Which Moog synthesizer is best?
Bob Moog produced the first-ever commercially available modular synthesizer in 1964, and it has since become an important contributor to modern music. Variations on Moog synthesizers remain popular to this day, appearing on records by artists as diverse as Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Prince.
Such is the Moog’s popularity that several contemporary models, such as the Moog Matriarch, have been created to emulate the style of their classic synthesizers, with modern manufacturing techniques making them more reliable and portable.
What to know before you buy a Moog synthesizer
Modular vs. desktop synths
Modular synths appeal to the tinkerer in most electronic musicians, as they are assembled from various components or “modules” and can be configured in any way you choose. While they can be tricky to assemble and to obtain your desired results, you end up with a customized instrument that is specific to your requirements. Desktop synthesizers are preconfigured and present an all-in-one solution that sounds great out of the box. This is as convenient to use as any digital keyboard, but the predetermined signal chain can limit your creativity if you are going for a specific sound.
Hardware vs. software synths
Many music aficionados and synthesizer purists would agree that you cannot beat a real Moog instrument with its analog components that require the plugging of patch cables and rotation of actual potentiometers to operate. With that said, many software companies have faithfully imitated the most beloved Moog synthesizer models, some under license from Bob Moog himself. These are much more portable and affordable, and they offer the same functionality as their hardware counterparts, with every glitch and nuance emulated to a tee.
Vintage vs. modern synths
The question of whether a vintage or modern Moog sounds better is also one of contention. The fact is that while older components may sound “warmer” or express a certain character, they are simply not as stable and are often subject to failure. Modern Moog synthesizers are built to sound good right out of the box and remain in tune no matter what you throw at them (within reason). If you factor this in with the large price tag that accompanies vintage Moog equipment, small differences in sound quality can be fairly trivial.
What to look for in a quality Moog synthesizer
External input sources
Some Moog synthesizers come with single or multiple audio inputs that will accept line-level instruments such as guitars and basses. If your chosen instrument’s output lacks power, a preamp can be used to boost it to a workable level.
If you are new to subtractive synthesis, an entry-level unit like the Moog Werkstatt-01 is a good place to start. This will help you learn the basics of “patching” a modular or semi-modular synth. This is the name given to linking the component modules such as oscillators and envelopes using patch cables.
The more advanced your Moog synthesizer, the more controllable parameters it is likely to have. Models such as the Moog Grandmother or the Moog Matriarch have complex configurations with the latter featuring four dedicated oscillators, with independently controllable wave selectors and frequency ranges. In short, the more parameters there are to manipulate, the more powerful the synthesizer.
How much you can expect to spend on a Moog synthesizer
An entry-level synth that is built for purpose, such as the Moog Minitaur bass synthesizer costs around $500. A desktop analog synth costs around $1,600, while the flagship Moog One all-in-one model costs between $6,500-$8,500, depending on which version you choose to buy.
Moog synthesizer FAQ
Is a Moog synthesizer difficult to use?
A. As with all artistic pursuits, the answer is subjective. If you have a basic knowledge of subtractive synthesis and understand the connection between oscillators, envelopes and filters, you will be at an advantage, but there’s a lot to be said for simple experimentation.
What is a Eurorack synthesizer?
A. Eurorack systems are synth modules that share a common height but have variable widths. They can be combined to build a bespoke synthesizer and can be basic or advanced in their creation. Moog builds various Eurorack models.
Can you connect a Moog synthesizer via MIDI?
A. Many modern Moog synthesizers are MIDI compatible and can be connected via USB to a digital audio workstation. This opens up a world of possibilities in the studio and makes editing a breeze.
What’s the best Moog synthesizer to buy?
Top Moog synthesizer
What you need to know: This 49-key paraphonic model is portable enough for gigging, but boasts plenty of processing power and sounds great right out of the box.
What you’ll love: Among the many features of the Matriarch are a 256-step sequencer, stereo analog delay, an arpeggiator and 90 modular patch points. The keys offer patchable velocity and aftertouch for nuanced results, and you can combine its four oscillators to create a vast palette of tones.
What you should consider: This monosynth is ideal for soaring leads, but not for those seeking polyphony in their playing.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top Moog synthesizer for the money
What you need to know: This compact bass synthesizer is deceptively powerful for its size, with a choice of five modulation settings.
What you’ll love: The Minitaur’s functions are intuitive and well presented. Inside its solid steel enclosure is everything you need to create punchy bass lines that cut through your mix. It integrates seamlessly with the free librarian software for sequencing, storing and deep editing.
What you should consider: This unit caters only to the lower frequencies and, as such, is not the most mobile Moog on the market.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This 37-key analog synthesizer requires no plugging of patch cables to access its myriad classic Moog tones.
What you’ll love: The Subsequent 37 comprises 40 knobs and 74 switches, which enable complete control over this comprehensive synthesizer’s many functions. These include multiple sound design tools and an onboard sequencer that allow your creativity to run wild.
What you should consider: As the Subsequent 37 is completely hard-wired, it has fewer routing options than a modular synth and with only two LFOs to play with, some users may feel a little limited.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Luke Mitchell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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