By Brennan Galley, SFM Market Development Specialist – Retail
I was introduced to the Moog One after a flight from Toronto, Ontario Canada to Asheville, North Carolina USA. Moog runs a Moog pro certification training out of their factory there and I was invited to join the group. There were speculations about a new synth but the information was vague and unreliable. Still, I was very excited for the timing and hoped that there would be something new to check out.
Over the course of the week the Moog owners, who are also the staff, gave our small group deep-dive demonstrations on the DFAM, M32, Grandmother and Matriarch Synthesizers.
The main floor of the demonstration space was beautiful. The walls were home to rows of Moog synth racks, and the space in the middle of the room featured a solid wooden table that showcased an ever-changing selection of synths over the course of the visit. Moog’s attention to detail is like no one else’s.
But for now back to the Moog One.
The final synth on display
There was only a single synth on the table at the final session of the final day of the visit: the Moog One. The designers and developers came in to talk about it with us and give a deep insight into what the Moog One was. The Moog One is the ultimate synthesizer. It has three synth engines that all work independently or together, in a design where all features are ready to be performed on. Every small detail has been considered and every feature behaves musically. When muscle memory kicks in on the Moog One you are able to accomplish anything you can think of.
As hands were raised and the first notes were about to be played, listening to the Moog One for the first time in all its beauty, with the design team on hand for questions… cue lightning bolt.
A huge lightning strike wiped out all of the electricity in Asheville and the Moog One had no juice to give it life.
After a brief moment of confusion, the Moog hosts decided to let us use our cellphones so that we could use our flashlights to check out the Moog One. It was an incredible demonstration. The operation of the Moog One made sense even without electricity. Having all of the control parameter on the surface of a synth makes the signal flow incredibly straightforward to comprehend.
When the power came back on
During lunch the power came back on and the Moog One was set up in a private room next to the lunch area. The sounds that were created even at this early stage were beautiful. The Moog One had yet to be released, yet it behaved without any bugs.
The Moog One’s operation is straightforward if you understand its signal flow. This YouTube video shows how to navigate the signal path of the sound source. The three oscillators, the ring modulation and the noise all come together at the mixer section. The mixer then feeds into the filter. After the filter is your amp envelope. All of the knobs on the back panel will do something to your sound. Something that I did not show in this video is the oscillator compensation feature available in the latest firmware update. To learn more about how to run this, visit the Moog YouTube Channel. This tuning feature is a great first step when creating your sounds.
For the stage or for the studio
The Moog sequencer is powerful. Each synth engine has its own sequencer, and the sequence can have its own beat length. It can also time sync to a unified BPM or run at its own speed, allowing you to develop a song with great ease. This video focuses on note replace, which allows you to simultaneously erase and record notes in one pass. This means that the song can evolve as you perform, or be left alone just to repeat on a loop. This flexibility opens up how you can capture a song live onstage or as a writing tool in the studio. The sound used in this video is the Wurlitzer factory preset patch.
Clock with external equipment
The Moog One can connect to external equipment using CV, Midi or USB. This allows multiple instruments to run together by either sharing note or performance values or by playing at the same BPM. To make this happen you need to be familiar with the Moog One’s interface, but you also need to be familiar with the functionality of the other piece of equipment.
The Moog One can send or receive clocking information. The BPM is extremely accurate on the Moog One. It is also very accurate on the Pioneer DJ equipment that I use in the studio, and I was able to get loops working perfectly without any locked-in clock. This untethered approach was a fun way to perform, but sometimes you just need it to be all locked in together. YouTube and other online sources offer tutorials on Midi Clock for the Moog One and every other synth out there. To download the Moog One manual click here.
What is a low-frequency oscillator?
LFO stands for Low-Frequency Oscillator, which is controlled by the row of four knobs and buttons on the left of the Moog One’s back panel. A low frequency is the equivalent of saying slow frequency. The fluctuation speed of a waveform determines its pitch, and the knob controls this. The slower moving undulations can be applied to any parameter to create time-based changes. You have the ability to speed up and slow down the source oscillation, and in turn this will change the behaviour of the LFO and the sound. You can also change the waveform shape of the LFO. The button next to the knob will cycle the different waveform options for each LFO. Low-frequency oscillators are a great way to manipulate and add a new dimension to your sound.
