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Moog Modular and Synthesizers.com Comparison

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Synthesizers.com follows the Moog look, feel and sound because we think it's great. Moog set the standard and we all appreciate Bob for that.

Synthesizers.com modulars offer many enhancements and modernizations over the original. Some of these are possible due to better electronics, some are because of my design philosophy and OCD, and some are just simple improvements due to hindsight. Here are a few of the improvements:

Module Panels and Size

Synthesizers.com uses Moog size front panels. This is called MU or Moog Unit. They look great and are nice and big (8.75" tall). Each module space is 2.125" wide - eight module spaces will fit in a 19" rack. Some modules are 1 space wide, some are 2 spaces wide and some are even 8 spaces wide. Moog modules are 6" deep and Synthesizers.com modules are only about 3" deep. Here's an example showing the back of a Moog 960 sequencer and our Q960 sequencer. This allows Synthesizers.com modules to fit in low-profile cabinets like our Box11. Synthesizers.com modules will physically fit in a Moog cabinet, and Moog modules will physically fit in some of our cabinets, but then there's the power issue, see below.

True Modularity

Synthesizers.com systems are hyper-modular. Even the power modules can be placed in any position, and our studio cabinets have spaces on the back. There is no fixed normalization in a Synthesizers.com system - no built-in connections between modules, unless you want it. Moog systems had some un-modular aspects including some normalization and moving modules to other places was often difficult or required special wiring. Moog systems also used special half-size modules that were fixed on the bottom row and couldn't be placed anywhere else. Half-height modules limit modularity - see the case against half-height modules. Synthesizers.com uses full-height modules everywhere, so any module can be placed anywhere.

Universal Gate/Trigger Signals

Moog systems used both switch triggers and voltage triggers with different connectors. To fire an envelope generator from an oscillator required a special conversion module and extra patch cords. In a Synthesizers.com system, all signals, even triggers/gates, use the same 1/4 patch cables. This makes life easy and gives you more patching options with fewer modules and cables. Gate signals indicate an on/off condition, usually from a keyboard or sequencer. Gates are typically used to start envelopes or sequencers. In a Synthesizers.com system, there is no distinction between audio, control, and gate signals. All Gate signal inputs can be triggered by any audio or control signal. This universal patching makes everything easier. Learn more about gates and triggers.

Larger Signal Levels

Moog systems use 1-2Vpp signal levels. Synthesizers.com systems use 10V Peak-Peak signal levels. Voltage levels throughout the system can often reach as high as 25V. These giant voltage levels help improve the signal to noise ratio. And they are compatible with virtually all modern analog synthesizers, even EuroRack by using cables to convert the plug size.

On-Module Attenuators/Inverters/Mixers

Possibly the biggest difference of all is the ease of patching made by placing attenuators, inverters, and mixers on modules instead of requiring a separate module. This makes patching more intuitive and uses less cables. To control a filter with an envelope generator, simply use one patch cord. Moog systems often require signals go through an attenuator module before going to their destination. This can double the amount of cords or limit the user's patch. The Q150 Ladder filter is a great example of on-board attenuators and mixing.

Modernized Power System

Moog power supplies produced asymmetrical voltages of -6v and +12 which limited design choices and reduced headroom. Later Moogs added +/-15V. Moog used bulky card edge connectors for power. These were big issues in my mind and I changed them. Synthesizers.com uses a new simplified and technically modern system of +/-15v along with +5v for digital on a compact 6 pin connector. There's a key to prevent plugging it in wrong. The Synthesizers.com DC power connector has become an industry standard for modern MU modular synths. This means you can't plug in a Synthesizers.com module into a Moog system or vice-versa because the power systems are different.

Enclosure Consistency

Ok, some people would say I'm being picky, but it's always bothered me that the Moog keyboard side panels had an angle that was opposite of the cabinets. On Synthesizers.com systems the angle of the keyboard enclosure matches the keyboard garage and the tilted cabinet. It's a small thing, but I think details like this matter.

Rear Enclosure Design

Moog systems use perforated pressboard as a rear panel which looks like the back of a vintage TV. Synthesizers.com systems studio cabinets have closed rear panels of walnut and also provide 4 module spaces on the back, typically for power modules. The rear of the system is worthy of show. The system doesn't have to be placed against a wall or away from an audience.

Consistent Panel Graphics

This includes font types and sizes, placement of graphics and layout of panels. Some original Moog modules have graphics that are covered by jack washers, sometimes above and sometimes below the described item, inconsistent use of font type and sizes, even the logos and headings sometimes don't line up on the same system.

Panel Circuit Mounting

Moog Circuit boards are very large since they are designed to fit inside of a metal frame and are perpendicular to the front panel. The mechanics are large and deep and use a lot of metal. The main design influence was military electronics and radios of that day. Synthesizers.com modules do not consume very much space behind the panel. The circuit boards are mounted parallel to the front panel and this makes their depth about 3" which gives you many cabinet options. This image shows the difference between a Moog 960 and a Synthesizers.com Q960.

Environmental Issues

Moog panels used anodized aluminium that was then etched to expose the lettering. This etching process used dangerous chemicals and created toxic fumes. Bob commented about this to me in the 90's. Moog module artwork doesn't have consistent widths which caused the exposed panel edges to be inconsistent. Synthesizers.com panels use a masking process, paint, then silkscreen printing. This is a bit more work but it's safer and the panels look great.

Look and feel

Here's a Moog modular (left) next to a Synthesizers.com system (right).
Click for larger view.
Moog and Synthesizers.com


Comparison Chart

Feature Moog Modular Synthesizers.com
Compatibility Modules not swap-able with other manufacturers. Power system incompatible with other manufacturers. Modules compatible with dozens of manufacturers. Power systems are industry standard.
Gates Uses switch triggers requiring special cables and converters. Standard voltage gates using 1/4" plugs compatible with all modern and most vintage synthesizers.
Tuning Varies with temperature. Temperature compensated for stable tuning.
MIDI No Yes, In with the Q174 and Out with the Q172.
Controllers 61 key keyboard, uses proprietary connector only compatible with Moog. No velocity, no pressure, no wheels, no MIDI. 37 and 61 key, single and dual keyboard models. With pressure and velocity. Wheels, touchpads, etc. MIDI. Compatible with other modern systems. See
Signal Levels 1.3V 10V gives better signal-to-noise ratio and matches other modern modular synths.
Attenuation Requires separate module. Built-in on many modules.
Panel Size MU Standard. 8.75 tall (5U) x 2.125 wide. Some modules are half-height and can't be moved. MU Standard. 8.75 tall (5U) x 2.125 wide. All modules are full-height for full modularity, can be moved to any location.
Module Depth 6". Requires deep cabinet. Compare. 3". Can fit in more cabinet styles.
Power +12v/-6v +15v/-15v allows high-level symmetrical audio and control voltages. And +5 volts for digital circuits.
Power Connector Large card-edge connector. Not compatible with any modern products. 6-pin MTA connector that is the standard supported by dozens of manufacturers.
Components Some difficult to obtain or not manufactured any more. Fixed internal harnesses, closed pots can't be cleaned. Modern, non-exotic, multi-source components for easy maintenance. All ICs are socketed for easy replacement. Pots and jacks are individual assemblies and easily replaceable. Pots are open so they can be cleaned. No surface mount.
Manufacturing record 1964-1974 + 2015-limited 2000-now

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