Moog Music recently introduced the Minitaur Revolution 2 – an updated version of their analog bass synthesizer module, with new firmware that introduces some significant new features.
The Minitaur Revolution 2 is a deep synth out of the box – delivering classic Taurus-style sounds. And it just gets deeper as you dig into it, offering interesting control voltage modulation options, extensive MIDI options and more.
What is the Moog Minitaur?
Here’s how Moog describes the Minitaur:
Minitaur is a powerful, compact Analog Bass Synthesizer that features a classic one knob per function design. It is the first instrument in the Taurus family that does not have foot pedals. At only 8.5″ x 5.25″ and less than 3lbs, the Minitaur puts legendary analog Moog bass into a package designed to fit seamlessly into today’s performance and production environments.
Two key things to note:
- It’s a bass synth in the Taurus family. Expect it to deliver the bass, not the soprano (It plays notes C5 and lower). And expect it to deliver the classic Moog bass synth sounds heard on so many recordings of the 70’s – not 80’s FM sounds or digital bass sounds.
- It’s designed for modern production and performance environments. So it dispenses with pedals, which few keyboardists are used to playing, and assumes that you will control it via MIDI, computer or control voltages.
The Moog Minitaur retails for about $600. Does it deliver $600 of synth action? Let’s check it out……
The Moog Minitaur Is A Deep Synth, And It Just Gets Deeper
We called the Minitaur a deep synth – and it is.
As soon as you plug in a keyboard and start playing the Minitaur, it unleashes a firehose of classic bass sounds. It’s deep sonically – but also deep in the sense that it taps into close to 50 years of electronic music history.
Elements of the Minitaur’s design can be traced all the way back to Moog’s original 60’s modulars. So, as you tweak the knobs on the Minitaur, you may hear echoes of the sounds of Wendy Carlos, Tangerine Dream, Stevie Wonder, ELP, Giorgio Moroder, Genesis, P-Funk and others.
Key Features Of The Minitaur:
- One knob per function interface
- Two oscillators with Sawtooth (Original Taurus) and Square wave-shapes for each VCO.
- 2 Mixer VCAs for VCO levels control of Oscillators 1 and 2.
- Moog Ladder Filter with adjustable resonance, in the style of the Taurus 1 and 3.
- Two Minimoog style ADSR Envelope Generators for modulating VCF and VCA. The Decay and Release segments are controlled by the Decay knob, while the Release segment is enabled or disabled via Release On/Off switch.
- Midi-syncable LFO with Controls for Rate, VCO LFO Amount, and VCF LFO Amount
- DIN MIDI and MIDI over USB offer complete control of the Minitaur’s sound engine.
- Analog Control inputs for Pitch, Filter, Volume and Gate.
- External audio input for processing external audio through the Mixer and Filter section of Minitaur.
- Headphone output with 1/8″ connection.
- Steel chassis
The Moog Minitaur Hardware
It’s clear that a lot of thought went into creating the Minitaur. The Minitaur has a concise design, focused on the elements used for analog bass sounds. It’s compact, but also feels extremely solid, with a steel case and rugged knobs and switches.
The front is laid out clearly, with a knob for all the main features, so the Minitaur is immediately tweakable. Here’s a summary of the front panel controls:
- VCO2 Frequency
- Oscillator 1 & 2 Saw/Square Waveform Selector – Selects a Sawtooth wave (LED OFF) or Square wave (LED ON) Signal for VCO1 and 2.
- VCO1 Level
- VCO2 Level
- VCF Cutoff
- VCF Resonance
- VCF EG Amount – Bi-polar control sets the (+) or (-) amount of Envelope Generator modulation of the VCF.
- LFO Rate – Range is from 0.01Hz to 100Hz
- LFO VCO Amount
- LFO VCF Amount
- VCA EG Attack – Sets the attack Time of a Minimoog-Style ADSR Envelope Generator used to modulate the VCA. Time ranges from 1 msec to 30 seconds.
- VCA EG Decay/Release – The Release segment of the EG is enabled by the Release On/Off switch.
- VCA EG Sustain
- VCF EG Attack -Sets the attack Time of a Minimoog-Style ADSR Envelope Generator used to modulate the VCF. Time ranges from 1 msec to 30 seconds.
- VCF EG Decay/Release -The Release segment of the EG is enabled by the Release On/Off switch.
- VCF EG Sustain
- Release On/Off Switch – Enables (LED On or Disables (LED Off) the Release segments of both Envelope Generators.
- Glide On/Off Switch
- Glide – Sets the rate of Glide
- Fine Tune
- MIDI Indicator LED – Indicates incoming MIDI activity
- LFO Rate Indicator LED
When you look at the list of functions that are packed into the front panel, it’s impressive that Moog was able to do this while also maintaining a very clear layout and large, old-school knobs.
Around the back, the Minitaur is equally clearly laid out:
Back Panel Connections:
- Headphones – Jack for stereo headphone output.
