MAN CAVE, or a grotesque of mid life crisis
MOOG Voyager Rack: Destination ‘so the fuck what?’
There was once MOOG and a few rivals. Good times, when the distinctions were plain to hear. Since then there have been clones and tributes and emulations, and the MOOG sound has been replicated by just about anyone that makes software or hardware. It may be unfair, but if you want that sound you now have plenty of places you can get it.
The company is now in a bad place – if it stays put, it gets drowned in clones – if it moves forward then the GearSlutz start howling about authenticity. They howled that the Voyager is not nearly as good as the Model D – except that Gordon Wood at Sound On Sound, somebody far more expert than the whole of GS put in a barrel – put the two next to each other and found diddly-squat difference. The Voyager can do the Model D no problem.
But the Model D rises in value as collectors prevent them from being used to make music. The Voyager, like all the newer MOOG toys has lost value – to the point where this rack unit came to me in an auction which started low and still got no bids. MOOG? Fuck it, why not, let’s have a go at it. Some things are born flea – others have fleaness thrust upon them.
The distinctive sound is now so oversupplied that my first hours where spent desperately trying for anything but. The comparison with the Juno 6 is instructive. Both are analogue, but the Juno immediately announces a distinctive playful flavour. It can’t help being a fruity drop. The Voyager dare I say, seems a bit dull?
Once I figured out the menus (if you have menus - there's an old school version for pedantic masochists), there was a lot more to see. Firstly, the two filters can be changed to 1,2 or 4 pole. That and the way they can be spread apart in frequency adds a great deal to the old beast, let alone switching to a new bandpass mode. The filter’s not just making the tone more sullen, now it can be throaty or hollow.
The individual output from the filters make the left and right signals. But the best result is in their collaboration, so I tend to run it in mono.
Also deep in the menus is an elaborate patching matrix, which is how for example you patch the LFO to control the filter spread. There’s two patching chains, one of which is always contingent on a mod wheel – which is stupid. Yes, good for performance, but not so good for when you’re making silly noises. You can make the headphone level knob control this instead – I guess that might work. Anyway, sending Osc3 to wobble the filter frequency does all you might hope. But before I could get too far into this - there was a problem.
Cat Howling, and updated Cat Howling.
When I first started programming, the numbers didn’t match the reality. OK, so this is “authentic analogue” I guessed, although it’s not the first programmable analogue I’ve used. It soon become clear that something was way wrong.
So I finally took the back cover off and located the 9 trim pots that tune the three oscillators. As suspected, they were seriously, cat howlingly out of tune. The manual says send it back to the USA and I said that was a terrible idea. Instead I got a guide from The Internet which was nearly correct, but still enough wrong enough to make the whole business a complete nightmare (e.g. showing the same diagram for both Oscillator 2 and 3 – how do you make that kind of mistake?).
Months after this humiliation, and hating the Moog, I went back in, tossing the guide to one side. For each oscillator there are two multiple turn trim pots and a bigger single turn trim. Start with the multi furthest away from the big one. That's your over all tuning, so match that with your played note. The closer multi is the one that deals with the octaves. Switch the octaves up and down, turning this until the same note is heard on every octave. Now use the big single to scale over the keyboard. You need to cycle through this multiple times, and then holey-moley it's a whole new instrument!
I still find myself struggling to fit this into a mix. It's either dominating everything or petulantly clouding the background. As in when you remove it the whole sound seems to clear up. Quite prepared to admit it may be a fault of mine, but still, not a win for me.
It’s a MOOG. It yam what it yam.
Note: since writing this the Voyager has been discontinued and the price has immediately risen. We only want that which we cannot have.
THIS TOY IS EASY TO USE EXCEPT FOR THE MENUS
IT MAKES ANALOGUE BWOOP SOUNDS
THE SOUND QUALITY IS GOOD BUT OUT OF TUNE
IT WAS EXPENSIVE AND IS COMMON
ITS RATING IS GOOD BUT OVER RATED
It was either this or a red car and I think I chose wisely.