Moog has been around for sixty years, producing some of the most beloved synthesizers around. When you hear the word synth or synthesizer, most players, especially veterans, think of the Moog name. The first sound that comes to mind in my head is Rush’s opening in their song Tom Sawyer, who have used Moog’s excellent products to enrich their musical style.
In this article, we will be digging deeper into a specific model that has now been reissued called the MiniMoog Model D. The model was originally released in 1981, and it is now available today for die-hard music fans and producers.
And before we move forward, please use our interactive guide below to compare the Moog MiniMoog Model D to a variety of excellent synthesizers currently available on the market.
|Moog MiniMoog Model D||44||$$$||3 Vintage Moog Oscillators||★★★★★|
|Moog Sub 37||37||$$$||Polyphony: Selectable Monophonic or Paraphonic||★★★★|
|Moog Minimoog Voyager||44||$$$||3 Ultra-Stable Oscillators||★★★★★|
|Moog Mother-32||N/A||$$||32 Modular Patch Points||★★★★★|
|Roland GAIA SH-01||37||$$||64-Voice Polyphony||★★★★|
|Korg MS20 Kit||37||$$||Full-Size MS-20 You Can Assemble||★★★★|
|Dave Smith Instruments Sequential Prophet-6||49||$$$||Two Discrete VCOs Per Voice||★★★★★|
What’s Changed (and What Hasn’t)
Although many of its features remain unchanged since it was released over thirty years ago, from Appalachian wood to the knobs themselves, Moog has taken this opportunity to add certain features to this instrument.
One of the biggest changes made to the reissue model is the inclusion of a dedicated LFO. This LFO can be set to square or triangle shape and has a rate knob located directly above the pitch wheel. It is by default set to the triangle shape, but you can change it to square by pulling on the rate knob.
Moog also took this opportunity to build a MIDI interface, though it is basic to say the least. It cannot send MIDI CC data, and you have to use 5-pin DIN connectors. In this day and age where we all have become accustomed to USB, this is a bit disappointing.
Below, please take a look at some of the best-selling synthesizers available for sale on Amazon (and see how well they stack up to the Moog MiniMoog Model D throughout this review).
More Key Features
Throughout this article, we will be comparing the MiniMoog to the Moog Voyager, the Dave Smith Prophet 08, and the Moog Sub 37, the latter of which is the only one with MIDI over USB capability.
Another key feature that Moog decided to add is making the MiniMoog a Fatar TP-9 model, which allows the user to transmit velocity and control the voltages of aftertouch. Though it does not come default that way, you do have CV outputs in the back of the unit to engage these features. These CV outputs are also accompanied with trim pots to control the instrument’s voltage range.
And finally, one of the things Moog adjusted was the power supply. Originally, the design principles of this instrument were to make a portable analog synthesizer system. With the reissue, to further advance this principle, the power supply unit is now external. This makes it more portable due to a decrease in the instrument’s overall weight.
If It Ain’t Broke…
My first impressions of the Moog MiniMoog sent me on a journey back to the 80’s, for many of its features are identical to how they were with the original model. Starting on the left of the instrument, let’s take a look at the pitch knobs.
Though I can appreciate Moog’s desire to recreate a vintage instrument, I do have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the cheapness of the pitch wheels. Having played on a lot of keyboards and synthesizers, I prefer smoother pitch wheels and ones that are not as rigid.
The MiniMoog’s are two plastic toothed wheels, which just don’t particularly excite me. In comparison to the Moog Sub 37, which has excellent wheels, and the Dave Smith Prophet 08, the MiniMoog is lacking in this department. This may just be nit-picky, and really, when considering Moog’s intention to recreate the vintage instrument, perhaps unwarranted.
But nonetheless, I feel this small aspect could have gotten an upgrade.
Now moving onto the knobs and switches, I am pleased to see that they are as robust as the original model. For me, I prefer knobs on synthesizers to be snappy on the action because it gives me greater control when making incremental changes. In comparison to the Dave Smith Prophet 08, which has smaller knobs with glide action, I feel the MiniMoog fits my larger hands great. On the Prophet, I feel changes are more tedious and would be better suited for someone with more petite hands.
