Sunday, November 23, 2008

Moog Little Phatty

As a first review, this great analog synthesizer from Moog Music... hi-res pics, original audio examples and useful links....

The Little Phatty is an analogue monophonic synth with 2 oscillators and the classic Moog filter.
I won’t get into the detailed specifications, but let’s just say that all the usual basic functions are there, plus the very useful Overload knob, that helps you create a most musical and warm overdrive.

hi-res photo 1

hi-res photo 2

hi-res photo 3

It’s a 100% analog signal path, but you get some of the comfort a 2008 keyboardist might expect : MIDI and patch storage obviously (it was before Moog Music got into the unhealthy retro fetishism that produced the Voyager Old School), but also a very useful auto-calibration routine.

So… what about it?
It’s a superb instrument for sure. First, it’s a nice, solid piece of gear, with a lovely design. That may be kinda anecdotal, but that’s one point where hardware is superior to software as far as I’m concerned. Just watching that Moog thing makes me want to play it and create something and I very rarely get that feeling watching my switched-off computer. But more importantly, it sounds great. Interestingly, the oscillator section allows you to move in a continuous fashion from waveform to waveform, instead of switching from a fixed one to the other. The filter is the classic low-pass 24db that defines the Moog sound, but as a good surprise, it can be set in the OS menu to 1, 2, 3 or 4 poles. Note also that external audio can be fed into the Little Phatty, which is a very smart move. Just plug your digital drum machine on the synth input, put the oscillators' volume to zero and your dull lifeless beat magically transforms into groovy vintage perfection (okay, maybe not, but it's an effective trick in a lot of cases!). Sure, it ain’t the most versatile synth on the market. It’s a monophonic all right, suited for huge basses and soaring leads, but you won’t get the variety of sounds of the more expansive Minimoog neither... Nonetheless, the Little Phatty stands as a very useful addition to any studio, especially a computer-based one.

I won’t indulge here into the current analogue fixation. After all, you can produce absolute crap with the finest analogue gear (I’m not about naming names, I’m a gentle person, but as I write this I’m thinking about the solo album of a guy whose first name is Roger and who has a band that ends in Cookbook) and I love digital sounds as well. I’m also one of those who find tiresome the blind zealotry of a lot of people on all things Moog. Mind you, there were other great manufacturers in the past, and other visionaries (what about Thomas Oberheim, Dave Smith, Vogel&Ryrie, Mario Maggi, and the obscure people behind such CS80s or PS-3100s...). I love the Little Phatty, I would sure love a Minimoog Voyager if I could afford it, but on the other hand, let’s face it, the innovative days of Moog hark back to the 70’s (no, a MIDI-less, patch-less Minimoog replica ISN’T innovative, or else I’m really confused about the definition of common words like INNOVATION) and the cult of personality, may it be the good Dr Moog, isn’t my thing either.

All that said, there’s something about a real analogue instrument that can’t be emulated easily… not every sound needs to be FAT (oh yeah, I’m also dead tired about FATNESS), but there’s something about the depth, warmth and musicality of a true analogue mono synth that makes wonders in an otherwise digital mix. Layering lead sounds is magical and just adding a Little Phatty bass line can alter dramatically a song, giving it a lot more weight without being overwhelming.

In conclusion, the Little Phatty may be something of a luxury. After all, you can get a Prophet 08 rack for approximately the same price, that is, 8 voices of analogue sweetness, but what you wouldn't get... is a Moog! It's truly something to switch the bastard on and automatically get that magical Moog tone. That's why the synth is worth every cent if you’re wanting to add the unmistakable Moog flavor in your mixes.




Useful links

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