Moog's Emerson modular clone at AES show

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Post by XXXEsq » Wed Oct 15, 2014 4:29 pm

I spoke to Gene at the AES show. I told him of my Moog, its provenance and how I came to have it. My Model II has a 904A but I don't have the 904B and 904C to complete the filter set. I've been seeking them since the 90s and have see exactly 1 of each come up for sale and they were purchased by CZ Rider for far more than I could justify. When I told Gene the amounts they sold for, and that I'd gladly pay a reasonable amount for a pair, he said something like "nothing is stopping us from making them except for the cost of the parts." He mentioned that the rotary in the 904C is more than $40... I was a bit surprised. I said I'd gladly pay for all the parts out of pocket and pay Moog a reasonable amount to build them for me and left him my card.... One can always hope...
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Post by freeyerheel » Wed Oct 15, 2014 4:34 pm

[quote]Unfortunately Moog waited far too long and making multiple copies of someone else's customized system to sell at ridiculous prices seems like a poorly thought out move to me.


amen, its almost like they dont wanna talk about the elephant in the room. mu, motm, .com, euro have all been inspired by moog modulars seems like there would be so many other ways to enter the market or 50th anniversary and welcome the other builders who are so smitten with Moog.

to me its like they are saying piss off go somewhere else if you wanna cool synth.

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Post by robotmakers » Wed Oct 15, 2014 4:58 pm

alt-mode wrote:I think synthetic has it right. The purpose of this project is not to serve the modular community but as great PR and adding to the "Moog mystique". The 5 units will more than pay for the work done and will keep it very 'custom shop' focused. They also have options open later, if they so choose.

The exact cloning was on purpose to avoid any complaints that it isn't like the original (Emerson's, that is).
I agree. The Moog cloning exercise was exactly akin to this undertaking where Jaguar made 6 "continuation copies" of a 1960's E-type. A halo project to reinforce the belief that the brand has mojo.

http://www.jaguarusa.com/news-and-events/news/continuation-lightweight-e-type.html

And as for the modular market being attractive to Moog, let's keep in mind that Moog Music has sales of around $10 million per year. Sales have grown an average of 20 percent per year for the last 12 years. They sell 40,000 units per year. The modular market is small and uninteresting relative to the markets they focus on.

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Post by JohnLRice » Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:24 pm

robotmakers wrote:And as for the modular market being attractive to Moog, let's keep in mind that Moog Music has sales of around $10 million per year. Sales have grown an average of 20 percent per year for the last 12 years. They sell 40,000 units per year. The modular market is small and uninteresting relative to the markets they focus on.
That is about the saddest thing I've read in a long time. :picard:

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Post by revmutt » Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:13 pm

I would be "happy" if they started doing reasonable one offs for people who have systems and wanted to add on. I use both modern and vintage gear and don't have a need to prove something by having my Moog be 100% vintage or original. Modulars are supposed to be Frankenstein instruments.

To that end my system uses a Dot Com 960 (thanks Roger) and if MOS-LAB does do a run of matrix mixers I will go with them. As long as it performs or sounds as the original was designed and looks the same, I'm good.
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Post by CZ Rider » Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:24 pm

So am I the only one who would like to see the schematics of how Bob Moog used vactrols on those modules controlled by the programer?
I would be more interested in what circuit Bob used to drive the vactrols and apply it to other Moog circuits. Just about everything Bob designed in the late 60's was discrete using transistors and resistors. Wondering what a Moog filter would sound like using Moog style vactrols on the CV's.
Wonder how much they would charge for just the schematics? :hihi:
As far as paying Moog for modules, I can build my own for less and make them just as authentic. I must have better sources than they do, as I have no problem finding the correct vintage made in USA parts. Just have to know where to look.

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Post by freeyerheel » Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:42 pm

the emerson begs people to "just do it yourself", and if the schematics are out there people will do it/ and have been doing it for years. ive seem some equally pretty diy builds by wigglers. It to bad they dont feel it important to get someone onboard who could intellijell some modules for the masses. people didnt care the korg ms 20 was part for part. it still sound fantastic and has knobs! and sells like hotcakes!

i guess its been said that they do 40 million or so pancakes already so they dont need more pancakes,

ill support the small companies who have worked hard to bring the format back so that moog can prance around their emerson lucky man, if not for them it might be the animoog holding the spotlight.

