Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why the Moog Sub Phatty is More Impressive Than You Think

NAMM officially starts up tomorrow so it's my last chance to write something like this for a little while, since we'll be inundated with debates of what to buy starting tomorrow, due to the shiny new offerings of Korg, Dave Smith Instruments, and Moog.

Moog's new synth was the first news to come out (unless you count the earliest Mini MS-20 rumors) a few weeks ago.  While initial speculation had some fans pretty excited, I think a portion have dropped out already-- some complaints of cost, keyboard size, and lack of new features have been floating around the message boards.

Sure, it's smaller than the Little Phatty, and it's not polyphonic, but this is the true evolution for Moog.  The video above demonstrates the fantastic small changes that really take this synth to the next level-- in my opinion, enough to sell your current Phatty.  I'll paraphrase some below.

I'll start with my favorite.  It's small, but it's this attention to detail that really has my excited.  Moog has found a way to have fantastic control over oscillator frequency, so a new trick in the Sub Phatty allows the user to control "beating" frequency, rather than oscillator frequency.  When two oscillators are played slightly detuned, they have a warm "beating" sound as the waves constructively and destructively interfere.  There's a sort of sweet spot around .1-2 Hz, but as you change octaves (an oscillator's frequency doubles when you increase an octave) this beating becomes faster, and less appealing, so jumping an octave or two spoils the sound a bit, and you leave the sweet spot.  With beating frequency, this is no longer an issue-- you can set the slow, warm oscillator interference to be the same regardless of note on the keyboard.  I've never heard of this idea before, but it's this attention to detail that Moog has that is really cool.

A feature recycled from the Minitaur is the VCO reset, which allows the waves of the oscillators to return to a starting point each time they're pressed.  Standard oscillators don't leave the point in the waveform so pressing the same note causes slight variations in the sound, and can really drag down performance.  VCO reset negates this pretty nicely, so a bass sound is always smooth.

The bold choice of dumping out the larger memory is one of my favorite parts of this synth.  I've always thought that the future would be pure patching through a computer (who likes dealing with scrolling through a ton of sounds, and stifling creativity in the process?), but Moog has found a happy medium between.  There's patching still available through the computer, but a very basic 4 bank 4 patch memory still exists, to help account for live performances, or the days where you jam on your synth and don't turn on your computer.  Still, it's nice to know that if I start a track in a DAW I can always count on my sound to be right where I left it, and put it right back into the Sub Phatty.

The part most worth hearing of the above video is the multidrive circuit, which apparently distorts post filter.  The oscillators can be distorted going into the filter, and the filter can be distorted, giving two distinct styles of warmth or growl-- the beauty is in the detail.  You can hear an incredible range of what can be done with the multidrive circuit, and it's pretty promising as a tool-- not something you'll never use.

And finally, the suboscillator and noise knob just sweeten the deal.  I'm really glad they put the noise right on the front panel, because it's so essential to percussion creation.  You can hear some really fantastic examples of kicks and snares on the web of this thing.

Also, there's always room to expand this thing-- the use of the "under the hood" button means that any of those unused buttons can be triggers for cool features in the future.

This thing is awesome.  I'm torn between what to buy next, but this is no slouch.  Don't dismiss it.


  1. Rad synth, I'm still undecided between this or the mini MS-20. Guess we will wait to hear more details from Korg.

  2. maybe it's something, but I totally skipped this as my first synth for the simple reason that's only 2 octave, and I already got a 2 octave controller. Ended buying the SEM Pro instead.