Think you know everything about Moog’s new synth? Think again: surprises like a version that could sell for as little as US$1000 are just the kind of surprises we like to hear. CDM’s Lee Sherman has known some of these details for a while but couldn’t tell any of us (even here at CDM); now he brings us this exclusive report.

Moog Music officially confirmed the existence of its new budget synth last week but there’s much more to the story than the official specs reveal. First up the name. Dashing the hopes of many on the official Moog forum, who in a bit of wishful thinking actually came up with their own name, the “Orbiter”; Moog insists it is indeed the “Little Phatty.” Love it, or more likely hate it, the blame rests with long-time Bob Moog associate Steve Dunnington. The name comes from the initial concept for the synth. Moog briefly flirted with creating a classic synth with no memory for presets that would be marketed with a campaign suggesting musicians “roll their own.” Hence, the Little Phatty.

Fortunately, the synth itself is far more impressive than that name would imply. Along with one of the most gorgeous designs ever to grace a synthesizer, the synth features a simplified panel layout and an innovative control implementation designed by engineer Cyril Lance. The goal was to limit the need to access the menu system when editing or tweaking sounds, placing the emphasis squarely on real-time control.

The implementation, reminiscent of recent Nord synths, offers a single knob for each section (Modulation, Oscillators, Filter, and Envelopes) ringed by a set of LEDs that approximate the value of the parameter stored in memory. Unlike with the Nord however, these controls are still analog. Turn the knob and the analog control signal gets switched so that it directly controls that parameter. I’d love to see a similar implementation on a future Voyager (which currently uses the LCD to indicate stored and actual values) but it would probably be prohibitively expensive due the plethora of knobs so, for now at least, Little Phatty owners get something that Voyager owners don’t.

Little Phatty will ship in two editions, 1200 of the “Tribute” edition will be made and sold at a cost of US$1500. The Tribute edition has wooden cheeks, a facsimile of Bob’s signature on it, and will come with a booklet with stories about Bob and a CD-ROM with video from Bob’s memorial. Moog says the tribute will ship at the end of May. A second edition, the”Stage,” will have plastic sides and a different color scheme to the LEDs. The best part is that Moog is hoping to get the price down to much closer to a street price of US$1,000. At 20 pounds, and smaller in overall dimensions, Little Phatty is more gig-worthy than the Voyager and the lower price means you’ll be less likely to worry about some drunk spilling beer on your precious synth.

Moog says the Little Phatty is the culmination of Bob’s dream to bring a budget mono analog synth to market with the same sound quality as the acclaimed Voyager. His sound engine is still at the core and work started on the synth long before Bob’s illness. However, much of the credit must go to Bob’s hand-picked replacement Lance, who has picked up the ball and run with it, delivering an instrument with the kind of quality and user experience that Moog has always been known for. I’ll probably be plastering a Moog sticker over the “Little Phatty” nameplate but I still can’t wait to get my hands on one.

For more insight into this synth, here are some thoughts from CDM contributor and Retro Thing editor James Grahame. James talked to Moog Music about how this instrument came to be:

A Magnificent New Moog Synthesizer


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Moog Music Little Phatty Product Page [Taking orders now; shipping summer]