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Thursday, January 18th, 2018 01:40 pm

Synth Glossary

PWM:
Pulse Code Modulation is the ability to modulate the pulse width in a square/pulse wave. (NB: A pulse wave is a square wave with 50% pulse width)...

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Prodigy
"The Prodigy is what Moog personnel came to know as the "bootleg Moog." Designers [Rich] Walborn and [Tony] Marchese concocted the Prodigy on the quiet They wanted to see if they could build a '$500 Moog,' and they did just that. They simply dumped it on the marketing division weeks before the Winter NAMM show and said, 'Here it is, give it a name.' To the Moog marketing team's eternal credit, they scraped themselves off the floor and did just that.

"This clean-lined synth offers two oscillators and limited but high-quality filter and modulation controls [with a 2 1/2-octave, 32-note (F-C) keyboard].... Prodigy was Moog's biggest seller next to the Minimoog.

"Both oscillators have a switchable choice of sawtooth, triangle or pulse (narrow on osc 1, square on osc 2) waveforms, and they can be pitched within a two-octave range. Osc 1 calibrates this as 32' to 8' and osc 2 from 16' to 4'. An interval knob can split the voices up to a fifth apart, and a sync switch smartly lashes them back together again for those searing, forced tones that remain de rigeur in the Jan Hammer school of lead synth playing. A small mixing panel offers independent control over the level of each oscillator, plus a master volume.

"At the time, Moog made much of its 'heated chip' technology -- not a culinary term, but a method by which Moog hoped to cure the perennial problem of oscillators drifting out of tune. But the Prodigy made only a negligible improvement in this regard, and prospective purchasers are wise to leave an instrument on for a while to see how well it performs.

"The 24dB/oct lowpass filter features standard cutoff frequency and resonance (Moog persisted in calling this 'emphasis') controls and a slightly limiting ADS envelope generator. [There is a separate ADS envelope generator for each of the VCF and the VCA.] The filter can track the keyboard (fully, half on or off) and is good for self- oscillating, whistly ghostly noises. Modulation is limited, with a square- and sine wave- only LFO capable of modulating either or both of the VCO and VCF.

"There's a lot more Walborn and Marchese could have put on, of course, but that's not the point here. They were designing to a very tight, albeit selfimposed, financial brief, and the spinoff benefit is that no one gets frightened or bamboozled with sample-and- hold or a squillion modulation sources and destinations on a Prodigy.

"The basic sound of a Moog synthesizer is still here, not classically so, and not particularly flexibly so, but with portamento and a pair of stiffish mod and pitch wheels (which I trust will have eased up a bit on most models by now), you can crank out some nice squelchy bass lines and more. The oscillator hard-sync sounds work particularly well.

"Encased in wood [maple], the unit's basic construction was of good quality, which means they stand a chance of survival. Some of the panel hardware was of less sturdy stuff, so some knobs and switches might need to be replaced." [Earlier models had no external control inputs. Later models have CV/S-trigger inputs and outputs, as well as inputs for pitch, VCF and sync control.]

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