Which Moog synthesizer is the best?
Bob Moog produced the very first commercially available modular synthesizer in 1964, and he 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 popularity of the Moog that several contemporary models, such as the Moog Matriarch, have been created to mimic the style of their classic synthesizers, with modern manufacturing techniques making them more reliable and portable.
What to Know Before Buying a Moog Synthesizer
Modular or desktop synths
Modular synths appeal to the DIYer of most electronic musicians because they are assembled from various components or “modules” and can be configured however you see fit. Although they can be difficult to put together and get the results you want, you end up with a custom instrument that is specific to your needs. The desktop synthesizers come preconfigured and present an all-in-one solution that sounds great right out of the box. It’s as convenient to use as any numeric keypad, but the predetermined signal chain can limit your creativity if you’re looking for a specific sound.
Hardware vs Software Synths
Many music enthusiasts and synthesizer purists would agree that you can’t beat a real Moog instrument with its analog components that require plugging in patch cables and turning real potentiometers to operate. That said, many software companies have faithfully imitated Moog’s most beloved synthesizer models, some licensed from Bob Moog himself. These are far more portable and affordable, and they offer the same functionality as their hardware counterparts, with every issue and nuance emulated to perfection.
Vintage vs modern synths
Whether a vintage or modern Moog sounds better is also controversial. The thing is, while older components may feel “hotter” or express a certain character, they just aren’t as stable and are often prone to failure. Modern Moog synthesizers are designed to sound great right out of the box and stay in tune no matter what you throw at them (within reason). If you factor that in with the hefty price tag that comes with vintage Moog gear, small differences in sound quality can be pretty insignificant.
What to Look for in a Quality Moog Synthesizer
External input sources
Some Moog synthesizers come with single or multiple audio inputs that accept line-level instruments such as guitars and basses. If the output of your chosen instrument lacks power, a preamp can be used to boost it to a usable level.
If you’re 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 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 setups, 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 synthesizer designed for this purpose, such as the Moog Minitaur Bass Synthesizer, costs around $500. A desktop analog synth costs around $1,600, while the flagship all-in-one Moog One model costs between $6,500 and $8,500, depending on which version you choose to purchase.
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 have an advantage, but there is 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 varying widths. They can be combined to build a custom 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 easier.
What is the best Moog synthesizer to buy?
Best Moog Synthesizer
What do you want to know: This 49-key paraphonic model is portable enough for gigging, yet has plenty of processing power and great sound right out of the box.
What you will love: Among the Matriarch’s many features are a 256-step sequencer, stereo analog delay, 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 mono synthesizer is ideal for soaring leads, but not for those looking for polyphony in their playing.
Or buy: Sold by Amazon
Best Moog Synthesizer for the Money
What do you want to know: This compact bass synthesizer is deceptively powerful for its size, with a choice of five modulation settings.
What you will love: The functions of the Minitaur are intuitive and well laid out. Inside its solid steel case is everything you need to create punchy basslines that cut through your mix. It seamlessly integrates with free librarian software for deep sequencing, storage, and editing.
What you should consider: This device only caters to low frequencies and as such is not the most mobile Moog on the market.
Or buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Moog Later 37
What do you want to know: This 37-key analog synthesizer requires no patch cables to access its myriad of classic Moog sounds.
What you will love: The Subsecutive 37 features 40 knobs and 74 switches, which allow complete control over the many functions of this comprehensive synthesizer. These include several sound design tools and a built-in sequencer that let your creativity run wild.
What you should consider: As the Sub 37 is fully 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.
Or buy: Sold by Amazon
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Luke Mitchell written for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their buying decisions, saving them time and money.
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