Following a small pilot production run back in 2016, Moog Music has announced the return to full production of the mighty Minimoog Model D analog synthesizer, which helped shape modern music from the 1970s onwards.
The idea for the original Minimoog was to make the company’s monstrous and expensive modular synthesizers more accessible to ordinary folk.
The first Minimoog prototype was a lunchtime project put together from discarded components and modules by R.A. Moog Company engineer Bill Hemsath, including a three-octave keyboard cobbled together using key caps from a larger keyboard that was raided for repairs – reportedly the first time a keyboard and a synthesizer were part of the same instrument.
The Model A ended up with around six modules and a slide pod (which later became the pitch wheel), and the build project spawned three more prototypes over the next few years. But it was the walnut-encased Model D featuring controller, oscillator, mixer, modifier and output modules plus a built-in keyboard with pitch and mod wheels that went into production in 1970 as a portable synth for musicians.
According to Hemsath, its unique tones were the result of purposely using discrete transistors for the whole audio path, together with a miscalculation by one of his colleagues.
“Our instrument had punch to it because we inadvertently over drove the filter like crazy,” he said. “Jim Scott did the filter and voltage controlled amplifiers. He made a calculation error and he overdrove the filters by 10/12/15 dB, something like that, and nobody knew that until a month or two after we started in production and everybody said: Leave it alone!”
And the Model D proved very popular among musicians across multiple genres during its 11-year production window and beyond, right up to this day. Minimoog luminaries over the years have included Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, Chick Corea, Kraftwerk and Devo, Parliament Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Dr Dre, Rush, 808 State, Kate Bush, Nine Inch Nails and Portishead, to name a few.
Its iconic sound can also be heard on tracks from Michael Jackson’s record-breaking Thriller album, on Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire, David Bowie’s Low, Snoop Dogg’s debut album Doggystyle, and Rosanna by Toto.
Like the limited-run Minimoog from 2016, the Model D three-oscillator, monophonic, analog synthesizer that’s now in production at the Moog factory in Asheville, North Carolina, retains the original sound engine and audio signal path design – with component placement and through-hole design that’s exactly the same for the low-pass ladder filter, oscillators and mixer.
But it’s been enhanced with the addition of such things as an analog Low-Frequency Oscillator with triangle and square waveshapes, a premium Fatar keybed with velocity and after pressure, onboard MIDI for integration into studio setups, a spring-loaded pitch wheel with improved calibration, mixer feedback modification that produces overdrive with the twist of a knob, and more.
The production Model D is now housed in a locally sourced Appalachian cherry cabinet with a legacy walnut stain that’s supported by a hand-finished aluminum chassis.
“The Minimoog Model D is more than just a collection of circuits in a box – it’s a true musical instrument that is a joy to program and play,” said Moog’s VP of product development, Steve Dunnington. “Bob [Moog] always recognized the importance of an instrument’s feel, and we’ve gone to great lengths to honor his practices through the re-introduction and manufacture of this beautiful synthesizer.”
The Minimoog Model D is available to order now for US$4,999. To mark the start of production, the Will Gregory Moog Ensemble can be seen using a mix of modern and vintage Minimoogs in the video below.
Minimoog Model D | The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble | Archimedes Screw
Product page: Minimoog Model D