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Post by EMwhite » Thu Oct 16, 2014 9:21 am

I'm not at all impressed by the "preset" system. I suppose it's a technological marvel, given it's day (not sure if this was early or late 70s); but it's the complete opposite of Oberheim's FVS Programmer which is to say that does not capture any Filter or Envelope settings (but does retain OSC1,2,3 Freq and octave). Many people bitched about that.

A modular musician ought to be adept at dialing in filter settings and tweaking envelopes on the go; OSC tuning and offset is the last thing you want to deal with in the heat of battle unless a particular song calls for a sweep from slight beating to a tuned fifth. So from that standpoint, it might serve a purpose. Rachel Flower's use of it was certainly convincing!

But it's a lot of real estate on that Modular and way more presets than anybody would practically use; so again, it's a specialized show piece.

I wonder how much time, effort, and cost went into recreating all of the details such as the preset system, the custom LFO bit at the top, the accuracy of the fake rocket launcher, Oscilloscope/DVD player, etc.
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Post by alt-mode » Thu Oct 16, 2014 9:40 am

EMwhite wrote: I wonder how much time, effort, and cost went into recreating all of the details such as the preset system, the custom LFO bit at the top, the accuracy of the fake rocket launcher, Oscilloscope/DVD player, etc.
I talked with Gene about this at Moogfest and the big challenge was sourcing some of the parts. I think they resorted to 3D printing one of the translucent switch caps for the control panels but that was it. Everything else was found as NOS. I asked which were the hardest modules to get working and he said the 960 sequencer modules were by far the hardest due to the ancient logic chips and the sensitive circuits. That would be the one place where I would be OK *not* having an exact copy but Synthesizers.com has already done that.

BTW, there are a few ASM-1 boards in that top cabinet that I think Gene put in there while working on the original and are, of course, in the clone.

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Post by synthetic » Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:47 pm

Brian Kehew weighed in on this the last time it came up:
When we rebuilt Keith's module system a few years ago, we didn't like the empty panels just sitting there. Keith USED to solo on Aquatarkus with a special preset; it left two oscillators (of the 3 main) to drone as a 5th (detached from Keyboard CV with that patch), while he could solo against them using the single one controlled by the keyboard.

They stopped using this preset years ago as that song was rarely played, but we love the idea of a synth drone (Minotaur!) under a solo. As we wanted to give him as many options as possible, we put some circuits in there (behind empty panels) using Gene's ASM1 boards and other custom circuits Gene Stopp built (He truly is a wizard of synth tech!) There were 3x LFOs added (you can never have too many!) as well as this ASM Drone voice (which also has a cool "ramp up" filter sweep, from zero, when the drone starts, then a random rising/falling of the drone filter). So the drone is just "a new voice" with two notes that can drone while he solos - now using any full preset on the keyboard. So we've added something without taking anything away. That beast is an ever-evolving instrument, it had custom circuits in and out over the years.

At the time, there was no hope or thought of recreating original modules. It was over the course of time that I found 4 or 5 sources for the original artwork of PCBs and panels, almost everything, even some of the rarely seen ones. However, by that time, the Emerson Moog was fully restored and stable - so that is the system that was cloned, at its most powerful and functional.

Power supplies - yes, Keith has very modern ones, so that's what will be built into the new systems. It is pretty darn stable now, as good as can be expected.

Modules/Systems - of course, ALL this has been thought about and talked about at Moog for years. Nothing proposed here has not been thought and discussed already many times, between the engineers and staff. But the classic module thing is new this year, and needs to slate in between a ton of other projects already running. Theremini etc. The Emerson rig was the most-sensible way to announce the future possibility of modules and systems. It made great photos itself, and with Keith onstage and at the opening. It holds a world of promise. Not many can be made with some of the parts limitations, so the few made certainly will be collectible. I've seen systems with only one or two C-cabinets sell for a lot of money, one this massive (5 cabinets) would certainly not be inexpensive, new or old; especially given the custom Emerson-only modules. I see Gibson selling Lim Ed celebrity custom-shop guitars for tens of thousands - for a neck body and two pickups! This is a BIT more work...

The company has lots of options open now, and will choose the course that seems best over the next few years... But it's good that such things are now possible!

...and YES, there are Tarkus graphics (and other ELP things) in the new Emovision system. It's pretty cool...

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Moog's Emerson modular clone at AES show

Post by ginorobair » Fri Oct 17, 2014 10:52 pm

According to Brian Kehew during AES, part of getting the timbre right for "Emerson's filter sound," just as an example, had to do with measuring particular components that had wide tolerances to begin with, and seeing where they were within the spectrum of those tolerances. In this case, he believes that they not only nailed Keith's filter sound, but that this particular instrument is the epitome of the Moog filter sound.

