Let me premise this review with two truths. Before the Moog Minitaur landed on my desk, I had limited knowledge of analog synthesizers. Secondly, I have always been a huge fan of that fat Moog tone. Moog has a trademark sound that is the most imitated synthesizer voice in history. Legends like Geddy Lee, Chick Corea and Keith Emerson are some of the most recognized Moog devotees. The Minimoog and Moog Taurus Bass Pedals were the fire that fueled progressive rock and fusion in the 70’s and 80’s.
The magic of the Moog sound is not lost on the current generation. Alicia Keys, hip-hop producers Battlecat and Dr. Dre are all Moog devotees. Electro-house phenom Deadmau5 and heavy metal superstars Mastodon also rely on Moog for their unique yet dissimilar aural assaults. Let’s take a look at the technology that ties together these unlikely musical allies.
At first blush, the Minitaur looks like a throwback piece of gear. The Minitaur sports all of the traditional Moog trappings. The heavy duty steel chassis is finished in flat black with easily readable white print. Classic black and silver analog knobs nicely complete vintage vibe. A small amber led marked “midi” is the only indication on the front panel that this is a next-gen Moog piece of equipment.
Looking at the rear panel there are additional modern flourishes on the Moog Minitaur. As expected there are audio in and out jacks along with a 1/8 inch headphone jack. There are also three expression pedal inputs to control pitch cv, filter cv and volume cv via an Moog EP-2 Expression Pedal. Finishing off the panel are a midi in and usb connector.
We first tested the Moog Minitaur with a keyboard controller. Within seconds, thunderous bass was pouring out of the keyboard amp. Having two oscillators is a godsend, by slightly detuning one oscillator a fat chorus/unison tone was achieved that that gave the bass warmth and definition.
Dropping the frequency to zero and pulling back the cutoff to 320 Hz the rumbling really began. There is also a NOTE SYNC function for the oscillators. Using the NOTE SYNC and playing with the LFO a bit we were able to conjure up some very cool rhythmic bass. As we yanked and twisted the knobs on the Minitaur a playlist of classic songs appeared, including the intro to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
The Minitaur is not a one trick pony. Not only were we able to dial up house shaking bass, Minimoog like lead sounds were also available. By cranking the FREQ on VCO 2 up to 100%, lifting the cut off to 250 Hz and killing the level on VCO 2 we were able to clone the classic synthesizer. Adding a bit of GLIDE added a 70’s prog rock feel to the haunting sound.
The Moog Minitaur was now begging me to connect my 1999 Parker MidiFly to it. The tracking with the MidiFly was lightning fast. I plugged the Moog EP-2 Expression Pedal into the FILTER jack on the back panel and got wild wah-wah effects beyond my wildest dreams. Plugging the Moog EP-2 Expression Pedal into the PITCH input gave me what I can only describe as a Digitech Whammy on steroids. In my 10 years playing guitar synthesizer I have never experienced such warmth, control, and expression.
I dropped the Moog Minitaur back into the lower frequencies and enjoy playing what can only be described as the ultimate six string bass. Infinite sustain can be controlled with a simple twist of a knob! Until now, these thunderous Moog Taurus bass sounds were only available via foot controller. I can’t describe my joy in being able to rip fat runs up and down my keyboard and guitar neck.
As I said in the beginning of this column, the Moog Minitaur is my first experience with an analog synthesizer. The learning curve is simple and there are plenty of resources on Moog Music’s website. The downloadable manual not only give an overview of the Moog Minitaur but also gives clear descriptions of how the parameters affect tone. There are also Minitaur hardware presets to get you jump started.
The Moog Minitaur is all upside. Additional features include internal storage of 100 presets, the Minitaur can also be used as a CV to MIDI converter. Anyone with a serious interest in creating any type of music should have this valuable tool in his or her arsenal.
The Moog Minitaur has a street price of $599.00 and has two-position rack kit available for $55.
Special thanks to Barry Silverman for his contributions to this review.