Behind The Scenes With Moog’s New Emerson Modular System

At Moogfest 2014, Moog Music introduced the Emerson Modular System – a reissue of Keith Emerson‘s iconic Moog Modular system.

We got a sneak preview of the Emerson Modular System while we were there, and had the opportunity to talk with:

  • Moog modular specialist Gene Stopp, who recreated Emerson’s Moog with the help of Moog engineers; and
  • Author Gordon Reid (Synth Secrets), who came to do an article on the new modular for Sound On Sound and ended up doing some unofficial ‘beta testing’ of the new system.

This isn’t a ‘glossy’ product overview video, but a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges involved in recreating a 40-year old design and some of the reasoning behind taking on a project of this scope.

We also put Gordon on the spot for some unplanned dual Emerson modular action, and we all decided that having two Emerson Modular Systems to play was a good thing!

See our post on the Emerson Modular System introduction for more info and also the Moog Music site.

29 thoughts on “Behind The Scenes With Moog’s New Emerson Modular System

  1. Even though this modular synth looks impressive and monstrous, not sure why someone would want to buy a recreation of someone’s exact sound?

    Not sure where they are going to put it in their houses, unless they dedicate a room for it, and not sure they would want to look like someone else on stage.

    What’s next the Deadmau5 edition modular rack devices?

    I love Moog, but this seems a little bit eccentric and a bit costly for even the biggest gear head.

    1. “not sure why someone would want to buy a recreation of someone’s exact sound”

      Looks like you don’t understand modular synthesis and didn’t watch the video, too, because Reid talks about that.

      In the video, Stopp mentions that they’re doing this because they can, and that, if they are going to do this, they need to do it while they can still get parts.

    2. I agree, and im sorry but someones got to say it. Regardless of its ludicrous size and likely price tag. In this day and age, this thing is garish and is as out of touch with the real world as is owning a gold plated, diamond studded mobile phone or a handbag worth 50k. Its not manufactured with your average joe in mind. Its targeted for elite and wealthy individuals or rich musicians who are too old to do anything decent with it. The modular is an engineered, functional device. It is not art

      1. ‘It is not art’
        Your right it’s an extremely versatile tool for creating art with. More the electronic musicians fine colour palette.

        1. Thats debatable. A paintbrush is also a tool for creating art. But you wouldnt buy one that is the size of a room or costs more than 5 family cars. The emerson modular is versatile, as long as you want all your sounds to sound like they came from an emerson modular. At the end of the day, Moog themselves cannot justify it. Stopp says theyre doing it “because they can”. The maker of the $5000 “because i can badge” (a worthless pin badge sold for 5k to people with too much money) took this ethos to the next level.

  2. It’s amazing to me that we live in a time where you can get a new Emerson style Moog modular, you can get a new Oberheim two voice, you can get a new Korg MS 20, and you can get soon a new Arp Odyssey.

    My problem is money!.

      1. With the prices of hardware devices drastically because of all the recent competition in the market place.

        The Emerson Reproduction Setup just doesn’t fit in, but your other mentions are actually attainable for the sane individual.

  3. This is “eccentric and a bit costly” – but so is a Buchla system or a Modcan system or other big modular rigs.

    I read somewhere that Moog only has parts to make a handful of these – so they aren’t doing this because they expect to sell a lot of modular systems. Like Gene says in the video, he did it because they could and because they wanted to be able to create spare modules for systems like Emerson’s. If they can sell a few systems, that’s gravy.

    1. Honestly, I’d be surprised if they even sell one.

      Maybe they can sell one to someone who has too much money and wants to collect things that will probably go up in value.

      Sounds more like the stock market in a artistic field, kind of like buying a painting, later to be worth millions.

      It all comes down to the fact they can show them off to their friends, family and onlookers like you. But stay behind the red rope and golden poles and don’t forget to buy your ticket.

      Real musicians who can afford something like that, probably has already build their own behemoth modular rack wall or plans to design their own.

    1. You can get analog devices below $99 now a days.

      Some companies need to wake up before the boat passes them by.

