Hot dog purveyor Gray’s Papaya in New York is beloved for its “Recession Special”: two dogs and a drink. Their champagne is made from coconuts. And you don’t just scarf these down in bear markets; you enjoy them any time.

Dave Smith’s monophonic Mopho synth is perhaps the greatest recession special in the history of synthesis. It’s got the soul of a single voice from the Prophet ’08 analog synth, but with sub-octave generators, distortion that they claim ranges to “extreme skronk,” and the ability to process audio input. Interestingly, that means its “skronkiness” and input processing address some of the complaints I’ve heard from people who didn’t immediately take to the new Prophet. The whole, 7.5×5″ package, with the 100% analog signal path mono synth, the Curtis analog low-pass filter, and a Mac/Windows editor, costs just US$400 street.

And then there’s that mysterious “Push It” button.

If you want some hands-on experience, our friend Chris Randall of Analog Industries (and Audio Damage) just got his:
Honky Mopho

I’m about the last person to mention the Mopho (I was out of town when it launched), so I went to the good peoples of Dave Smith to get a little more information. DSI’s Andrew McGowan responds.

And yes, we get to hear something about the ever-mysterious upcoming Dave Smith – Roger Linn LinnDrum II, which this is not.

Peter: Why a “Push It” button? Is it assignable when you’re designing your own patches?

Andrew: The Push It button is a manual trigger. It can act just like a key (push it plays, release it stops) or it can latch on with one push and off with another. Because Mopho has a gated sequencer, that means the Push It button can also play or latch a sequence. There is also a trigger mode where pressing the Push It button (or a key) can step through a sequence, so it’s actually possible to play a simple melodic line without a keyboard. And that’s all configurable per program.

Peter: The signal path is basically the same as one voice on the Prophet 08, correct? Aside from the sub-octave generators, are there any other differences — subtle or otherwise — or is it best to think of this as a single voice from the Prophet in a box?

Andrew: The voice architecture is the same. The additions are the sub-octave generators and the feedback loop. The feedback loop is made possible by the Audio In, which is not present on the Prophet. Both of those things can give it a pretty distinctly different character from the Prophet.

Peter: Is 14-bit control possible in the MIDI implementation?

Andrew: It responds to double-byte NRPNs, as some of the parameters (filter cutoff, for example) have a range of more than 128 values.

The Mopho software editor. Click for full-sized version.

Peter: The audio input/filter capability — in which you can take any external audio input and run it through the Mopho — is unique to the Mopho? It’s not on the Prophet ’08?

Andrew: The Evolvers have audio inputs, but not the Prophet. It’s a little trickier on a polyphonic instrument. (The Poly Evolver skirts the issue somewhat because it’s essentially 4 Evolvers in a box.)

Peter: I see it’s made some trips out to some celebrity synth users. Anything to share from their experiences?

Andrew: From Felix Martin of Hot Chip: “We’re very proud to be the first official owners of the Mopho! It certainly is a powerful little box with a incredibly immediate, rich sound. The first time I got it hooked up and run through a big PA, I cranked up the Sub Oscillators and they sound absolutely amazing – gives Joe’s Voyager a run for its money! I have already programmed some sounds and sequences which I will be running for the first time tonight in Dallas, will send over a photo of it in my little machine world once it is fully integrated. I hope it’s a success and that it finally convinces people to stop paying hundreds of $s for bashed up tb303s.

“I really do like this little machine, it’s a great thing to have on the tour bus and on stage as well.”

Andrew Everding from the band Thursday also wrote to say he had already used it on their new album. As far as I know, he’s the first one into a studio with a Mopho.

Peter: Will we see any of the spirit of the Mopho in the upcoming LinnDrum II? Now that the Mopho is out the door, does that mean DSI’s attention turns to the LinnDrum while the rest of us (ahem) sit in eager anticipation?

Andrew: Well, the attention never really turns away from the LinnDrum II. Dave worked on both the Prophet ’08 Module and Mopho during those times when Roger was working on aspects that required less of Dave’s time. I’ve known Dave for nearly 30 years, and he’s not really one to remain idle for long. He’s always working on something. The LinnDrum II will have the analog voices and processing and will use the Curtis chips that we use in our other products. I’m not really at liberty to say much more than that right now. It’s gone through some pretty major changes and I think it’ll definitely be worth the wait. I’d like to get my hands on one, too!

(More videos)