How to switch banks to moog voyager
The Moog Story
Almost everyone who deals with electronic music, theremins or synthesizers knows the name Moog. Insiders even know that it is not pronounced like the cow calls, but rather that it rhymes with “rogue”. At least Dr. Robert A. Moog, who most of you simply know as Bob Moog.
Thanks to his groundbreaking developments, Bob is known to many as the "father of music synthesizers". In July 2004, I had the pleasure of visiting him and his wife, Ileana, in their adopted home, Asheville, North Carolina, USA. Not only did the two of them invite me to stay at their home as a guest, but Bob showed me the Moog factory and willingly answered any questions I had about his past and current products. It was to be one of his last interviews because Bob Moog died the following year.
- Facts & stories
- Modular column
- In conversation with Lars Eidinger
- HAMMER WITH THE GRANDBROTHERS
- Travel & New Beginnings: Lucy Rose
- Keys4CRO: Tim Schwerdter
- Sound maker Enik & toolmaker Gerhard Mayrhofer
- At Klavis in Brussels
- BACK TO THE ROOTS: AKAI MPC X
- Dexibell Combo J7
- THICK BOARD: POLYEND SEQ
- Mr. Hyde & Dr. Strangelove chasing Dr. No
- Visionaries: MIDI In My Head!
- THE ELKA STORY
- Transcription: Michael Wollny
- Advertisers, dealers
- The last - column
KEYBOARDS: What's going on at Moog Music Inc. right now?
Bob Moog: We are currently building products that are very well received by the market, such as the 'PianoBar' [external MIDI-fication for pianos], but our flagship is the Minimoog Voyager. This year we have a particular success with the 'Anniversary Edition'; it has a nice black case and a glowing control panel that looks pretty cool.
What is the expansion unit for Voyager?
This is the VX-351 CV Expander, a kind of interface extension. There are around a dozen inputs in Voyager that can be used for control signals, foot pedals or switches. These entrances take up all of the space available to us at the back of Voyager. The question was: 'Can we now also provide outputs?' - and the VX-351 is the answer. There are about two dozen output control signals on the VX-351 that are generated by the Voyager. You can use it to control other voltage-controlled synthesizer hardware, but also suitably equipped effects processors such as the Moogerfooger. In combination with the CP-251, the VX-351 can be used to mix control signals and then feed them back to one of the control signal inputs. The VX-351 transforms the Minimoog Voyager into a patch cable synthesizer.
What does the 'Theremin' topic do?
We'll be introducing our new flagship theremin soon. It's called Etherwave Pro and it looks completely different from other theremins. Usually a theremin has a large case with the pitch antenna on one side and the volume antenna on the other. However, Etherwave Pro is only a few inches wide, about 50 cm high, and it sits on the tip of a special tripod. It is more stable, can be dismantled and thus transported, and it does not block the view of the thereminist on stage.
How does it differ from previous theremins in terms of sound?
With a switch you can choose one of five factory sounds or a sixth sound, which is variable. The palette ranges from muted, flute-like sounds to sawing, string-like sounds. There are also many extras, such as an output for tuners, controls that can be used to influence the response of the antennas, and control voltage outputs for pitch and volume. The latter can be connected directly to the control inputs of a modular synthesizer or the Minimoog Voyager - or to a CV / MIDI converter to control MIDI devices.
What about the Moogerfooger series?
We are currently starting the delivery of our latest Moogerfooger - MF-105 MuRF Multiple Resonance Filter - and we are receiving consistently positive comments.
Are all devices - with the exception of the MF-104 Analog Delay - still in production?
Yes. They are all still in production: filters, ring modulators, 12-stage phasers and MuRF. There is also the Control Processor CP-251. This is not an effects processor, but it can generate control signals that can then be used to control the effect modules.
Yesterday and today
Are you already planning any future products that you can tell us about?
We have a lot of ideas, but Moog Music is a small company and developing a new product is a big investment. It's not about not giving up secrets. Most people can safely imagine what we are aiming for. But we still have to decide which ideas we will implement and which not.
What is the difference between what you do today as part of Moog Music and what you did during the early days of R.A. Moog Company?
When I started with synthesizers in 1964, I was the 'big boss' of the company. There was a production manager and engineers, but responsibility for running the company was on my shoulders, and it turned out to be not one of my greatest strengths. So in 1971 I sold the majority stake in the company, other people took care of the business, and I again limited myself to technical developments. It stayed that way until 1978 when I left Moog Music to do a few other things, like my work for Kurzweil.
In 1994 I decided to expand Big Briar. That was a very small company that I had to manufacture custom-made instruments. In 1994 it was basically just me and a technician who worked part-time. I decided to expand and I continued to run Big Briar myself until 2002. That year I took on a partner: Mike Adams, who is a very good leader and a very good businessman. Today Mike is the one running the company. He takes care of the marketing, controls the production, and my job is only to develop new products.
Do you have fun?
[laughs] Yeah, it's fun. But I want more than just having fun developing new instruments. I would like to pass on my knowledge to other engineers so that they can continue developing Moog products when I retire from work.
