Review: Moog Sub Phatty Synthesizer

More Moog, or in fact less if you want it   25-Jul-13

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16:37 mins    

The Moog Sub Phatty was launched at NAMM 2013 and drew a lot of interest as any new Moog synth is likely to. With marketing showing wizened synthesists getting excited about the new circuitry, there clearly is something going on here.

The basic architecture will be familiar to most, two VCO's plus a Square sub Osc, single LFO, two envelopes (ADSR with hold and delay) and the mixer section. We should mention that this is analog circuit stuff with digital control, this seems to be the way things are going, allowing some clever things to be done while retaining the analog signal path. For instance, changing the scaling of the knobs to give a smoother change in certain ranges.

Moog have worked hard to ensure that the oscillators are stable within 30 secs of power up and can remain so throughout. And I can confirm that there was no MiniMoog type drift or plain wrongness!

So firstly, there's a variable waveform for each oscillator which means PWM or just general wave type modulation can be achieved from TRI through SAW to Pulse Width - hooray, I am a fan of this. You can modulate either or both Osc and also use the filter envelope as a modulator.. Additionally there's a noise source, so instantly you have a bit more than the Slim Phatty and the Minitaur. The classic Moog Ladder 4-pole 24dB filter is also present, though with some clever mixer tweaks and the addition of the new Multi-Drive you can really change the flavour of the filter.

Drive Away

You can drive each Osc (1/2, sub and noise)  into the filter separately, on a scale of -0 to 12. With levels of 0 to 6  being clean, 6-12 introducing more drive. So you can tame the classic smudge of the Moog filter drive if you wish, or push it a little harder - this one goes up to 12!

Multi-Drive adds additional drive post Filter from an OTA circuit and can range from a hotter signal to molten drive  - great for bringing out resonance, wave modulation or Oscillator sync.

Thats a casual sentence but in practice, there's a LOT of tonal variation happening in that single knob that can drastically affect the sound of the synthesizer.


I should mention that the Sub Phatty has a solid metal casing and sturdily mounted knobs giving the impression of something very well built, and indeed that is true, you notice this as soon as you get it out of the box. Build quality is not an issue.

The 2 octave keyboard is velocity sensitive, sadly no aftertouch - and I am not becoming the AT lobbyist, it's just that the Arturia Minibrute has it, as does the Novation Bass Station II - on a mono synth, it really does add expression - just sayin..


There are a number of hidden shift features that can be access via cobinations of memory, bank and front panle switches. For instance, you can dial filter env and amplitude envelope amounts in using these shift functions to give you access to velocity. These functions really do open up a lot of extra synthesis details and are jolly useful if a little tricky to navigate via the front panel (using the editor is best IMHO).


Another neat feature is the ability to use the Filter and Amplitude envelopes in repeat mode, effectively adding another LFO type modulator to the mix, additionally the ability to change the number of filter poles from 24dB to 6dB  (4 through 1 pole) slope is another way to quite drastically change the character of the synth.


My only issue is that while many of the important primary synthesis functions are front panel, these shift functions are accessed via various combinations of the 16 memory buttons, and require the manual to recall. To have a seamless journey into synthesis, you would be advised to hook up the free editor/librarian (Mac/Pc standalone  or plugin)  which allows easier access to the hidden parameters, and also to manage and store larger quantities of patches other than the built-in 16.


Speaking of connectivity, Audio in and output are obviously there, USB and MIDI ports allow connection of external sequencer and modules etc, but there's also CV and Gate - plus CV control of Filter Freq and Amplitude, so you can on a basic level incorporate this into your modular or other analog world, though only as inputs, you can't control other analog gear from it.


Overall, I prefer this to the Slim Phatty and Minitaur, being able to dial in the amount of "Moog-ness" as far as the filter is actually quite useful, the oscillators are beefy enough to give you that thunderous bass and other classic Moog tones, but you can find all that in-between too. Sure, it's a premium product, but Moog is Moog. You pay for what you get. I can see the Sub Phatty being a popular choice amongst Moog first timers but also for more experienced Moog owners, the subtlety (or not) of the drive really gives you a lot more variations in sound.

Available now £849/$1099/€979


More Information


Shift Functions:

Filter Velocity Sensitivity

Volume Velocity Sensitivity

Ext. Audio Level

Osc2 Beat Frequency - this fixed the detune amount no matter what note is played

VCO Gate Reset

LFO Gate Reset

Pitch Bend Up Amount

Pitch Bend Down Amount

Glide Legato

Glide Type

Filter Poles - adjustable from 1 - 4 poles, greatly changing the character of the filter

Wave Mod. Destination

LFO Range

Filter EG Reset

Amp EG Reset


Gate On/Ext.