The video below shows how to control the behaviour of the Moog One with the LFOs, focusing on the pre-assigned factory setting. It also touches on how you can assign the LFO to control any parameter you want on the Moog One.
Quick song ideas
An arpeggiator, which is also commonly referred to as arp, is a tool that is available on many synthesizers. When you push and hold down multiple notes on the keybed the arp will cycle through them one at a time, at a predetermined speed. The spacing and timing of the notes are equal, and will create a very quick and enjoyable pattern of notes.
I will often use the arp when I am designing new sounds. The Moog One makes this approach easy with a hold button. After hold is pressed and illuminated, any note that you play will make a sound even after releasing the keys. With arp turned on you get a continuous note pattern, leaving both hands free to perform with the synth controls. This is a very common way of performing with synths. It makes the exploration more about the sound of the synth and less about how well the performer can play keyboards.
When a save is not quite right
Snapshot is somewhere in between pressing save and the happy exploration of a sound. When snapshot is pressed on the main panel of the Moog One, all of the settings are instantly captured. Instead of being fearful of going too far and creating a train wreck, pressing snapshot gives a safe place to return to. When the patch is 100% there, press save and add the sound to your user bank.
There are all kinds of great ways to tag and organize your patches. Assigning sounds to the preset section is also very straightforward. In the video below the focused subject is snapshot.
The Moog One offers a huge amount of performance controls. On the bottom left hand corner right next to the keybed is the XY Control. When you touch anywhere in this square box the pad knows where you are pushing down on both the X axis and the Y axis, and assigns a number value that is used to process the sound. The Moog One goes one step further and also senses how hard you are pushing. It’s like After Touch for XY performances. You can assign whatever you like to the X and Y parameters.
The glide knob is also located in this area on the Moog One. Glide determines how long it takes to move from one note value to another. When glide is off the change between the sound of the notes is instantaneous, but when glide is on the synth will take time to pitch up or pitch down to hit a new note value. Twisting the knob changes how much time it has to reach the new note.
This video shows the operation of the XY pad and the glide on the Moog One. You can get much deeper into the functionality than what I cover in this video; the content presented here is to show what you can do on this incredible synth.
Layering and splitting sounds
The Moog One has three separate synth engines. Assigning what keyboard notes engage which synth allows you to shape the overall performance of your synth to suit your needs. The Moog One offers this control on its main panel, while a lot of other synthesizers require a menu dive for this function. For performing or studio use this means that you can make quick changes based on your instant needs. This panel also gives the voice on and voice off control.
The Moog One will provide any sound you can think of, from multilayered ambient sounds to stabbing harsh leads. If there is a sound that you want to create, Moog One will make it possible. In addition, there is an external audio input on the synth, so you can manipulate other source sounds. The Eventide effects sound so good that you will likely start to use the Moog One as an outboard audio effects processor.
The Moog One offers some outstanding performance controls and the sound quality is amazingly full and flexible. The amount of depth that you can get from the sound source is almost unimaginable, while the build quality is reassuring and allows for responsive quick playing.
There’s a reason that it is tough to find a bad review for the Moog One on Gearslutz or other similar online resources. When it was first released there were a couple of bugs that needed to get worked out, but at this point the operating system is extremely stable and predictable.
If you are in the market for a serious top-of-the-line synth, then the Moog One is a top candidate. It will take you beyond the constant hang-up of user interface confusion and will provide an endless source of inspiration. The Moog One has no alternative. It would be impossible to answer the ‘what’s better, the Moog One vs Prophet X vs the Matriarch’, kind of questions. The Moog One looks intimidating. This review and tutorial were created to help you navigate using it, but nothing replaces reading a musical instrument’s manual. Once you buy the Moog One I suggest reading the manual from cover to cover a few times.
To download the Moog One manual click here.
For more gear tips stay connected to Brennan Galley, visit his Fiercemule YouTube channel.