Sonic LAB: Moog Matriarch Review

Who's your Matriarch?      10/08/20

Moog are moving through the family tree of analogue synths naming conventions with the Matriarch, this sits at the head of the table, in control and bossing the family gathering, or something...

Ok so the Matriarch is the next step in the the line which draws on the heritage modules from the original early Moog modulars - like the Grandmother before it, but this time sporting 4 full oscillators, the CP3 mixer for that classic Moog VCA drive, but with a modified stereo filter, again based on the 904A design, but with an offset for L+R separation and separate control for twin filter action, a pair of envelopes and a stereo BBD delay unit.

Two LFOs - one can be used as a full range keytracking extra oscillator, plus a more regular LFO as part of the two Attenuvertors.

We also have the Sequencer and Arpeggiatior, plus numerous patching points.

The Matriarch can also work in paraphonic mode with four voice paraphonic operation or unison or if you patch right, two se[arate synth voices.

It features the same solid build with pastel coloured layout as the Grandmother, there's just more of it.

Heritage
Matriarch draws on the same classic module designs of the early full size RA Moog modules and bring that essence of original Mooginess, like the Grandmother and as such, just a single oscillator in Sawtooth can be very pleasing. The oscillators offer Tri/Saw, Square and 50% PW across 16 to 2" range and are very stable and track well. As I said, they sound lovely. The next stage is the classic CP3 mixer which has the same drive and burn that made those early Moogs sound the way they do, this is no different. 

Filter is more modified as it creates a stereo signal when in Stereo mode with a  two 4-pole classic Moog sound. Drive into the filter will greatly change the response of the resonance the way you'd expect.

This really is at the heart of the overall sound and is so familiar and authoritative that you can't help but smile. It's so, well Moogey...

Modulations
Main LFO has an extremely wide range and can operate well into audio rates, indeed, send a keyboard CV into it and it will also double up as another VCO with precise tracking and the same beef as the main Oscillators.  Pre-routed pitch and filter amounts save on the patching  but you can also send it via patch chords if required Noise and S&H are also available as outputs.

Envelopes
Two full ADSR envelopes with the Sustain on fader (still think this would have been better as Decay) with good snappy responses are pre-wired to filter and AMP but gain with patch points for your own routing.

Delay
A stereo delay is BBD - so quite lo-fi and but separate modulatable delay  times  and FB for each side give a  a pretty vintage sheen to the sound - I would have liked to have seen a more crystal clean mode, but I get the analogue vibe of this. You can clock this from the master tempo which means you can "down sample"for some longer delays times in return for fidelity.

Attenuvertors are a welcome addition to this and they add a lot of extra synth functions to the instrument, there are many, many ways to use these including a variable voltage at output when no input is present - great for offsetting CV values - for instance - put into a not used Oscillator and pull it down into LFO territory....

These two modules can really unlock the power of this synth.

Sequencer/Arpeggiator
Same deal as the Grandmother sequencer - 256 steps four memories with tie, rest and ratchet (though only when internal) Sequencer also has a local off meaning it can be disengaged from the internal voice and used to sequence other parameters of external gear.

Hidden Functions
There are a ton of user configurable parameters, though the use of a rather nifty, but obscure keyboard key presses when in parameter mode. Stuff like - local on/off, clock source, delay tone and many many more mean you can set Matriarch in a number of ways - only issue is, there is no status to tell how it's currently set and no on board "reset to defaults" - a little editor utility would be very helpful here. But great to have that extra depth.

Control Law - it's hard to appreciate what a difference this can make to the operation of an instrument until you experience it. It's to do with the scaling of the controls, with many synths, a little is too much and the entire range of a knob or fader can feel like it has many dead spots where nothing happens. Particularly apparent in modulation depth, envelope settings and such. With  the Matriarch the response of the parameters feels very musical and intuitive.

Matriarch is great instrument- it combines the classic simplicity with the tone, control and authority of early Moogs - there's really not much else to come close to this. In Mono mode it can be huge and impressive, with a simple  VCO>MIXER>VCF sound it will make you smile (or should). With paraphonic sounds it can sound very ethereal and tasty. It's not a true poly synth, but it is a true Moog.

It's is a little more expensive than other options, and it's not perfect, but in terms of quality and sound, it's in a class of it's own.

Matriarch is available now priced at around $1999/£1900/2090Euros
https://www.moogmusic.com/products/matriarch


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