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Moog Minimoog

November 1, 2000
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In the early '70s, the Minimoog captured the hearts, minds, and ears of musicians, from progressive-rock stalwarts like Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman to jazzers such as Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. It's a great testament to the Minimoog's design that music ranging from screaming rock to subtle jazz can be extracted from its modest circuitry. Indeed, today you can add techno, funk, and hip-hop to the list of Minimoog-friendly genres.

The monophonic Minimoog became the blueprint for "performance" synthesizers, with its logical placement of knobs following the actual flow of electricity from oscillator to filter to amplifier. The unit's envelope generators use control voltages to modulate the audio signal. The knobs and switches are all sufficiently large and well spaced so that the player can tweak and play at the same time.

The Minimoog's two oscillators can produce square, rectangle, sine, or sawtooth waveforms in 32'-to-2' pitch ranges. Oscillator 2 can be tuned apart (up to a sixth) with respect to oscillator 1. Oscillator 3, which also functions as an audio generator, can serve as a control signal for LFO modulation. Noise (white or pink) is available as a sound source, and you can even patch in an external signal for processing using the Minimoog filter and amplifier circuits.

The filter itself is a powerful 24 dB-per-octave, lowpass type with Emphasis (resonance) control, and it can be shaped using a dedicated attack, decay, and sustain (ADS) envelope generator. Set the resonance to full (10), and the filter produces a pure, self-oscillating sine wave, effectively providing another sound source, albeit one hairy to control in terms of tuning. A separate ADS envelope generator governs the amplifier, and glide is also available.

Armed with numerous sound sources whose blend is controlled by a dedicated mixer panel, razor-sharp filtering, and a superfast envelope generator, you can produce a range of sounds and effects that has been endlessly copied and approximated but, frankly, never outpaced.

Indeed, the oscillators' myriad permutations and regenerating aspects combine to produce as modern an array of sounds as any synth currently on the market can. It's quite remarkable.

For more traditional music, bass has always been a MiniMoog specialty. Simply put, a real, live Minimoog delivers an edge you just can't get using samples - or for that matter, using any modern MIDI synth. The depth and grit generated by the genuine analog circuitry provide all-important textural substance. Minimoog bass is synth bass you can almost touch.

MIDI is understandably an issue for many people. The Lintronics MIDI Converter (LMC) is a well-designed kit that enables MIDI control of loudness, modulation amount, LFO rate and depth, glide (portamento), and decay. Bob Moog's own Big Briar handles sales and installation of the LMC upgrade. In the United Kingdom, Moog Music Ltd. (which has nothing to do with Bob Moog) constructs new "Minimoogs" that, with one or two added features, re-create the workings of an original Minimoog in a modern MIDI setting - complete with oscillator tuning stability.

The Minimoog is a classic and will always remain so; prices have remained steady for a number of years. Despite "new" Minimoogs, rack-mount "MIDIMoogs," software emulations (such as Steinberg's Model E), and even the possibility of Big Briar itself producing a performance instrument along the lines of a Minimoog, there will never be more than the 13,000 real McCoys produced between 1971 and 1982.

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