At the dawn of the 1980s, anyone could buy a Moog-manufactured synth for $500 – at their local Radio Shack. And now you can add this distinctive synth for free.

Cherry Audio have made their MG-1 version – with modern additions – free as software. That seems a nice gift to the world of synth lovers in some dark times.

The Realistic Concertmate MG-1 for a long time suffered from the reputation of being, well, cheap. Now, mind you, a 1983 price of US$499.95 is $1300 in modern dollars – which now buys you a lot of genuine Moog, in fact.

Check out this hands-on from the series OddityArchive:

But I think the MG-1’s simplified design actually looks more at home in 2020 than it did when it was released. (Well, the fact that people know what synths are doesn’t hurt, either.)

It’s got its own, particular analog tone, with all the bells and whistles – well, almost literally. There’s a section called bell tone (a friendly way of telling musicians what “ring modulation” is about). There’s even clever divide-down polyphony, which is not unlike what we just saw on the new Moog Subharmonicon. And there’s a friendly, color-coded section with just the right complement of stuff to play around quickly and do something funky, fat, and fresh.

It is a cute, cool little instrument. And its designer, Paul Schreiber, then at (Radio Shack’s parent) Tandy, has gone on to have a big impact on a new generation of synthesis, thanks to his role with MOTM and Synthesis Technology. (Darwin Grosse spoke to Schreiber a couple of years back; see Synthtopia.) Also a nod to the late David Luce, creator of the Polymoog and president of Moog in the early 80s as the MG-1 and Rogue were born. Luce’s vision looks also somehow ahead of its time. (Also see Synthtopia for his 2017 obituary. Thanks, David – I am doubly aware of your contributions, as a synth user and as an ophthalmic patient.)

The MG-1 has gone from $25 to free right at a time when I know a lot of us are mindful of essential bills. But it’s no low-quality hand-me-down – it’s up to Cherry’s usual quality and accuracy.

And that should also make a good gateway to people investing in other instruments in the future – or for those of you who have tons of toys and want something a little different, or even a little simple and focused, for the moment.

Details from Cherry:

The MG-1, re-imagined by Cherry Audio. Click to embiggen. Heh, I do kind of want this particular one in the flesh; it’s just so cute.
  • Ultra-accurate analog modeling 
  • Dual oscillator monophonic plus polyphonic oscillator bank
  • Super fat 24db “ladder” filter
  • Over 130 presets
  • “Bell tone” ring modulation
  • Tempo syncable LFO
  • Expanded octave ranges
  • Multiple note priority modes including legato and retrigger 
  • All controls MIDI assignable
  • Full DAW automation of all controls

Surrealistic MG-1 Plus is available in AU, VST, VST3, AAX, and standalone formats.