Editing on the Phatty is so intuitive that you feel like there are more than just four main control knobs.
Saying that Moog’s Little Phatty has become a staple in countless live
and studio rigs is a bit like saying that bacon is kinda tasty. Even musicians
who have the cash for a Voyager often pick up the Phatty as a second
synth, just because it’s got such a powerful vibe and delivers the Moog
punch with a minimum of fuss.
Of course, many of us on a day-job budget don’t have the cash lying
around for the luxury of owning either of those legends. Fortunately,
Moog finally figured out a way to pack all of the Phatty sound into a threespace
rack enclosure and called it, aptly, the Slim Phatty.
Armed with both Phatties, I took Slim on a test drive in my studio for
a few weeks. Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: The sound
of the two units is identical. Better still, so is the user interface—just with
slightly smaller buttons.
Speaking of the interface, some people are curious as to how friendly
a synth with only four editing knobs can be. Let’s just say that the Phatty
approach is so streamlined and efficient that you almost forget that
you’re using dedicated buttons to toggle what each section’s knob does
as you work.
Here’s a quick rundown of the Phatty architecture: two hard-syncable
oscillators feed the Moog lowpass filter (with overdrive control) followed
by a VCA. Modulation resources consist of dedicated envelopes
for volume and filter cutoff, and an LFO that can be routed to either the
cutoff, overall pitch, oscillator wave, or the pitch of oscillator 2 only. The
LFO rate also extends into the audio frequency range for nasty FM effects,
which is a wonderful inclusion.
Digging more deeply into the “Advanced Preset” mode requires a trip
to the LCD and a bit of fiddling with settings. Here, you can change deeper
settings, like the number of filter poles (one to four), envelope re-triggering
or legato mode, and the degree to which key velocity affects filter cutoff.
You can also access features such as noise and sample-and-hold.
PhattyTuner, a free download for Mac OS X or Windows, lets you fine-tune the pitch of each note in a 12-tone scale and comes with presets for many alternate tuning schemes.
In the past year or so, I’ve become more deeply involved with modular
synthesis, so the presence of CV inputs for pitch, filter, and volume—
plus an external audio input—makes the Slim Phatty integrate nicely into
a more elaborate studio setup. For example, I routed the audio from my
Tom Oberheim SEM (with its filter wide open) into the Phatty and whipped up some juicy hybrid sounds. What’s more, the Phatty’s filter overdrive
makes it the perfect companion to almost any digital synth, letting you
beef up those metallic wavetable or FM sounds with a minimum of fuss.
Fans of alternate tuning and unusual scales will be happy to know that
Moog offers a free editor called PhattyTuner that provides access to the
unit’s internal tuning tables. Kepler, Pythagorean, mean tone, and a slew
of world music presets are all present. The only minor quibble here is that
you’re still stuck with 12-tone scales. Granted, there’s minimal demand
for other types outside the academic world. In any case, it’s great to see
Moog taking tuning into consideration, and the editor is a free download
for Mac OS X or Windows.
With all the techie stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the sound of
the Phatty. It’s massive. Massive in a way that nothing else I own is. Massive
in that Keith Emerson and Deadmau5 kind of way. Those giant, twooscillator,
interval-with-overdrive patches that define electro and techno
practically fall out of this thing with just a few knob twists. The bass and
lower mids are gargantuan. The Phatty is huge and beefy and raw and
totally in your face. I put it up against every other analog synth in my
studio and, well, it’s a Moog. Even when it’s ostensibly making delicate
plucked sounds, it’s utterly musclebound.
I’m madly in love with this synth. It fits perfectly into any rig and any
workflow thanks to its combination of USB, MIDI, and CV connections—
and it’s truly a Moog in every sense of the word. The Slim Phatty isn’t just
a Key Buy—it’s a must buy.
04-2011 Moog Music Slim Phatty by KeyboardMag
PROS Massive Moog sound. Fully analog signal path. Has input for processing
external audio through the filter and envelopes. Free software for
CONS Working with the arpeggiator is a tad fiddly. Rack ears sold
CONCEPT Real Moog sound for under a grand.
INPUTS USB, MIDI in, CV inputs for pitch, filter, volume, and gate. Mono 1/4"
OUTPUTS MIDI out and thru. Mono line and headphone out (both 1/4").
W x D x H 17" x 5.25" x 4.32".
WEIGHT 5.75 lbs.
PRICE List: $849
Approx. street: $795