Review: Moog Music Minimoog Model D

Same as it ever was, and more!
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Introduced in 1970, the Minimoog set the template for how most musicians used subtractive analog synthesis. The signal chain was based on a patch scheme owners of large Moog modulars almost always used; oscillators into mixer, mixer into filter, filter into VCA, volume and filter controlled by envelopes. Only here was a self-contained synth that didn’t require patch cables, and so portable that carting it to a gig was a no-brainer.

The new Model D gives a stunning visual and tactile impression. Every texture and surface feels like the original. The Fatar TP-9 keyboard action is an unavoidable departure from the original, but that’s okay because it’s much more even and responsive. The way it’s seated and how the keys hit bottom feels authentically like a Minimoog.

The keys sense velocity and Aftertouch, which are not hardwired to internal destinations: Each has a 1/4’’ CV with its own depth control, which you can patch back into the control inputs for filter cutoff, loudness, oscillator pitch, or a modulation source that supplants noise on the Modulation Mix knob. Velocity and Aftertouch are also sent via MIDI. Internally, the audio and control paths are unchanged, the circuitry discrete, and the parts placement mirrors the original. An external power supply connects via a locking 4-pin XLR-style barrel.

Modern touches include MIDI In/Out/Thru (but no USB). Standard voltage trigger I/O is on hand, and you can double the CV range of velocity from five to ten volts separately from three selectable curves for MIDI velocity output. Global settings such as note priority (high, low, last) and legato triggering are changed by holding keys or chords as you power up, and an internal signal path now duplicates the old overdrive trick of feeding the Mini’s output back into its audio input. The added LFO means you don’t need to tie up oscillator 3 to add vibrato.

How close does the reissue sound to the original? The short answer is absolutely, indistinguishably, identically so. The fatness of the oscillators, the saturation characteristics of the ladder filter, and the “snap” and responsiveness of the envelopes is all here. Non-linearities in the way components interact are also a huge factor in the warmth and soul Minimoog owners cite: Those are present as well, but unlike many under-maintained vintage specimens, not enough to amount to a musical problem for you.

Not satisfied to play the new Minimoog in isolation, I set up some blind listening next to a well-maintained 1978 Minimoog and a Voyager Performer Edition. The patches were made as identical as possible (and any Voyager-only features, such as hard oscillator sync and stereo output, were not used). After a while, I was consistently able to pick out the Voyager as sounding slightly more polished and polite. By contrast, the similarity between the Model Ds was tenacious.

Overall, Moog Music nailed it: The sound and user experience of the new Model D are total. Should you spend $3,499 on one? Well, do you want a Minimoog? The new Model D costs less than many “perfect” specimens on the secondary market and will give you all of the sound but none of the potential trouble.

So, if you’re wondering whether it’s a new Minimoog or a vintage Minimoog, the bottom line is that it’s both. And it’s perfect.

Former Keyboard magazine editor-in-chief Stephen Fortner currently consults in the music, automotive, and film/TV industries, and helms the website synth-expert.com.

STRENGTHS

Original signal path and construction techniques are perfectly reproduced. New features are very useful but unobtrusive to the vintage experience. Sounds the balls.

LIMITATIONS

Expensive. We’d like to see an upgraded kickstand for the tilting panel and a way to lock the panel down for transportation.

$3,499 street
moogmusic.com