Sonic LAB: Moog Minitaur Review

Moog's bovine bass monster      16/03/12

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13:26 mins    

Plenty of excitement surrounding the latest synth offering from Moog, it literally has people frothing at the mouth. The Moog Minitaur  also has the added frisson of being a Bass Synthesizer. Based on the legendary Moog Taurus Bass pedals - now at Taurus III, its got plenty downstairs as it were. The other thing that makes the Minitaur somewhat different to Moog’s last affordable release the Slim Phatty, is that each parameter has its own dedicated control rather than doubling or tripling up with assignable functions. Add to that the fact that you can store and control all of the front panel settings via the free editor and you’ve got something a little different.
 
 
So, the structure is actually quite simple - two VCOs with Saw and Square waves, VCO 2 tunable +/- 1 octave, 24dB 4-pole Low Pass Resonant Filter, with envelope depth +/-,  2x ADS(R) envelopes wired to VCF and VCA - Decay is switchable to release. A single LFO with TRIANGLE wave routabe to VCO and VCF via depth and mod wheel via MIDI. Additionally, you get a Glide depth and switch (portamento).
 
Connections
1/8th headphone jack output, Audio Out (1/4inch) Audio In (for external processing), Control Voltage Inputs - Pitch CV (Volt/Octave), Filter CV and Amplitude CV plus Gate give you the ability to hook up and integrate your external modular kit.  MIDI input for playing the conventional way and a USB connection for additional MIDI control and computer hookup for editor and firmware updates. Finally a 12v power input.


Q: Does it sound like a Moog?
A: Yes, the waves are distinct and fulsome, giving plenty of bottom end for some earth shaking bass. The lack of additional waves (Pulse Width for sure) make the tonal variations somewhat limited, but what you do have sounds great. The filter does most of what you’d expect from a Moog - without resonance it sweeps in a really creamy, deep fashion. When you add resonance you do lose some low end, as with many filters, and to my ears the its not got quite the same organic feel you get with other Moog resonant filter, but it still sounds great.

Synthesis
The level of modulation and synthesis are limited, but what you do have is well implemented - the Envelopes are nicely musical with plenty of whip should you need it, as well as the slower more brassy speeds. There is also another limitation in the note range - the Minitaur only responds up to C5 (72). I am told by those who know, that because internally the control voltage is Hz/V. To add more octaves would have required significantly more power and required an internal PSU, making the whole thing bigger and therefore impacting on the cost. In the Taurus Pedals, going above C4 is pretty irrelevant.

Editor
Launching the down loadable software editor, brings a new dimension to the Minitaur. With all controls editable via the software and any moves on the front panel reflected in the software, the storing and recall of patches possible. Now I was wondering about how this affects the Analog nature of the controls. Well they are all 14-bit - meaning the resolution is 16383 steps - whilst also being possible to be used at 7-bit (128 steps). This means there’s no stepping on the unit.

Under the Hood
This section of the editor brings out more configuration than is possible via the units front panel. One specific feature is the Note Sync - this ensures VCO waves are re triggered at note on, avoiding those inconsistent front end of low, 2 Oscillator pulse lines you can get with other synths. Here you can also configure note priority, Legato and glide modes, pitch bend up and down range, keyboard tracking and velocity sensitivity (VCA and VCF) plus LFO sync and clock divide.

End
All in all, the Minitaur does sound like a pedigree instrument - you are getting the charisma of the Moog sound, whilst perhaps not a hugely flexible synthesizer. If you want more of that, then perhaps you’d be better off saving a couple hundred more and buying the Slim Phatty (see our review). But for that definite Moog sound and plenty of low end, the Minitaur is Moog’s most affordable synth to date.

 

Available Now (ish)

£499, $679, €649 Full retail prices

 

 

 


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20 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Simon Harris    Said...

Thanks Nick, would you say there is anything sonically that the Minitaur has in it's favor over the Slim Phatty? (apart from more knobs and the lower price). In other words, can the Phatty deliver everything that the Minitaur can and more?

