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January 8, 2013

Moog Factory Tour: Minimoog Voyager

Our exclusive Moog Factory Tour takes us to one of the most celebrated and widely used analog synthesizers, the Minimoog Voyager. Jim Debardi takes us on a guided tour of the Minimoog by providing a little history as well as guding us through how the Minimoog Voyager is constructed at the Moog Factory.

The original Minimoog Model D was designed by Bob Moog and manufactured throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s. It was the first time that musicians were able to have a compact and affordable means of producing analog synthesizer sounds that were beginning to dominate a lot of the popular music of the day. The Minimoog was highly regarded for its fantastic filter and oscillator sounds as well as its analog circuitry which defined the way synthesizers were constructed throughout the decades following the Minimoog’s release. In 2001 Moog Music announced plans to update and release a new version of the Minimoog called the Minimoog Voyager and in 2002 began shipping units worldwide. It introduced new features including a three dimensional touch pad, MIDI I/O, extensive patching facilities, and patch storage.

With Moog Music’s decision to end production of the Minimoog Voyager Select Series in Fall of 2012, many synthesizer enthusiasts began wondering what the future would hold for the Minimoog. Luckily Moog has provided an incredible discount on the Select Series while supplies last, and they will continue producing the Minimoog Voyager XL, Performer Edition, Electric Blue, and their rack mounted versions of the Minimoog for the time being. It is entirely possible that we could see a re-issue of the Select Series in the years to come once the demand becomes audible enough. This is typical for a company like Moog as we saw when they reissued the previously discontinued Moogerfooger MF-104 M Analog Delay pedal. Because of Moog’s dedication to handcrafting all of their instruments, it is difficult for them to keep every single product in production all of the time. CEO Mike Adams notes, “We are a small company that still builds by hand, so sometimes we have to make hard decisions about ending the life of even our most favorite products. However, history has shown that discontinued Minimoogs, like the Model D and the Old School, have a tendency to become highly sought after collector’s items. I’m sure we’ll see them on stages and in studios for years to come.”

I Love Gooold!

Despite the discontinuation of the Minimoog Voyager Select Series, you can still pick up a Minimoog Voyager XL and start rocking some synthesized grooves. Keep checking back to see the remaining parts in this series where we show how Moog tests and calibrates their instruments, and a sneak peek into a brand new technology they are developing. In the meantime be sure to watch our other videos in the Moog Factory Tour Series:

SLAM!!

Transcript

Hey guys I’m Morgan with UniqueSquared.com. We are here in Asheville, North Carolina at the Moog Factory. We are going to meet up with Jim again and he is going to show us how they handcraft products here at Moog.

Ok so in this area, this is where we build our Minimoog Voyager synthesizers. The Minimoog is really the flagship model for this company. Whenever someone is referencing a Moog synthesizer, nine times out of ten they are talking about one of these instruments. Obviously the Minimoogs that we are building today are updated, current day models of the instrument, but part of a line or family that goes all the way back to the 1970s with the introduction of the original Minimoog or Model D. Now back in the seventies when Bob introduced this instrument, it wasn’t important just for Bob as a designer or just for Moog as a company, but for the entire music world in general. Because it represented the first time in history that there was a compact, affordable, electronic keyboard instrument.

Prior to the 1970s, synthesizers still existed but they were radically different than what you see here today or what you would think of when you think of a synthesizer or an electronic keyboard. Prior to the seventies these instruments were known as modular synthesizers, and if you’ve ever seen a photograph with someone sitting in front of a wall of knobs and cables hanging off everywhere, these giant machines, these giant systems, were modular synthesizers. They had incredibly unique sound something that had never really been heard before. They were powerfully expressive in their playability. Because of their size and their cost and their complexity, access to the instrument was very limited, you really only saw them in huge recording studios. Often times university systems would have one tucked away in their science department somewhere. And then there was a small group of musicians that could actually afford all of costs incurred to travel with these huge systems night after night. So you saw your Keith Emersons and your Stevie Wonders being able to go out and tour with a modular synthesizer. When Bob Moog was able to take all of that power and that expressiveness and pack it down into something that was compact and affordable, and easy for musicians to understand, obviously it just blew the doors wide open. After the introduction of the Minimoog, you saw everyone from the Beatles to Bob Marley incorporating this synthesized electronic sound in their music across all different genres.

Now the instruments that we make today like I said are updated versions but we still try to maintain a lot of the original elements from the seventies that made the Model D so great. First off we still use an all analog signal path in our synthesizers. What this means is that when you create sound electronically, you can do it in one of two ways. You can use an analog circuit which is a real physical circuit with real voltages running through it and real componets that are shaping that voltage so that when its the final product you have a very specific shape that correlates to a very specific sound. The other way that you can create sound electronically is to do it digitally where you have a computer chip that is running a code or an algoritm that simulates virtually what would be happening in the real world with real circuits. When you do this digital creation of sound, obviously you lose a little bit of quality in the fidelity of sound and in the fidelity of control. We still use the real voltages, the real circuits, the real analog signal path, because we feel that the sound that is created that way is just unparalleled and that’s the way that we continue to do it here.

Now the other thing that we still do exactly the same as it was back in the seventies is we still build these instruments in the same way. It was very important to Bob that these instruments be built locally with human eyes and human hands and human ears involved in every step of the process. Being that these are analog circuits, that they are living, breathing, organic circuits, it really dictates that they be built in a very specific way. Every instrument that we build here in the factory is built in teams. Anywhere from two to six people depending on the complexity of the build. Here in the Minimoog station, we’ll have four different stations. Each team member in this area contributes an equal amount of work to every instrument that’s created. Now what’s important to take away from that is that once each team member has contributed their work to the instrument, they immediately go back and do a quality check of any work that they have done, and of any work that’s been done before them so those checks just build and build on top of each other. In this are alone, four different people will check each instrument four different times and it will get two more quality checks before it leaves the building.