- Audio Out – 1/4″ Unbalanced jack.
- Audio In – 1/4″ Unbalanced jack accepts line-level input.
- Analog CV Inputs:
- Pitch CV – 1/4″ TRS Jack accepts 0 to +5V signal (internally processed for 1 V/Octave) via passive Expression Pedals or CVs.
- Filter CV – 1/4″ TRS Jack accepts 0 to +5Vsignal via passive Expression Pedals or CVs.
- Volume CV – 1/4″ TRS Jack accepts 0 to +5Vsignal via passive Expression Pedals or CVs.
- Gate – 1/4″ Jack accepts a 0 (Off)/ +5V(On) Gate signal to trigger the unit’s EGs.
- MIDI (DIN) – Standard DIN MIDI input for MIDI Control of the MINITAUR
- MIDI (USB) – Type B USB connector for connecting MINITAUR to host for USB MIDI.
Again, it’s a very concise and compact design that still packs in connectivity for audio in, traditional MIDI, USB MIDI and control voltage connectivity.
The Moog Minitaur As A MIDI Synth
Most users will start off by plugging a keyboard into the Minitaur and using it as a synth module.
We did just that – testing it out by sequencing it and playing it via hardware MIDI:
All sounds, except for the percussion, come from several passes with the Minitaur, including the three basslines, the mid-range synth parts and the high-pitched ‘burbles’.
We expected the Minitaur to work well as a MIDI synth, but were equally impressed by how well it fits into a control voltage studio.
The Moog Minitaur As A Control Voltage Synth
Next up, we tested the Minitaur in a control voltage setup – sequencing it using a traditional Moog style step sequencer (a Synthesizers.com Q960).
Here’s an example, with a single pass of live tweaking in a Berlin-school style context. In this video, the Electribe is only being used to create triggers, via a MIDI-CV convertor, to step the sequencer:
The Minitaur fits into the CV world beautifully, becoming a very cost-effective element in a modular synth. The key functions of the Minitaur – a slew generator, 2 oscillators, a mixer, a VCF & 2 envelopes – would cost twice as much if purchased as individual modules.
If Moog would put the Minitaur behind 5U and Euro panels, it would make a great starter module. While you’re limited to the four control inputs available on the back panel, the Minitaur’s firmware lets you re-map the inputs, so you can use them to control just about anything. More on this below.
It Gets Deeper
We’ve looked at the Minitaur as a synth module and as a part of a control voltage setup. Either way you connect to it, it’s a deep little synth.
It gets deeper, though. The ‘Revolution 2’ firmware update adds a bunch of new features, many of which let the Minitaur be used in a more modular or experimental way.
Here’s what’s added with Rev 2:
- Store up to 100 presets
- A new Decay/Release mode allows for independent control of Decay and Release times from Minitaur’s front panel.
- The Pitch, Volume and Gate Controller inputs can be re-mapped to other control parameters.
- The Minitaur can now act as a CV to MIDI converter – so you can do things like have a modular synth control software running on your computer.
Here’s Moog’s overview of the Rev 2 firmware features:
To take advantage of many of these options, you need to use the Minitaur REV 2 Editor/Librarian. Getting started with the editor is easy, because the UI mirrors the hardware exactly:
Moog’s also made it easy to take advantage of deeper features in the firmware, like mapping the hardware control voltage inputs to various destinations:
It’s great that Moog was able to add this much capability to existing hardware. Some of these new capabilities, like control voltage mapping and CV-to-MIDI conversion, aren’t going to get every day use by most owners. But it’s great that the Rev 2 Minitaur offers that depth, for users to grow into or for users that have more esoteric requirements to begin with.
The one downside to the Rev 2 capabilities is that they venture beyond the one-knob-per-feature hardware interface of the Minitaur. For example, you can save up to 100 presets via the software, but there’s no LED or display on the Minitaur to let you know which patch you have selected.
Minitaur Audio Demos
Here are some audio demos for the Moog Minitaur:
The Minitaur is Moog’s most affordable hardware synth, yet it’s thoughtfully designed, solidly constructed and surprisingly deep. Whether you want to use it with MIDI hardware, as part of a modular setup or with music software, the Minitaur is a capable and great sounding synthesizer.
- The Moog Minitaur is a firehose of analog bass synth sounds that taps into nearly 50 years of synth history
- It’s not just deep sonically, but it has a deep set of features that make it an unusually flexible synth
- The hardware is immediate – generally offering one-knob-per-function
- The design intelligently balances capabilities vs costs to deliver a lot of bang for the buck
- Some features are only available via the Editor, breaking the one-knob-per-function paradigm
- The Minitaur’s focus is classic analog bass sounds, so it’s not the best choice if you need a general ‘all-in-one’ synth module.
See the Moog Music site for full details.
If you’ve used the Moog Minitaur Rev 2, let us know what you think of it!