16-Mar-12 09:27 AM


Nick B    Said...

Hi Simon, thats hard to be sure of, as the I dont have the SP anymore. Instinctively I would say yes I think it could, though you dont get the Note Sync feature

16-Mar-12 09:54 AM


Simon Harris    Said...

Thanks Nick, great review as always!

16-Mar-12 10:10 AM


Benedict Johnson    Said...

Excellent excellent excellent!

Nick, you da man (said in an extremely British accent)

Do you think its likely that there will ever be 14-bit midi in digital synths and software? As the whole world goes HD, midi grins a pixely, toothless grin..

16-Mar-12 11:32 AM


AlbertoG    Said...

Excellent review Nick, thank you!

16-Mar-12 11:42 AM


Ian Page-Echols    Said...

Wondering how sturdy this unit feels? When you did the extremely zoomed in shots of tweaking the knobs, they looked like they were moving around quite a bit. Was that just a function of close the shot was, or are the pots not that sturdy?

16-Mar-12 01:26 PM


JB    Said...

I'd assume Moog's response to the (limited) pitch range would be that it's designed and marketed as a bass synth.

16-Mar-12 01:31 PM


Nick B    Said...

No, they said that it was kind of a design limitation - the Hz/V scale would require a much beefier PSU to go any higher.

16-Mar-12 01:43 PM


Lonnie    Said...

Thanks a million, Nick. You are the best synth-reviewer in the world!

16-Mar-12 08:16 PM


EMwhite    Said...

A response to Simon Harris's question.

A few things: 1. Minitaur can affect Pitch and Filter Modulation simultaneously. (Phatty only has one Mod dest) 2. The OSCs have a heavier feel to them 3. not sonic, but functionally, the Minitaur has an audio level control (via CC) on the input audio (Phatty does not). 4. I believe that the OSCs on Phatty cannot detune a full octave in either direction (will need to double check that).

16-Mar-12 10:03 PM


   Said...

To Ian Page-Echols; it's sturdy alright. All pots are 'nutted' to the chassis which is all steel. Knobs have a soft feel but not overly so. Having said that, the Cutoff knob on mine had a but of a 'wobble', not within the component, I just think the knob wasn't on perfectly straight; seems the same here. very minor and interestingly, if you study the software closely, the knobs also wiggle a bit. To be clear they are rock sold, do not drift and have nice consistent feel to them.

16-Mar-12 10:05 PM


Santa    Said...

Can you make a video showcasing more sounds?

17-Mar-12 02:00 AM


Nick B    Said...

Hi Santa, I will try, but we have MESSE next week, and IU have to send it back.

18-Mar-12 10:28 AM


Brian from USA    Said...

Benedict Johnson Said..."Do you think its likely that there will ever be 14-bit midi in digital synths and software?"

It's been there for many years (read the MIDI spec for CCs between 0-63) but few vendors take advantage of it.

19-Mar-12 10:21 AM


Peter K.    Said...

Hey folks,

A few things... The filter in the Taurus is NOT based on the Minimoog, but more on the old modular systems apparently. So the characteristics between it, the Voyager and the Phatty will be a bit different. The OSC's in the Phatty can be detuned up to an octave either way, you just have to use the octave switches and then tune up or down accordingly.

I own a Tribute Phatty, a set of Taurus 3's, and a Voyager OS. I decided to replicate my favourite Taurus patch on all of them to see what I could find in regards to Simon Harris' question.

I was able to get VERY close with all of them. The T3 was the girthiest sound, the Voyager was second, and the Phatty was third. (I was only using two osc's on the Voyager).

EM White is absolutely correct when he (or she) states that the Taurus has a heavier feel. On the Moog forum, there has been much discussion about this. It seems to come down to the filter topography; it's done in such a way as to create a kind of note specific compression. I'd need to revisit the forums to get more specific information, but the conclusions were well vetted by Moog staff I believe. In this way, the T3's do seem tailored more for bass frequencies. Indeed, it takes a fair bit of work to try to get the other synths to get to the same place where the T3 naturally excels.

