These first few decades of the 21st century have seen some of the most groundbreaking pieces of music technology, including a range of new analog modular synths. The legendary Moog Music itself has evolved, returning to modular synth design even as it moves into the future, with pieces of semi-modular kit like the Mother 32 and the DFAM drum machine. The company also recently manufactured 40 new units of its Moog Synthesizer IIIp, a gorgeous analog machine released in 1969 and used by the likes of pioneering synthesis master Wendy Carlos, experimental musician Isao Tomita, Giorgio Morodor, and even The Beatles. Given that it cost $7,985 back then, the new price is kind of a bargain: $35,000.
In late May, the Asheville, North Carolina-based company released its latest—and most accessible—semi-modular analog synth yet, the Grandmother. Inspired by the Mother 32, but also by the circuitry of Moog’s massive vintage modular systems, it offers users the option to use patch cables and separate specialized sound modules.
But the $999 Grandmother is different from those other systems: It doesn’t require users to use any external patches. That makes it a breeze even for synth novices to quickly whip together some notes, program sequences, and tweak knobs and create instantly colorful soundscapes—which can, of course, then be made even more colorful and complex by patching its various modules together.
As for its looks, several of the modules are are demarcated by colorful designs that harken back to the look of Moog’s 1970s and 1980s products, like the Rogue and Realistic MG-1 keyboard synthesizers. The…