Dec 15

MOOG MINITAUR

Here is another new Moog product that I am sure will become a classic – The Moog Minitaur Monophonic Analogue Bass Synth. This already has a reputation of being a very powerful analogue synth, inspired by the famous Taurus1 and Taurus 3 pedals but is the first in the Taurus family that does not have foot pedals (although you can connect an expression pedal to the CV inputs). It has been primarily designed for Bass, but is really a true 100% audio path Analogue Synth capable of so much more. This Subwoofer’s dream looks as if you can do some serious tweaking and speaker-shaking on this. So I need to get it out of the box.

MOOG KNOBS AND MINITAUR BUTTONS

As you open the box, there is an interesting Moog leaflet that shows the Moog product range and says “Devastatingly Heavy Sound” and they supply a packet of ear plugs – very clever and the first thing you see as you unwrap the Minitaur is a logo of an angry bull snorting towards you. No doubt an indication of the sound you are about to experience.

The Minitaur is very compact, black metallic, very solid and well-built and sits on four sturdy rubber feet. Its dimensions are 216 x 76 x 140mm and it weighs 1.2 kg. Its small footprint somehow manages to fit 18 knobs and 4 warm amber buttons on its front panel. With 22 controls there is no place for an LCD of any description. However, all of the controls are suitably spaced; feel very comfortable for precise editing with the Filter Cutoff having the largest knob. To some extent the knobs and buttons are arranged in three rows with just the Glide Rate knob between rows 2 and 3 on the right hand side.

It seems that every knob and function has a dedicated control on the Minitaur and is pretty much one to one ratio. It is not like the Slim Phatty. There are a few exceptions which you can access via the software editor which we will have a look at later on. On the top left, there is a small Midi LED and a discreet small fine tune knob. This is very sensible and means that you will not accidently fine tune everything whilst you are caught up in the excitement of analogue tweaking. The Fine Tune will adjust the frequency of the Oscillators plus or minus one semitone.

The two buttons labelled 1 and 2 make it quickly obvious that it has two oscillators and these are switchable between Sawtooth (taken from the original Taurus) and Square wave. Oscillator 2 (VCO2) you will see from the first large knob on the top row is tuneable independently of VCO1, so you can take it up or down an entire octave. The Mix section allows you to blend the level of VCO 1 and VCO 2 independently. The VCO2 Frequency sets the frequency offset of VCO2 from VCO1 from -1 Octave to +1 Octave. If you position it in the centre, you will make it sound in unison with VCO1.

The Filter section has a lovely 24 db / Octave resonant Classic Moog Ladder Low Pass filter with full resonance control and envelope control. It is the famous Moog filter and uses a circuit called a ladder network which exhibits a small amount of distortion. This is definitely my favourite section as I am sure it is everyone else’s. The filter gives a lush, creamy sweep, and sounds superb when you add in a touch of resonance. This sadly decreases the bottom end just a little bit but the sound is great. I think if I compared the Resonance on the Slim Phatty however, I would say it is better than the one on the Minitaur, but of course you have to take into consideration the price difference.

The VCF Cutoff sets the Cutoff Frequency of the 4-pole Moog Lowpass filter from 20Hz to 20KHz and VCF Resonance sets the gain for the amount of signal from the output of the VCF fed back to the input of the VCF. This creates a peak in Frequency response at the Cutoff Frequency that can be increased all the way to self-oscillation. Finally in the Filter section is the VCF Envelope Generator which sets the amount of modulation of the VCF. The centre position gives you no Envelope Generator modulation.

Next is the VCA which is the overall volume output and there is also Glide which gives you a dialable glide amount switchable on or off from its amber button. You are also able to select via MIDI a choice of linear glide and that of the classic Taurus glide which rises very quickly.

There is an Envelope Section with twin Minimoog style ADSR Envelope Generators for modulating the Filter (VCF) and Amplifier (VCA). These are great, a good speed and provide some lovely detail to the sound and allow you produce some retro electro drum sounds. They are Attack, Decay Sustain types. If you want to adjust Release, you can switch the Release button on and the Decay knob becomes the Release portion. That is a clever idea to save space but I think really I would have preferred the unit to be an inch longer and have a separate Release control.

Finally in the Modulation Section we have got MIDI-syncable Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) which is fixed at Triangle. There are no other waveforms available. It goes reasonably high up into the audio spectrum. Then there is LFO amount for modulating the pitch (the VCOs) and the same for modulating the VCF. I like the LFO for getting some really cool sound effects. You can produce the effects needed on a Dr Who episode. Both of these depth amounts only kick in when you hit the Mod Wheel via midi or USB.

The LFO Rate simply sets the frequency of the LFO with a range is from 0.01Hz right up to 100Hz at which point the LED appears . The VCO Amount sets the amount that the LFO modulates the VCO and the VCF Amount sets the amount that the LFO modulates the VCF.

THE SOUND OF A MOOG MINITAUR

When you turn the Minitaur on, Moog recommend a warm up period of about 15 minutes (longer if it has been outside) for it to reach concert pitch. The recommended operating temperature of the Minitaur is between 50 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is safe to operate it outside of this range, but its voltage controlled oscillators may not remain in tune.

The way that sound works on the Minitaur is that it gets its source signals from the two Voltage-Controlled Oscillators (VCOs). These are then mixed with any external audio you want to add in. This sound then gets output to the lovely Filter, where it gets beautifully sculpted depending on what Filter parameters you set and what Filter ADSR Envelope you give it. This signal is then passed to the Amplifier (VCA) stage, where the Volume ADSR envelope shapes it before going to the Output section, where the final earth-shaking sound is set by the Volume control knob.