To state the obvious: The entire project seems to have been a serious bit of archeology across the entire Moog module line of that period. For example, they discovered subtle differences between the same model oscillator by comparing one in Keith's rig to another one they had (perhaps), and then to the schematics. In many cases, it gave these guys a glimpse into how the circuits and designs evolved, revealing perhaps why they changed and so forth. (Again, this is what I gathered from my chat with Brian.)

So, forget for a moment the point about building 5 of these things and selling them for $150K: imagine the fun of doing all the research it took to re-create a one-of-a-kind instrument, and at the same time seeing the depth of the Bob Moog design experience in the process.

My hope would be that they publish a book about their experience, but one on the level of "Recording the Beatles", which Brian was heavily involved in. I'd love to read a book with detailed photos of everything, including behind the panels, schematics, and so on. (I realize this is unrealistic, but hey, it would be very, very interesting.)

I got an iPhone photo behind the preset panels, trying to capture the switches on the boards. I'll see if I can them uploaded here at some point.

And, fwiw, that synth sounded great! Even on a relatively noisy show floor, it was a joy to hear, especially with the sequencer going. (And, yeah, for that much money it sure as hell better sound good.)
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Post by JohnLRice » Fri Oct 17, 2014 11:17 pm

It's great that they did tons of research and analysis to get the ultimate Moog sound but . . . it makes me wonder what they think they have been selling everyone for the last 20 years or more? They are THE Moog company, yopu'd think all of this info would have already been at their finger tips and required reading for every single employee doing design, testing and quality assurance. Did they miss the mark on all those Fooger pedals and Voyager, Phatty etc keyboards? Are they going to give refunds to everyone who was sold something that, perhaps by their own 2014 declarations, was haphazardly less than the legendary Moog sound and missed the mark? :hmm: :despair: :hihi:

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Post by Shy » Sat Oct 18, 2014 1:38 am

JohnLRice wrote:It's great that they did tons of research and analysis to get the ultimate Moog sound but . . . it makes me wonder what they think they have been selling everyone for the last 20 years or more? They are THE Moog company, yopu'd think all of this info would have already been at their finger tips and required reading for every single employee doing design, testing and quality assurance.
Exactly. I guess it's not surprising that only the instruments that Bob Moog himself worked on (and not just loosely "designed by" instruments) have "the real Moog sound", and that even fewer have "the ultimate Moog sound". More effort, tweaking, trial and error, personal decisions like what specific components to use, how exactly to adjust the very many factors that affect the end-result (sound), and what is "good enough" or "right", made it happen.

It seems like people at Moog always knew how to put things together, but as time passed, components and manufacturing methods changed, form factors and target audiences changed, the "mixing and matching" processes had to be redone all the time if you wanted to keep a high quality standard, and it doesn't seem like anyone had the same talent as Bob to do that, nor the same idea of what's "good enough". Some might say "you get what you pay for". In this case, I think that other than the core issue of expertise / talent, it's more an issue of you invest the amount of time, effort and money according to what you expect to get paid, which may not necessarily be money only.

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Post by Synthoholic » Sat Oct 18, 2014 9:58 am

They aren't the same company as the New York company.

Bob supposedly stated that he didn't want to get back into modulars.

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Post by alt-mode » Sat Oct 18, 2014 2:11 pm

JohnLRice wrote:It's great that they did tons of research and analysis to get the ultimate Moog sound but . . . it makes me wonder what they think they have been selling everyone for the last 20 years or more? They are THE Moog company, yopu'd think all of this info would have already been at their finger tips and required reading for every single employee doing design, testing and quality assurance. Did they miss the mark on all those Fooger pedals and Voyager, Phatty etc keyboards? Are they going to give refunds to everyone who was sold something that, perhaps by their own 2014 declarations, was haphazardly less than the legendary Moog sound and missed the mark? :hmm: :despair: :hihi:
Umm, the 904A lowpass filter sound is quite different from the Minimoog filter. No two Minimoogs sound the same, FWIW. I had two 904A modules at one time and they were both quite different.

From the analysis I've read and my experience, the Minimoog sound is more from the interaction of the filter and the VCA and the overloading of the mixer. Does this mean that the MF-101 LP filter pedal isn't a "minimoog" filter? I suppose that is a judgement call but it is a cool filter nonetheless.

