musicians, it won't make enough difference for them to change their minds one way or the other.

Personally, I feel that with good technique, just about any multi-oscillator synth can be made to sound big-n-ballsy... fat, thick... whatever. I have fooled studio engineers and producers into thinking that they were hearing a modular Moog, when in fact, they were actually hearing an ARP-2500. Of course, the sound system that you hear it on will tend to influence the ear somewhat.

An easy method to get a big-n-ballsy, beefy, Moogy sound... all you need is three oscillators thru a LPF. Tune two osc.s using sawtooth waves in unison, but slightly detuned. The third osc. is tuned an octave (or two) lower in perfect sync with one of the first two osc.s, and use a triangle, or even a sine wave. That is what will give you the low-end. Add some regeneration on the LPF, and you're there. The two detuned osc.s give you that Moogy sound... well, one of them, anyway.

Synth sounds that sound thin are often using only one primary osc., and/or the second osc. is tuned too perfectly... exactly in sync, so it sounds like it's just one osc. Filters have a lot to do with it as well, but it's pretty hard to build a bad LPF these days.

The really funny thing is... what many people asscociate as "the Moog sound" is nothing more than the oscillators being out of tune... yep... because of the drift. Many live performers had their Moog's tuned-up just fine during the sound check, and then again just before the show... but the drift does it's thing. Most people took it as being intentional... and then it became a technique to shoot for.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The drifting oscillator theory's a popular one, something that's often discussed alongside the equally popular idea that this drift is at least in part responsible for much of the great sound.

While the reputation developed and was deserved in regards to 1960s modulars and early Minis, later Minimoogs and Memorymoogs were not the least bit unstable, from my experience in owning several of both. None of my later Minis and Memorymoogs had drifting oscillators, and oh by the way, with that stability, they sound HUGE and as warm as the earlier ones i've owned.

So much for the widely circulated drifting oscillator thoerem. It's not a bad guess but i've compared, wanting to know, and don't find it convincing.

As far as other synths sounding similar, an Arp 2500 is a formidable instrument from the same vintage era, so it's not exactly a stretch to get it to approximate a Moog.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as the newer components, some believe that this difference makes the Voyager less impressive in some ways than a Mini, and as or more impressive in other ways, thanks to a cleaner, smoother sound. I think this comparison's a more interesting one, something with new components compared with old.
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