Analog or digital?
How do you see the difference between analog and digital synthesis?
Analog electrical engineering is a completely different thing from digital. They are called 'analog' because the electricity oscillates in the circuits in a similar way to the sound in an acoustic instrument. In simple terms, this means that you can achieve a smoother waveform in an analogue way that sounds more like what our ears expect. Digital technology, on the other hand, results in levels because each period is represented as a number - and if you jump from one point in time to the next, you get a level. The steps are minimal, yet their effect is always present and therefore you can hear the difference.
Can you roughly compare that to the difference between fluorescent [neon] and incandescent [lightbulb] light?
That's a very good analogy. Neon light only creates a simulation of white: colorless light. If we look at sunlight or lightbulb light, for example, we have a continuous spectrum of colors there and that appears to our eyes as something natural. With neon light, on the other hand, you don't have a continuous spectrum, but discrete colors. For this reason, neon light does not illuminate things uniformly. Subjectively, we perceive neon light as harsh compared to warm sunlight or incandescent lamp light. The reason is how differently neon and incandescent light are produced. They are two different physical processes, just as the generation of analog and digital sound differ from one another. For standard tasks, neon lights are very good and have a low cost of ownership - similar to how digital electronics make it inexpensive to produce many different waveforms compared to analog ones. But where the quality of the light is important, you should prefer incandescent or sunlight - and because the quality of the sound is important in musical applications, analogue is preferable to digital technology.
That explains how we perceive the difference between analog and digital. When it comes to generating sound, an analog synthesizer gets its sound from the unique characteristics of analog components, and analog electronics distort waveforms in typical ways that we find warm and comfortable. I don't mean the word 'distort' negatively in this context. These types of distortion are very difficult to emulate digitally, and even impossible to duplicate exactly. A waveform generated by a digital instrument that emulates an analog instrument will therefore always sound different from the original. These things are subtle, but the more you look at them and the more you listen, the more you notice.
So software and plugins are not a real alternative?
First of all, of course, there is the whole area of calling up and changing sounds. Analog instruments often do this through voltage control. There is something like a knob on the front panel, you turn it, and that's something very natural. If instead you have a notebook in front of you and you have to maneuver your way through menus, type in a number or something like that, this is much less satisfactory from the perspective of spontaneous, expressive music-making. What is misleading here is the look: You have a nice, new notebook with a high-resolution display that produces great colors. You see this wonderful replica of a control panel and it makes you believe and expect that what comes out of there is an exact emulation of the original sound. The best computer emulations sound good, close, but no more.
Then why did you give Arturia permission to develop their MoogModular-V and Minimoog-V simulations?
We never thought our consent could be understood to be exactly like the originals. It's not exactly the same, and it's obvious to me. The Arturia people are very good software developers and they have very good products - if you take them for what they are. There are a few things that make these emulations better than the original analog synthesizers. They give you the flexibility to program things that you would never have been able to do in an analog environment. But the fact that they have many good properties doesn't mean that there aren't things that the analog models still do better than anything that is emulated on a computer.
What is your opinion on tubes in audio circuits?
There's a difference, and a lot of that tube stuff warps even warmer than transistors. And just as you can partially emulate the way in which transistors distort with computer software, you can also partially emulate the way in which tubes distort with transistors.
Will there ever be tubes in a Moog product?
[laughs] You'd need too many tubes! Take our new MuRF, for example: The latest semiconductor technology is used there. They are basically the same transistors as we used them 30 years ago, with the difference that they are only a tenth as big today. The analog circuit in the MuRF contains 300 components, in order to realize all these functions with tubes, one would have to fill an entire room with tubes.
I am thinking of companies that equip digital instruments with tubes in the audio output. Does that take you to another level of distortion?
I'm not saying they do it that way, but something has 1,000 or a million transistors and all these ICs, and then you put two tubes on the end of the sound generator? Perhaps the great advantage of these tubes is that they look great. You can see the warm glow and it makes you feel good. By the way, that's incandescent light. [laughs]
You have influenced countless other synthesizer developers. Have you been influenced by other instrument or synthesizer developers yourself?
The only circuit I really studied was that of the original theremin that Leon Theremin had developed himself. This circuit is very simple, but there is still a lot to be learned from it, and I believe I am still learning from it. That being said, when I got really interested in electronic musical instruments as a teenager, I studied repair manuals for instruments like Hammond Chord Organ, Hammond Solovox, etc. until I understood how each component worked, and sometimes I could even hear it myself because I recreated these circuits. Since then, I've never found it interesting to study other people's circuits. However, I am good friends with almost all American musical instrument developers, such as Don Buchla, Tom Oberheim, Dave Smith and Roger Linn. Of course I learned a lot from talking to all of them. Not in details like 'What size transistor did you use there?' Or 'What kind of IC here?', But more about how an instrument should respond, how it should look, what is most comfortable, etc. But that's the essence of the Progress. It would be very unusual to exchange ideas and learn nothing in the process.
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