Moog Music Slim Phatty
By Francis Preve
Fri, 29 Apr 2011
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Slimphatty_angle_white10.00newkeybuyEditing 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.

PhattyTunerPhattyTuner, 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

Specifications

PROS Massive Moog sound. Fully analog signal path. Has input for processing external audio through the filter and envelopes. Free software for alternate tunings.

CONS Working with the arpeggiator is a tad fiddly. Rack ears sold separately.

Slimphatty_back1CONCEPT Real Moog sound for under a grand.

POLYPHONY Monophonic.

INPUTS USB, MIDI in, CV inputs for pitch, filter, volume, and gate. Mono 1/4" audio in.

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

moogmusic.com

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