      Times have changed for the mass market, but the eccentric elitists seem to be in their own world.

  4. Its a fascinating turn of events, but its hard to imagine that there are more than a handful who could afford AND USE one of these. We barely have time to configure a DAW, much less labor over a huge modular as if we had Renaissance-era time to devote. Its a fine job of polishing history, but I personally itch a little at these events, because my first thought is usually “Is this thing going to get even a tenth of the use its capabilities suggest?” My early Moogs helped shape me as a player and Bob’s great attitude had a large part in that. I simply hope that someone who is burning to really play it ends up as one of the owners of the run. Its too complex to take on casually and its too worthy to merely possess for its own sake. And yeah, I’m one of those guys who got a synth-boner when I saw the silkscreened Brain Salad Surgery logo up top. 😀

  5. You know these will all end up in the hands of rich collectors, like Paul Allen, and they will use them to dick-wave about how awesome and cool they are. These amazing musical machines will sit in private museums next to motorcycles they don’t ride, classic cars they don’t drive, and vintage guitars they don’t play. Sad.

    If I had the money laying around, I would buy every one of these and donate them to schools around the globe.

    1. I agree! Put these in the hands of the new breed! Why doesn’t Moog donate one to Dr. Bob’s Sound School? Pass the legacy on to the next generation…

    2. Paul Allen has donated more than half a billion to charities. What have you done that makes you feel like you can denigrate him?

    3. It is interesting to see Moog do this, but it’s much like someone copying a 1960’s Ferrari – great if you love old Ferraris, but if you only want to drive fast cars, you can get something modern that’s better for less money. This instrument was hugely influential, in the 1960’s – since then, the circuits have been studied and replicated by many other vendors. So if you want to make actual music, or donate stuff to schools, you really could get most of the functionality of the unit in the same style for a lot less money from Modcan,, or several other makers. (Actually the modern stuff has more functionality.) Afaik the only real bit of ‘unobtanium’ in there is the original Fixed Filter Bank. So, nice that Keith has spares, but it’s really more a nice copy of a museum piece rather than something a working musician would need, or something that indicates a new direction for the Moog company. The new breed I think is doing just fine with Eurorack. 🙂

  6. They should gives these out to schools in poor areas at discounted prices, I know club of the knobs offer educational discount. The product itself by price alone does make it elitist, but hey I got mates that loves cars, they don’t bitch every time a new jaguar comes out though because they understand that such is life and you can only live by your means. Fact is moog didn’t produce this with the idea that it’s avalible for everyone, that’s why they have the sub phatty!!! I’m sure a number will sit vacant but if that’s how you want to spend tens of thousands it’s none of mine or your business.

    1. Think that through.

      Do you really want them to charge you more for, say, a Sub Phatty so that it will cover the cost of building synths to give away?

  7. Which does make me think of a potential market gap in music based electronic education. It’s mad to think at the dawn of modern synthesizers arp eml, ems even korg and buchla produced educational tools it’s a shame this died out by the mid 1970s. Understanding analog synths is a great way into electronics in general. And with the digital age blooming it seems an apt time to introduce learning programmes on both areas into mainstream education.

    1. Tha reality is that schools don’t have the budget for synths. What could be more educational and affordable than an Arturia MicroBrute – which schools aren’t buying?

      1. Schools won’t buy them namely as you stated, they don’t have the funds. And secondly there is no educational program in place for it by arturia. When I say a gap in the market I mean that potentially companies could be profiting from educational books and kits as well.

    2. Today, you can study electronic music using software, on a computer. That’s a much better deal for schools than buying hardware. And I’d agree with AnalOG – buying a bunch of MicroBrutes would be way better for a synth class than one big Moog.

  8. Now they’ve made the true oldschool museum-grade reproduction… How about one for everyone else. Modern components, modern production methods, and resultant low price. With the Moog name, it’s bound to sell well enough, and the lower the price, the more it’d sell. With their experience, and the proven old designs, it’s not like the lengthy and costly designing of a whole new modern synth. They could even start with just one module to see how it was received… They could retake some of the market from the (generally overpriced) modern modular stuff.

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