Arturia's Moog Modular V 2 ($329) raises the bar another notch for software emulations of classic synths. The upgrade includes six new modules, enhancements to some of the original modules, the ability to process incoming audio, major improvements to the graphic user interface, and 200 new presets. The upgrade would be well worth paying for, but Arturia has generously made it free for registered users.
The Moog Modular V''s software instruments are arranged in five cabinets. From the top they contain an analog sequencer and effects modules, filters and modulators, oscillators and a 16-channel mixer, a keyboard and MIDI output, and a keyboard controller.
The Moog Modular V 2 (MMV2) is supplied in standalone and plug-in versions for Mac OS 9 through X and Win 9x through XP. Plug-in formats include VST, DXi, RTAS, and Audio Units. Arturia suggests a screen resolution of at least 1,024 5 768 pixels and a relatively fast computer to run the MMV2 — there's a lot going on onscreen as well as under the hood. Aside from a brief overview, I'll concentrate on the new features for this Quick Pick. You'll find a full review of version 1.1 of the Moog Modular V in the January 2004 issue of EM.
Rack ‘Em Up
The MMV2 user interface is divided into five sections: three racks of synth modules, a keyboard controller, and a section that contains all keyboard-controller outputs for cabling to the synth modules. Most of the modules are copies of classic Moog modules, faithfully reproducing their look, feel, and sound. However, several modules are new to Arturia, and there are a number of user-interface enhancements that would not have been possible in hardware. For example, you can use context menus instead of manually drawing cables; each control-input jack has a built-in, bipolar amount control; and once you start drawing a cable, all jacks able to receive it become outlined in yellow.
The MMV2 rack is now scrollable and resizable. If you have limited screen real estate, you can reduce the MMV2 window to display only a single rack, then scroll between racks by click-dragging in any empty space or attempting to draw a cable beyond the visible area. All the modules in the middle rack of synth modules are now interchangeable. The four double-wide slots can hold the Filter or LFO from the original MMV or the new Bode Shifter and Formant Filter modules. The eight single slots can hold the original Envelope, Trigger, and Noise modules as well as the new Envelope Follower, Ring Modulator, and Sample and Hold modules. To reduce clutter, any of those slots can also have a blank cover plate.
It Bodes Well
The Bode Shifter is the most unusual new module — you probably won't find another one of these on your desktop. The Bode Shifter performs a variant of ring modulation called frequency shifting (also called single-sideband modulation), in which the sidebands above and below the carrier (in other words, the sum and difference frequencies produced by ring modulation) are sent to different outputs. The result is a linear shift in all harmonics that are present in the frequency spectrum of the input signal, as opposed to the exponential shift that occurs when pitch shifting.
The Envelope Follower generates envelopes and triggers based on the level of the audio signal at its input. The envelope's contour follows the amplitude of the incoming signal, whereas triggers are generated when the signal's level exceeds the level set by the Threshold knob. Web Clip 1 uses the Envelope Follower and Bode Shifter to “tune in” a speech clip.
Other new modules include a sample-and-hold control source and a 12-stage phaser, both of which are emulations of rare Moog modules. A four-stage formant filter and a ring modulator, both Arturia originals, round out the complement of new modules. The formant filter is especially nice, providing presets for the standard vowels and independent modulation inputs for vowel selection as well as for each formant band's frequency, resonance, and gain.
Improvements to the Keyboard Controller include a new detunable Unison mode that automatically stacks voices to create fat sounds. Glide (portamento) can now be smooth or in semitone steps (lots of fun), and the action of the pitch bend wheel can be inverted (forward bends down). Master Volume and Tune controls have also been added.
If you're looking for the creativity offered by modular synthesis and want to get your hands on a real classic without the hassle or cost of the hardware original, look no further. The folks at Arturia have made a great synth even better.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4.5