I think the 'baseline' for the current Moog Music is Bob's last instruments so this is the MF line, the Voyager, and the Little Fatty. Those are likely what they base their current work on.

The research that went into the Emerson clone is very cool and shows the variability in the implementations, by design, implementation, and aging components.

Eric

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Moog's Emerson modular clone at AES show

Post by ginorobair » Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:22 pm

"No two Minimoogs sound the same, FWIW. I had two 904A modules at one time and they were both quite different." alt-mode

Exactly. That's the rub about the classic synths of the era that new collectors often don't realize: serious variability. Add to that the problem of aging components as alt-mode mentioned, and it makes the purchase of a great-sounding vintage synth a big challenge.

As to what the Moog company has been doing for 2 decades: remember that a) it wasn't that long ago that Bob Moog was finally allowed to legally use his name in the MI world and that b) he focused on many other products, rather than re-creating or maintaining one particular product or sound.

Bob was a very curious and demanding guy, and he didn't rest on his laurels, so to speak. So he was constantly trying to improv the technology used in electronic instruments overall.

That means that the tech used in that era of the modulars would ultimately get "improved" based on customer demands, market demands, and overall innovation. Same with every instrument they made.

But when someone tells me they absolutely LOVE the Minimoog sound, I ultimately ask "Which one?" Not to be churlish, but to say "Which artist or recording?"

A friend of mine had to Minimoogs for a while: one had belonged to Kerry Livgren of Kansas, the other didn't have such a notable pedigree. But this friend of mine swore that the Livgren had "the sound." Whether that was some sort of subliminal bias, I cannot say. But I trust this person's ears enough to say that he could definitely hear that there WAS a difference, and that he definitely preferred one Mini over the other.

And, ultimately, someone else might prefer the sound of that other instrument because it's reminiscent of the "Minimoog sound" they remember.

But ultimately, regarding the post-Bob Moog legacy at Moog Music, the final question will have to be: does that instrument you buy from them satisfy your musical needs?

And as far as I've heard, the sonic consistency between instruments in the modern era is much improved over what you bought 4 or 5 decades ago.
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Moog's Emerson modular clone at AES show

Post by ginorobair » Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:27 pm

One quick, last thought from the AES show: I played with the new Werkstaat-01 a bit and really liked how it sounded -- surprisingly rich and full. Again, it's hard to really know because it's so noisy on the show floor, but in the headphones it had a sound that I really enjoyed playing with. Looking forward to hearing one in my own studio.

(BTW, the miniature patch bay on the side of the instrument really enhances the usability. It's easy to patch it to external modulars with a bit of cable clamping.)
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Post by BKehew » Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:13 pm

I agree 100% with everything Gino said. There is no "Moog sound" really. Many different ones. We even found large variation in how "stock" 904A filters sounded, so we cloned the "best" (subjective) one. In other words, if you have an original Moog modular, it's likely this new 904A might even beat out your old one, or any schematic "clone".

Now, everyone wants something different; single modules, new modules, Eurorack, 500 series, small systems, large systems, old modules with new connectors/voltages. We heard all these requests (and 19" rack) at the AES...

No company the size of Moog would choose all those courses. So the movement forward is careful, but it is moving... Just write the website and ASK for what you'd like to see. Maybe 100 people want original 960 Sequencers, or maybe 904C's (more likely) or 1000 people want a 921 in Eurorack? New modules in the old format, to add to original systems? Many possibilities.

As said before, the company does well with many products. I love that this is happening now, and happening correctly. The Emerson system is certainly getting attention, and sounds/works as it should. It was tough to do, but it proves almost anything is possible...

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Moog's Emerson modular clone at AES show

Post by ginorobair » Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:51 pm

Hey Brian,
Has there been any interest in doing a book of the restoration project? :hyper:
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Post by beyourdog » Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:26 pm

synthetic wrote:Guitar players cry because they can't afford the custom shop Gibsons and Fenders, too. But there are affordable alternatives.

.
I'd say Guitarists cry because they cannot afford Vintage Fender and Gibsons, that's why there are Custom shop instruments...(I play a Les Paul Reissue 56....)

The same vintage Moog system would sell probably around the exact same price anyway, + you have a fully working system here...,good luck with vintage moog systems of this size in terms of maintenance... there is a lot of work implied into researching, making it happen, trying, failing that a happy few are able to afford, but that's the deal...

...I guess these are just the flagship of other things to come later from Moog...back to Modular...indeed...that's cool.

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