The MiniMoog has a set of 41-keys. Its successor model, the Moog Voyager, has 61-keys and stands out among its 61 key digital keyboard counterparts without sweating it. The Dave Smith has five octaves and the Moog Sub 37 covers 3 octaves. This situates it on the lower middle end of the spectrum as for range, but you have to keep in mind it was designed to be portable. With that consideration, I think 41-keys is a perfect size.
I personally like how the keys fit my hands. The feel relatively the same about this when considering the other instruments, but there is nothing like the touch and feel of the MiniMoog. In this department, I feel the instrument pushes past its competition and carves out a nice advantage when it comes to playability.
An Untamed Sound
To cast a shadow of doubt upon Moog’s ability to create quality sounding instruments would be absurd. No one can argue that Moog produces excellent sounding instruments that have been used in many musical genres.
So, let’s get to the big question: how does the reissue sound compare to the original model released in the 80’s? The answer is simple—the sound on the reissue stacks up very, very well.
A lot of synth enthusiasts have compared, and even challenged, the MiniMoog’s sound against its intended successor, the Moog Voyager. However, the consensus is that if you want the MiniMoog sound, buy a MiniMoog. Though the Moog Voyager was supposed to be the next logical step after the Model D, the two instruments have completely different sound characteristics.
The MiniMoog’s sounds are robust, rich, and powerful, which the Moog Voyager simply cannot reproduce. It is clear that the MiniMoog’s sounds remain unique, and it really boils down to one question: what kind of sound are you looking for?
From my personal experience with the instrument, I prefer the MiniMoog. The sound appears so full in all of its ranges in comparison to other instruments, particularly the Voyager. To get a better idea of what I am talking about, you can visit the Moog site and hear samples of the each instrument’s sounds (or simply watch some of the videos we have embedded for you within this article).
Need A Saw To Cut Into A Wall Of Sound?
The MiniMoog comes with these different waveforms and combinations:
- Triangle-Sawtooth (Oscillator–1, Oscillator–2)
- Reverse Sawtooth (Oscillator–3)
- Wide Pulse
- Narrow Pulse
In comparison to the Voyager, which has triangle, square, ramp, sawtooth, s&h, and s&h smooth, the Dave Smith Prophet 08 features triangle, sawtooth, saw/triangle combo, pulse waves, and pulse wave modulation, while the the Sub 37 that has Triangle, Square, Saw, Ramp.
Where it perhaps suffers against the competition is at its price point. Though the sound is great and you will have the ability to take full advantage of the Moog’s hardware sound, coming in at around $3,700 USD is a bit steep.
The Voyager is even more expensive than this, while the Prophet 08 and the Sub 37 are less than half the price of the MiniMoog, putting the latter two on the same playing field as the best budget synthesizers out on the market.
Perhaps this requires us to get a little bit more into the details of the MiniMoog’s sound to determine if its price is justified.
Cutting Deeper Into The Sound
The signal path is vintage Moog: they built this instrument using their 24dB-per-octave ladder filter, fed by three oscillators, all running through a mixer section. Oscillator 3 can modulate oscillators 1 and 2, and it comes with three stage envelope for loudness and the filter. Overall, there is nothing terribly worth our attention when it comes to the MiniMoog oscillators. There is nothing new about the functionality of the instrument from the original model, which to some players could be a positive or a negative. This doesn’t bother me in slightest, and I would like to repeat what I mentioned befor—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As for the 24dB-per-octave ladder filter, one of the things that is carried over from the original are how the instrument reacts to when the player is playing softer rather than with greater speed. It tends to sound brighter and louder, which can be an advantage for players that want that realism when considering how acoustic players tend to play louder and brighter when playing faster. It is a subtle difference but could be enough of an edge over software and other digital counterparts out there.
So, does the MiniMoog offer enough, particularly in its sound, to justify the high price tag?
Well…yes and no.
To me, the MiniMoog is sort of a combination of nostalgia, a great product with a high-value brand name, and luxury. I think many artists would agree that you could find more affordable instruments out there, like the Moog Sub 37 and the Dave Smith Prophet 08.
Granted, you will probably not be able to get the sound of MiniMoog, but you could find something similar or in the ballpark of what you are looking for to get the job done. It is a great instrument, and it’s certainly worth owning, but you’re going to have to ask yourself if the nostalgia of the past is worth so much money in the present.
- RATING: 3.8/5
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