by David C. Lovelace
One of my best musical memories is the first time I heard a MoogTaurus in the early ’80s. Geddy Lee of Rush masterfully employed this foot-powered tank on the screen of my friend’s black-and-white TV while simultaneously playing a mountain of synths and a double-necked Rickenbacker. It was a magical, archaic, unobtainable instrument perhaps only meant for this special breed of one-man-band warlock. Still, it looked just like the pedals on Mom’s old Lowrey organ, so I thought to myself, “Maybe someday.”
The majestic bows and wows of the Taurus were expertly programmed by Dave Luce of Polymoog fame, and etched permanently on many minds as the definitive synth bass tone. Tone-questers have been driving up prices of used analog gear steadily, including the original Taurus, owing to that old notion that there’s no way to put the “wow” in our bow-wow other than to spend ungodly cash on the clunky greatness of ancestral technology. That may have been true once, but thankfully, it no longer is. After years of pleading by Moog fans, the company has released the Taurus 3, a glittering, wood-capped, aluminum marvel that culls design cues from their oldest to their newest synths.
The Taurus 3, like the first Taurus, is a one-octave pedalboard attached to a throaty two-oscillator analog synth. Though the Taurus 3’s oscillators generate sawtooth waves only, it adds a far more programmable interface than the original, not to mention patch memory for 52 presets. The two big sliders from the original Taurus give way to oversized, rubberized, light-up footwheels: Volume, and a Control wheel assignable to anything you’d want to tweak.
The design is so evocative of the Little Phatty that you could call the Taurus 3 a “Big Phatty.” Connections, which are all on the left end block, include hi-Z and lo-Z mono audio outs (for plugging into a bass amp or mixer, respectively), plus control voltage (CV) inputs for volume, filter, pitch, and keyboard gating, enabling modular synth-like patching with your other analog gear. The top area of the panel contains the Phatty-like buttons, which control oscillator, LFO, filter, and arpeggiator parameters. The bottom half of the panel has nine stompbox-style buttons for patch and bank select, transpose, and various performance controllers. Though the panel says “Control” under the three rightmost buttons (Glide, Decay, and Octave), those aren’t assignment buttons for the Control wheel— they’re separate on/off toggles. As a rule, the Control wheel affects the most recently selected parameter in the top area—and the adjacent vertical LED bar is both quick reference and cool eye candy.
At a public performance of electronic music, the only problems I had were solely on my own foot—pardon the pun. Despite never quite mastering the pedals like Geddy Lee did, I had an easy time changing patches, sweeping parameters with the Control wheel, and setting tap tempo, an alternate function of the Transpose button when in Program mode. You should practice on these pedals as you would on any unfamiliar instrument before performing. The technique associated with the original had more to do with root-and-fifth rock foundations than with Hammondstyle fancy footwork, so it’s not inordinately difficult to become competent. Else, hook up a MIDI controller and play this beast with your fingers.
On the subject of MIDI control, the Taurus 3 receives note-ons for C0 through C3 only. This is a MIDI limit only, meaning you can get higher by controlling pitch via analog CV. Depending on your MIDI keyboard, you may need to downshift an octave or two to get to C0, the low C of the pedalboard itself. Then you’ll have the full three-octave range—four if you stomp the Octave button at the right time. Still, given the many presets that sound like they’d make great leads, I’d like to see a higher MIDI note range for finger-dependent shredders.
While the Taurus 3 may not double as a lead synth, it makes up for this in spades with its collection of preset patches. Right out of the box, you’re in business with A1, “Taurus III,” a low growl that opens up wonderfully with the Control wheel, here assigned to cutoff amount. Possibly my favorite preset is B2, “Gordon.” It’s a perfect resonant sweep I used quite a bit as a one-note accompaniment that rounded out many a performance with its pure synthetic bliss. Presets E4, “SlowRezzRamp,” and G2, “BullAcidTest,” are two great choices for definitively acidic Roland TB-303-style arpeggiations. You might even give Geddy himself a run for his money with G3, “Muted Arp,” which sounds like it was lifted directly from one of Rush’s 1980 Signals tracks. If you play prog, fusion, or any kind of electronica, you’ll be very happy with the sounds the Taurus 3 will add.
Sure-footed bass pedal-ists and analog fans in general are sure to love the return of Moog’s big, bad, bass beast. It’s a stylish, well-built synth with an analog soul that purists and traditionalists will instantly recognize and fall in love with all over again. It sounds as great as it looks. More importantly, it sounds as great as its ancestor.
PROS: Recaptures the huge sound of the original Taurus. Great updates, including arpeggiator. Fluid performance ergonomics. Missile-proof construction.
CONS: Oscillators generate sawtooth waves only. Three-octave maximum MIDI input.
CONCEPT Foot-controlled analog bass synthesizer.
FILTER 24dB-per-octave lowpass, ladder 20Hz–20kHz range.
MODIFIERS Latch arpeggiator, volume and filter envelopes, LFO.
PRESETS 52; 1 bank of 4 factory presets each, 12 banks of 4 user presets each.
W X D X H 25" x 24" x 8.5".
WEIGHT 45 lbs.
PRICE: $1,995 (no list/street difference).