Wednesday, October 21st, 2020 08:20 pm
"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
"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
"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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