If you had to choose only one synth to get, I'd suggest getting a Voyager rack or a Slim Phatty as they will get you VERY close to the sound but offer much more (note range, presets, etc.) Don't forget that a lot of classic synth bass was done on the Mini as opposed to the original Taurus.

If you are a bass player who doubles on key bass - a very common thing to do with R&B bands these days - then I would fully suggest getting something like the Minitaur and a good quality midi controller. The T3's do sound incredible, and the Minitaur seems to be the same sound with a few key enhancements at 1/3 the price and 1/10 the weight.

Hope that helps people like Simon who are wondering about how they compare.

Have a great week everyone, and thank you Nick for the great review and for answering our questions in the unboxing video!

P.S. I created the same patches on my Mono/Poly and my Prophet '08. The Korg fared reasonably well. The Prophet sounded pretty wimpy until I hit the Unison button. Then we were definitely in the neighbourhood!

20-Mar-12 02:47 PM


Peter K.    Said...

Hey folks,

A few things... The filter in the Taurus is NOT based on the Minimoog, but more on the old modular systems apparently. So the characteristics between it, the Voyager and the Phatty will be a bit different. The OSC's in the Phatty can be detuned up to an octave either way, you just have to use the octave switches and then tune up or down accordingly.

I own a Tribute Phatty, a set of Taurus 3's, and a Voyager OS. I decided to replicate my favourite Taurus patch on all of them to see what I could find in regards to Simon Harris' question.

I was able to get VERY close with all of them. The T3 was the girthiest sound, the Voyager was second, and the Phatty was third. (I was only using two osc's on the Voyager).

EM White is absolutely correct when he (or she) states that the Taurus has a heavier feel. On the Moog forum, there has been much discussion about this. It seems to come down to the filter topography; it's done in such a way as to create a kind of note specific compression. I'd need to revisit the forums to get more specific information, but the conclusions were well vetted by Moog staff I believe. In this way, the T3's do seem tailored more for bass frequencies. Indeed, it takes a fair bit of work to try to get the other synths to get to the same place where the T3 naturally excels.

If you had to choose only one synth to get, I'd suggest getting a Voyager rack or a Slim Phatty as they will get you VERY close to the sound but offer much more (note range, presets, etc.) Don't forget that a lot of classic synth bass was done on the Mini as opposed to the original Taurus.

If you are a bass player who doubles on key bass - a very common thing to do with R&B bands these days - then I would fully suggest getting something like the Minitaur and a good quality midi controller. The T3's do sound incredible, and the Minitaur seems to be the same sound with a few key enhancements at 1/3 the price and 1/10 the weight.

Hope that helps people like Simon who are wondering about how they compare.

Have a great week everyone, and thank you Nick for the great review and for answering our questions in the unboxing video!

P.S. I created the same patches on my Mono/Poly and my Prophet '08. The Korg fared reasonably well. The Prophet sounded pretty wimpy until I hit the Unison button. Then we were definitely in the neighbourhood!

20-Mar-12 02:48 PM


Peter K.    Said...

Don't know why it posted my comment twice... weird. Sorry for the inconvenience!

20-Mar-12 03:03 PM


Voltor07    Said...

To Simon Harrris, The Minitaur's filter is much beefier than the Little/Slim Phatties. Other than that, the Phatties do sound great, but they lack the OOMPH that the Minitaur delivers. I have both, and use them for different things.

30-Mar-12 06:16 PM


Mike M    Said...

I noticed when you were reviewing the librarian software you had a patch named "pwmish." How were you able to make a pwm mock up on the Minitaur?

04-Apr-12 09:59 AM


Mike M    Said...

I noticed you had a patch named "pwmish." How were able to do this on the Minitaur and is it convincing?

04-Apr-12 10:00 AM


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