Sonic LAB: Moog Minitaur Review

US Moog's bovine bass monster      16/03/12
    MP4 13:26 mins    

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Plenty of excitement surrounding the latest synth offering from Moog, it literally has people frothing at the mouth. The Moog Minitaur  also has the added frisson of being a Bass Synthesizer. Based on the legendary Moog Taurus Bass pedals - now at Taurus III, its got plenty downstairs as it were. The other thing that makes the Minitaur somewhat different to Moog’s last affordable release the Slim Phatty, is that each parameter has its own dedicated control rather than doubling or tripling up with assignable functions. Add to that the fact that you can store and control all of the front panel settings via the free editor and you’ve got something a little different.
So, the structure is actually quite simple - two VCOs with Saw and Square waves, VCO 2 tunable +/- 1 octave, 24dB 4-pole Low Pass Resonant Filter, with envelope depth +/-,  2x ADS(R) envelopes wired to VCF and VCA - Decay is switchable to release. A single LFO with TRIANGLE wave routabe to VCO and VCF via depth and mod wheel via MIDI. Additionally, you get a Glide depth and switch (portamento).
1/8th headphone jack output, Audio Out (1/4inch) Audio In (for external processing), Control Voltage Inputs - Pitch CV (Volt/Octave), Filter CV and Amplitude CV plus Gate give you the ability to hook up and integrate your external modular kit.  MIDI input for playing the conventional way and a USB connection for additional MIDI control and computer hookup for editor and firmware updates. Finally a 12v power input.

Q: Does it sound like a Moog?
A: Yes, the waves are distinct and fulsome, giving plenty of bottom end for some earth shaking bass. The lack of additional waves (Pulse Width for sure) make the tonal variations somewhat limited, but what you do have sounds great. The filter does most of what you’d expect from a Moog - without resonance it sweeps in a really creamy, deep fashion. When you add resonance you do lose some low end, as with many filters, and to my ears the its not got quite the same organic feel you get with other Moog resonant filter, but it still sounds great.

The level of modulation and synthesis are limited, but what you do have is well implemented - the Envelopes are nicely musical with plenty of whip should you need it, as well as the slower more brassy speeds. There is also another limitation in the note range - the Minitaur only responds up to C5 (72). I am told by those who know, that because internally the control voltage is Hz/V. To add more octaves would have required significantly more power and required an internal PSU, making the whole thing bigger and therefore impacting on the cost. In the Taurus Pedals, going above C4 is pretty irrelevant.

Launching the down loadable software editor, brings a new dimension to the Minitaur. With all controls editable via the software and any moves on the front panel reflected in the software, the storing and recall of patches possible. Now I was wondering about how this affects the Analog nature of the controls. Well they are all 14-bit - meaning the resolution is 16383 steps - whilst also being possible to be used at 7-bit (128 steps). This means there’s no stepping on the unit.

Under the Hood
This section of the editor brings out more configuration than is possible via the units front panel. One specific feature is the Note Sync - this ensures VCO waves are re triggered at note on, avoiding those inconsistent front end of low, 2 Oscillator pulse lines you can get with other synths. Here you can also configure note priority, Legato and glide modes, pitch bend up and down range, keyboard tracking and velocity sensitivity (VCA and VCF) plus LFO sync and clock divide.

All in all, the Minitaur does sound like a pedigree instrument - you are getting the charisma of the Moog sound, whilst perhaps not a hugely flexible synthesizer. If you want more of that, then perhaps you’d be better off saving a couple hundred more and buying the Slim Phatty (see our review). But for that definite Moog sound and plenty of low end, the Minitaur is Moog’s most affordable synth to date.


Available Now (ish)

£499, $679, €649 Full retail prices




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