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Robert Moog first put synth music into the hands of the public back in the 1960s. His Moog module systems paved the way for future generations and now they are back for more with their latest 2018 release.
The Moog Grandmother is a semi-modular analog synth that is playable straight out of the box. However, it’s the underlying wealth of features that make this synth such an intriguing prospect.
You’ll find plenty of power and potential hiding under the retro-looking interface and the build quality of the Moog Grandmother is very much high-end.
This is exactly what you should expect from the company of Robert Moog – one of the grandfathers of synth music!
Vintage Moog Analog Circuits
Moog decided to re-use the circuits from the legendary 1970s Minimoog and a lot of the other components are based on the classic Moog circuits of the original 1960s synth modules. Using a combination of these parts gives this synth that true analog Moog sound and we love it.
Start up the Grandmother and you’ll hear exactly what we mean but only after you’ve allowed the oscillators time to warm up. This is a common feature with analog synths and they’ll be at their optimum temperature after around 10 minutes, but what about that sound engine?
The Grandmother works on two main oscillators and each can produce square, triangle, and sawtooth waves. Pulse waves are also possible although any tweaks to these need to be made via modulation sources. Oscillator sync and frequency adjustment are also available.
Oscillator patch points include Pulse Width Modulation, Pitch In, and Wave Out for OSC1 and then Linear FM for OSC2. The oscillators, along with the noise function, are channeled through into the mixer which is a design based upon Moog’s famous CP3 module.
The CP3 mixer is synonymous with the Moog sound and gives you plenty of patch points for further modulation. Patch points include OSC1 In, OSC2 In, Noise In, and Output. Moog deciding to stick with their winning circuitry comes as no surprise. Why change a winning formula?
The filter is one of the first features that people talk about when they discuss the Moog sound. The Grandmother uses the classic transistor-ladder filter (24dB) and it comes with Resonance, Envelope Amount, and Cutoff knobs for fine-tuning and a 3-way switch for tracking amounts.
The filter is excellent, as you would expect, and if you’ve not yet been in contact with a Moog filter before then you are in for a treat! Patch points are also included with jacks for Cutoff In, Envelope Amount, Input, and Output.
No Moog analog synth would be complete without the LFO and ADSR envelope generator features. These both allow for multiple modulation options and particular mentions should be made in regards to the envelope’s dedicated fader for ultra-fine tweaking in the sustain stage.
The envelope itself is the usual four-stage setup with Attack, Decay, Release all controlled via knobs. The final Sustain parameter is adjusted via a smooth vertical slider that allows for added control. The jacks above the controls include Trigger In and Positive and Negative outputs.
The LFO has been hardwired to the on-board mod wheel that sits to the left of the keyboard. You can choose from Sine, Square, Saw, and Ramp waveforms with oscillator pitch, filter cutoff, and pulse width modulation options available, plus a dedicated knob for Rate control.
The Grandmother synth is an advanced piece of kit but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to play. An intuitive layout and hands-on approach makes controlling this semi-module synth easy for all users. The potential is huge once you start to understand the on-board features and functions.
Connectivity & Quality Components
The Grandmother weighs in at 16lbs so it’s not a light piece of equipment, that’s for sure. The best thing about its weight though is the fact that it feels solid and sturdy in your hands. A strong unit is essential in keeping all of that vintage Moog circuitry safe from any knocks and scrapes!
The knobs across the colorful interface all feel well-built as you twist and turn them. It’s reassuring to know when you’re paying out top money. The interface itself can only be described as retro chic with the multi-colored sections that represent each module within the synth.
From left to right you have the Sequencer in yellow, the Modulation in black, Oscillators in light blue, the Mixer and Utilities are both in black, your filter functions are in green, the VCA is in black and then on the far right in the bottom corner you have the Spring Reverb section in red.
These module sections also hold a total of 35 x 1/8-inch (3.5mm) jacks. Use these to re-route any of the internally wired signal paths and create your own experimental sounds. The interface layout lends itself to beginners with its clear labels and easy to use controls. No confusion here.
The keyboard comes courtesy of Fatar so you’ll be making music with one of the very best keybeds in the world. It doesn’t get much better than Fatar and key-based players will be singing its praises when they get their hands on this 32-note, velocity-sensitive keyboard!
Other worthy mentions of the Grandmother include the Arpeggiator/Sequencer feature. The 3-way switch toggle on the left of the synth (the yellow section) holds three different options. Here you can choose between arpeggiator, sequencer, and sequencer recording modes.
The arpeggiator is quite standard in terms of functions but it will allow for forward/backward and random play modes. You can choose to repeat the notes you played, play them in an octave higher or lower and then also play them two octaves higher if you so wish.
The sequencer is more detailed and provides you with plenty of options to create complex sections of music. There is no real-time recording so all notes are entered from the keyboard, plus you’ve got Rest, Ties, Accent, and Latching options to play around with as well.
We’ve touched upon some of the patch points on this synth but to clarify, there are 41 available including 21 inputs, 16 outputs, and four parallel-wired non-buffered patch points. This allows for simple access to your Eurorack rig, Mother-32, DFAM, or other modules in your setup.
The USB MIDI and DIN MIDI In, Out, and Thru ports allow for multiple computer and studio connections. This synth will happily sit alongside most existing setups and it’ll bring a touch of class to your music-making process with all of those years of Moog expertise behind it.
The Moog Grandmother is another success story for the Moog brand. It manages to tick all the important analog synth boxes and it appeals to both beginners and experienced synth users alike.
You can learn the basics of modular and semi-modular synthesis using the intuitive layout and multiple patch points. The keyboard matches the price tag and gives you the ultimate playing experience so that’s another huge plus point for the Grandmother!
This synth doesn’t offer everything but then again, it’s not designed to be an all singing and all dancing synth that caters for everyone. It’s clear what Moog’s intentions were when designing this analog semi-modular synth.
At the end of the day, you’ve got the chance to make music using vintage Moog technology and that alone is something a lot of people will pay the asking price for.
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