OK, so we are warmed up and ready to tweak. I love to start with random tweaking to see what it can do. After I had finished with my Star Wars – like bleeps, I started to find that there is definitely some power in these VCOs and I am now producing some snarly squelch with a big low end which I am sure conjures up all sorts of images – but we won’t go there. If you have ever used a Taurus pedal or have seen Bands that do, you will soon realise that the Minitaur is very much part of the Taurus family.

I now have some acid-like sounds which sound very much like more than one TB-303 combined – great stuff. Let’s try two Saw waves. Wow – as you bring in the second VCO it really thickens everything up and has a good warm buzz. You can obviously tune the oscillators differently to add further thickness or tune them a fifth apart for some 70s retro sounds etc. Use of the Square adds some extra woof especially when you bring it down an octave but the fun is when you play with the filter section which I am sure you know. Don’t forget that the Minitaur can also process audio coming in via the Audio input. I tried this with a drum machine and made use the Minitaur’s filters etc. to change the sound – loads of fun and it sounded like this might be very useful for Dubstep.

CONNECTIONS FOR YOUR MOOG MINITAUR

There is a mini-jack stereo headphone jack, presumably because there was not room inside for a full sized jack. You have a standard quarter inch unbalanced Mono Audio Output and an Audio Input that is very useful to process external audio through the Mixer and Filter section of Minitaur. Next are the Analogue Control Voltage (CV) and gate inputs which allow you to control via external modular kit – great if you have a Moogerfooger. These are for Pitch CV, Filter CV, Volume CV and Gate. Also a MIDI IN (DIN) socket, to connect your keyboard or other Midi gear and a Type B USB input that is solely for MIDI or the Software editor. Lastly there is the 12v DC Power input.

When you connect to a large keyboard you may discover that there is only a limited keyboard range assigned – no higher than C72. The manual states that because the Minitaur is a Bass Synthesizer; it operates exclusively in the lower note range (MIDI notes 0 – 72). This means that it will only respond to your playing from ‘C4’ (an octave above middle ‘C’) downward.

THE MOOG MINITAUR SOFTWARE EDITOR

The Software Editor is available free for you to download when you register your Minitaur at www.moogmusic.com/register.

The Software Editor front end gives you a window that looks identical to the front of the Minitaur. In the editor there is further functionality. One of the cool features is a ‘Note Sync’ button to synchronise the waveforms so that they do not go in and out of phase. By adding ‘Note Sync’ you will ensure the maximum amount of bass punch is delivered. Also in the editor is a facility for the Glide. With the Glide on, here you can change whether it plays between key triggers or only if you have another note switched on.

The best bit is ‘Patches’ which allow you to setup and store patches, making it a programmable synth. First of all you have to go to the drop down menu and ‘Capture’ the sound you have created and then you can simply save and then load you sounds. There are also now major improvements in version 2 – read on……

MOOG MINITAUR VERSION 2

The Minitaur can now store 100 presets inside the unit and doesn’t need to be connected to a PC or MAC to play them. There is also an updated Editor V2 to give you complete control over the loading and organising of these presets. To scroll up and down the presets when you are not connected to a computer you just hold down the Glide button and press either the Osc 1 or Osc 2 button. To get back to the panel setting you were on before you went into preset selection you just hold down the Glide button and press both the Osc 1 or Osc 2 buttons together.

Another V2 addition is that you now get full independent control over the envelope decay and release times. Just press and hold the Release button while turning the decay release knob and that adjusts only the Release Time. If you then just turn the Decay Release knob then it will only adjust the Decay time and leave the Release where you set it.

There are other enhancements in Version 2 and Moog are excited that they have also included something called Control Voltage mapping. This is great if you have other analogue equipment that has CV. Moog say that you can now take the CV inputs on the back of the Minitaur and you can map those to practically any parameter in the Minitaur. There is also a new section within the new editor that deals with CV Mapping. This is interesting because this allows for something rather special when it comes to MIDI. Because all of the Minitaur’s parameters send out MIDI data over the USB MIDI connection, this means you could take a CV, map it to a Minitaur parameter and then send this out as MIDI data. That is fantastic getting MIDI data from a CV – a very rare thing and opens up possibilities of controlling other MIDI gear you have in your studio.

 

CONCLUSION

Well if you love Analogue sounds I am sure Moog is at the top of your list. Moog products are built extremely well to high specifications that are made to last. That quality comes at a price but fortunately there is now the Minitaur that gives you that classic Moog sound with a very powerful bass synth sound. It is a very compact, portable piece of kit that is extremely well priced and gives you the bottom-end that you simply cannot get anywhere else. Its size means you can integrate it easily into any keyboard, DJ or Studio setup. It is great that it is velocity sensitive but a shame that there is only a limited keyboard range and obviously it would be better with some Pulse Width Modulation, but that would increase the price.

There were rumours of firmware updates and possible a rack version and Version 2 has now been released providing you with enhancements to both hardware and software making this purchase exceptional value. I read that Moog is incredibly honoured that the Minitaur is a nominee for the 28th annual TEC awards for Outstanding Technical Achievement – Musical Instrument – Technology/Hardware. There is no doubt in my mind that this synth can move some air and its new ability to act as a CV to Midi converter opens up a wealth of possibilities. Finally don’t forget to use caution when adjusting initial volume levels, especially if connected to a subwoofer. If you are currently thinking about adding that classic Moog sound to your setup – get one of these today from the best place around – just click this Orange Banner for a great price and great service:-

Absolute Music

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