MIDI Ch. Out

Local Control

14-Bit MIDI Output

MIDI Path In

MIDI Path Out



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15 Comments... Comments are closed while we transition to Disqus

Homebrew ColdFusion CMS and CSS that prevents scaling of fonts    Said...

iOS MP4 link is broken :(

25-Jul-13 09:34 AM

drip.feed    Said...

You had me at the Saw wave. What a cracking sounding synth.

Is the headphone volume affected by the main volume? In other words, could I audition patches on stage thru headphones with the main volume turned all the way down?

25-Jul-13 09:48 AM

NIck B    Said...

Mp4 Should be working now - soz about that.

25-Jul-13 10:37 AM

Richard    Said...

Come on Nick - please say Moog like Rogue - there's even a synth of that name - you can do it!!!

25-Jul-13 10:56 AM

xyzzy    Said...

It really does sound fantastic. And I might not have to scale back all the bass like I would with a Voyager or Slim/Little Phatty :)

The ending was particularly great. Thanks Nick!

25-Jul-13 11:03 AM

asiohead    Said...

Great review Nick, makes me wanna get one RIGHT NOW :)

Just too bad about the two octave keyboard imo. You mention the build quality being really good, so better than the Little Phatty then ? Cause I find those knobs feel a bit 'loose'.

And damn, no aftertouch again ! heheh . You got a point though. Anyway, the sound makes it all good ;)

Nice camera work btw, especially the bit at the end, really cool !

26-Jul-13 11:43 AM

Benedict Johnson    Said...

I'm caught between praising the beautiful sound and admonishing the lack of imagination. People don't say this often enough but Moog should be more like Korg, who at least take risks.

Korg are like an over-excited yappy Pomeranian that runs in circles: fun and annoying in equal measures. Moog are like a long, dull, ponderous Tolkien novel where nothing happens and never ends but will eventually become a rip-roaring movie adaptation.

Or not. Moog should probably carry on doing what they're doing.

I'm looking forward to the Prophet 12 review!!

26-Jul-13 12:27 PM

Dr.Filterstein    Said...

Only 16 Patches !!! that's a shame. I can't wait to play the Bassstation blows the Sub phatty out of the Planet.

26-Jul-13 02:46 PM

GTRman    Said...

Dr. Filterstein I doubt that. A Moog ladder filter is the fattest filter on the planet. Novation always had much thinner sounding filters and I expect the bass Station to follow that suite. The Bass Station II will be a great sounding bass synth but if you are looking for the worlds fattest filter you can not beat a Moog ladder filter. For me, big fat filters sometime do not sit well in a mix so BS II may be a perfect match for my studio. Anyway both are wonderful synths but I will always go with the American made quality of Moog.

29-Jul-13 09:03 AM

37gun    Said...

I never doubted the quality of this synth & i think it's a real players instrument (Well among other uses of course) But ,seeing this has confirmed it.It really sounds phat in the true synth sense. I'm not a fan of the under the hood stuff so much, more into the ol' one knob per function thing but that does not detract from the fact that this is a really great pro quality synth. Well done to Nick too.Damn good review given the amount of time to squeeze in all the info.I saw enough to convince me. It's a true beastie !

29-Jul-13 09:26 AM

Dr.Filterstein    Said...

GTRman,i miss a very important thing in BS2: keyfollow or Keytrack for Filter !!! BS1 didn't have keytrack too but the Super BS has this Function and i own a Super BS.I would like to compare BS2, Mophokeyboard and Nordrack 2x and maybe buy one of them.

29-Jul-13 06:03 PM

jobot    Said...

WHAT editor ???

I love mine, but seriously Moog, give us non reviewers the fkn editor already...

01-Aug-13 04:47 PM

EMwhite    Said...

It was a good review. Could stand to hear more patches and maybe an outro (song) but I suppose you only have so much time.

As an owner of a VOS (Old School), Little Phatty, Taurus III, Minitaur, Opus 3 [and the other guys synths], I am STILL interested in this. Not because I have a Moog fetish, but rather because it IS new and has something that none of the others have in a compact package.

With regard to build quality and pot feel; the Little Phatty uses the same Alpha pots that everybody uses, that being the $1.50 variety (cheaper in bulk I'm sure); not the bournes etc type that are several dollars a piece. They are fine.

Have a look at some of the boutique MU modular products available today and you'll also see the $1.50 Alpha pots.

Otherwise, it's just a matter of time before editor and firmware is solid; then you'll be set. A bit of pain (with all products) for being an early adopter I'm afraid.

02-Aug-13 09:00 PM

Protech    Said...

This unit would look great with real wood side panels. Moog has dropped that look for cost I am sure but as a option would be great.

13-Aug-13 09:40 AM

Bob    Said...

This is a great instrument that is very stylish and built like a tank. It is much grittier and edgier than other moogs, I like it a lot. However in common with other things that are built to a price point you more often than not end up getting disappointed by what it cant do rather than being satisfied with what it can do.

03-Oct-13 06:39 AM

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