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Minimoog V - Arturia - version 1.0

A little history
    Robert A. Moog ( alias Bob Moog ) discovered in his teens the Thereminvox, invented by a Russian engineer Leon Theremin in the 1930s. That's when he decided to devote his entire life to instruments of electronic music. Meeting the composer Herber A. Deutsch was decisive since they developed together the first VCO ( Voltage Controlled Oscillator ) and Robert Moog took up the manufacturing of different prototypes and later came the marketing of his first modular synthetizers in 1967. In 1968 worldwide recognition came with the success of the album "Switched-on-Bach" ( 3 Grammy Rewards ) produced on a modular system Moog which was rapidly being adopted by great bands such as the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. However the system was quite heavy and cumbersome and Moog faced a severe sales decrease and an insistent demand for a system that would be more compact and convenient for the stage. That's how, in 1971, the first pictures of a mythical synthetizer were released in the very first brochure : the Minimoog. It was marketed until 1981 ( around 12,000 units were sold ).




    The Minimoog achieved a resounding success throughout the 1970s . Known for its very typical sound and its warm quality, it definitely appealed to artists like Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode or Jean-Michel Jarre. Despite several luckless attemps to revive the production, the Minimoog marketing stopped for good in 1981. Today Moog Music Inc. markets a modern version of the Moog known under the name of "Minimoog Voyager".

    Arturia in Grenoble ( France ) has already produced emulations of synthetizers, especially of the Modular Minimoog, thanks to the TAE technology ( True Analog Simulation ), which allows a numerical reproduction - supposed more accurate - of the performance of analogical circuits used in vintage synthetizers. This technology is applied to the virtual version of the Minimoog.

A little substractive synthesis
    You can't reasonably start working on this pioneer of substractive synthesis, the Minimoog, without understanding the elementary knowledge on this technique. The Minimoog V manual fills some gaps since around 20 pages are being devoted to synthesis and sound design. We won't go into details here but it may be useful to brush up a few notions related to substrative synthesis which is one of the oldest forms of sound synthesis. It was developed in the late 1960s on most of the anological synthetizers ( Moog, EMS, Oberheim, Roland SH and Jupiter, Yamaha SC ... ). Its constitutive units can be separated into three main parts as follows :

    -the VCO ( Voltage Controlled Oscillator ) is the starting module. It generates the initial sound signal. The main oscillator settings are the pitch ( its fundamental frequency is determined with the "range" and "frequency" selectors) and the waveform (6 waveforms are available). The Minimoog V also offers three complementary functions : synchronisation functions from one oscillator to the other, the use of a noise module and creating frequency modulation between two oscillators. The audio signal generated in this first step (VCO) is directed to the "Mixer panel" which allows user to adjust the volume of each oscillator. After this, the audio signal is directed to a filter module, the VCF.

    -the filter or VCF ( Voltage Controlled Filter ) allows user to control the sound by filtering ( ie substractive synthesis) the harmonics situated around a cut-off frequency. The Minimoog V features a low-pass filter (LPF) which removes high frequencies. Therefore the sound may be more or less "brilliant" or "dampened". This audio signal is routed to the amplifier or VCA.

    -The amplifier or VCA ( Voltage Controlled Amplifier ) receives the audio signal from the VCF and arranges the final volume .

    We've just summed up here how a basic sound is composed. However the Minimoog V features many more modules : a keyboard, an enveloppe generator ( ie it modifies the 4 transients of sound : attack, decay, sustain and release ), a Low Frequency Oscillator ( LFO ) which processes the same caracteristics as a classical oscillator but it only produces frequencies lower than 20 Hz...therefore inaudible...but much useful when it comes to create cyclic modulations and produce effects such as vibrato, tremolo or wah-wah.
Unpacking, installation and exploration
    The Minimoog V box contains a paper-back manual a treat! in French, English and Japanese, both well-documented and illustrated, together with an instal CD-Rom for both Mac OS 9, OS X and Windows.

    Install the Minimoog V in standalone mode on a power Mac G4-800 MHz with 1 Gb Ram ( the minimum system required is a Mac with CPU 500 MHz and 128 Mb Ram ) : it is really straightforward! It is automatically started in standalone mode but you may as well use a VST or RTAS/HTDM mode installation. Three different interfaces are then offered to the user : dark walnut, mahogany or maple ( I have personally choosen maple ! ) .

    Selecting your audio interface is straighforward too from the Prefs Menu of the Minimoog V and click on the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner to select the interface you want. Please note that the users of the Digidesign core audio driver have to add Minimoog V standalone in the supported applications list of the core audio driver setup.



    When you start the interface for the first time, it does really look like the real Minimoog : nothing is lacking. On the upper part, you find again the synthesis panel with the main substractive synthesis selectors ( oscillators, mixer, filter and envelopes ). The lower part is made up of a keyboard and the modulation wheel. The purist will undoubtedly enjoy the reproduction of the Moog plate that was fixed to the very first Minimoog prototypes!

    So far, the virtual and the real versions do look alike! And you do what you you want to do when in front of any analogical synthetizer, that is, fiddling with the buttons! Beyond doubt the Minimoog V is much attractive with its warm and very typical sound, let alone the smell of the wood.

The presets
    The real version of the Minimoog didn't have presets.With the presets, you can easily and effectively file and register your own settings into "banks" and "sub-banks". Three small windows, each associated with a drop-down menu, display the bank, sub-bank and preset being used. You can use the "new bank", "new sub-bank" and "new preset" buttons to register your own banks and settings.

    The Minimoog V contains a collection of around 500 factory presets composed by famous sound designers such as Klaus Schulze, Nortaka Ubukata, Celmar Engel, Mateo Lupo or Ted Perlman.
What's more, it opens...
    When you start the application , the Minimoog V appears in "closed" mode. Click on the upper part of the main window and the Minimoog V appears in "open" mode and features a new control panel.



    In the "open" mode, you have access to an extension of the parameters of synthesis and you can use a modulation matrix, a Low Frequency Oscillator ( LFO ), an arpeggiator, a chorus and a stereo delay.

In a nutshell...
    The emulations of synthetizers may prove brilliant or realy poor, and I was quite interested in seeing and hearing how the Minimoog works. And I was impressed by its appearance, its sound, the fidelity to the original "color" associated to new functions and its intuitive side. Everything works, it is straightforward, clear and stable.
A few links...
About the author: clouvel
Electroacoustic music composer @ sound designer
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