Introduction to Analogue Electronic Synthesizer: Moog Voyager Old School (OS)

by Dylan Walmsley

Launched in 2008, the Moog Voyager Old School is probably the only modern commercially available synthesizer comparable to the Minimoog and Model D of the 1970s. Taking the “Old School” name to heart, the Voyager OS offers a completely analogue circuit path from its keyboard input to oscillator to output.

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Some highlights of the synthesizer include:

• 3 Independent Voltage-Controlled Oscillators + 1 Noise Generator

o Controls include:

• Octave: Frequency Range for the Oscillator

• Frequency (Oscillators 2 / 3): +/- 7 semitones in comparison to Oscillator 1

• Wave Shape: Continuously variable waveform per oscillator. Ranging from Triangular – Saw-tooth – Square – Narrow Rectangular

o Glide (Glissandi) and Release are selectable via On / Off switch

o Glissandi Rate and Fine Tuning of the entire synthesizer are also available for adjustment

•  2 Assignable Modulation Buses:

o Source

• Dictates input source for the modulator

o Destination

• Dictates output to be modulated

o Controller

• Means by which modulation is applied, e.g. Mod Wheel, Velocity, Pressure (Aftertouch) Pressure, Envelopes, etc.

o Amount

• Continuously variable modulation amount

• LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator)

o Continuously variable LFO (0.2 – 50 Hz) with selectable waveforms

• Triangle

• Square

• Sample and Hold

• Smoothed Sample and Hold

o Visual feedback on LFO rate via a single red LED light on the main panel

• Mixer:

o Relative Volume Levels for all 3 oscillators, noise generator, as well as external audio source (1/4” jack)

• Filter:

o Selection of either 2 Dual Moog Resonant-Low Pass Ladder filters vs. Low Pass / High Pass Filters with various controls

• Cut-Off: Selects sweep-able center frequency of the filter(s)

• Spacing: The spacing between filters, +/- 3 octaves

• Resonance: Resonance amount of the filter (0 is pure lowpass)

• KB Amount: How much filters open / close as other keys are pressed

• Envelopes

o ADSR envelopes for both note volumes and filter

• Filter Envelope also has Amount to Filter parameter controlling the amount the filter will open or close

• Outputs

o Both Master (L+R) and Headphone output volumes

Also included is CV (Control Voltage) input for a variety of sources, allowing other CV devices to modulate parameters of the Voyager (somewhat similar in concept to MIDI control messages).

One of the strengths of Voyager OS is its hands-on accessibility, with all parameters at the user’s immediate disposal (compared to menus on software-supported synths). This comes at the expense of being able to instantly recall settings, so users should take special care to make note of settings that they wish to re-use in the future.

Some Tips on Making Interesting Sounds:

• Percussive

o Generally only use the noise generator and apply aggressive filtering with sharp, short envelopes. Usually, offsetting the filter and volume envelopes will give a good result.

• Complex Tones

o Various setting with the oscillators can lead to different effects.

• The 3-1 FM switch turns Oscillator 3 into a FM modulating wave targeting Oscillator 1.

• The 1-2 Sync switch will synchronize the periodicity of Oscillators 1 & 2

• The 3 Freq switch enables Oscillator 3 to be used as a second, independent LFO

• Personal Preferences:

o  I enjoy mapping modulation busses to either Pressure or Velocity, as it lets you instinctually “play in” your modulation, rather than focussing on running the Mod Wheel. That said, for sustained tones that will be modulated over greater times, the Mod Wheel remains highly convenient and intuitive.

o Using 1-2 Sync in combination with 3-1 FM and oscillators 1& 2 in low registers (e.g. 16’ triange & 32’ square waves respectively) with a slowly building filter (via the Filter’s independent Envelope controls) gives a thick, interesting and almost horn-like bass tone, especially in lower registers.

o One of the easiest ways to get dramatic, almost “out of control” sounding effects out of simply using the Modulation busses include partnering Filter and Wave destinations with a high-rate LFO controlling them. Make note of the variable AMOUNT parameter.

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Author: dndrew

Orchestral, chamber and interactive music composer Digital musical instrumentalist Real-time software systems designer Computer music educator

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