The Realistic Moog MG-1 Synthesizer

The Realistic Concertmate MG-1 is an oddity among vintage synths.

It  designed by MOTM’s Paul Schreiber, who worked at Tandy at the time, with the goal of creating an affordable consumer synth. And, while it was a consumer design, it was “Custom manufactured by Moog Music in U.S.A. for Radio-Shack.”

As a result, it’s got an unusual set of features

It combines a divide-down organ section (so it can be played polyphonically) with a basic monophonic synth voice, similar to the Moog Rogue. Some ‘professional’ features, like pitch and mod wheels, were left out.

This video, via -p Catalano, demonstrates the sounds and functions of the Realistic Concertmate MG-1. All sounds (including drums) are from the MG-1 without effects.

If you’ve used the Realistic MG-1 synthesizer, leave a comment with your thoughts on it!

46 thoughts on “The Realistic Moog MG-1 Synthesizer

  1. My first synth, I got it in ’83 and love it. It can’t do everything, no synth can, but what it does it does well. The ring modulator opens up a whole range of sounds and it has a good, fast musical envelope. Plus the Sync is good and biting.
    A couple of years ago I had it refurbished at Three Wave Music and they did a fantastic job, new sliders, 1/4″ outputs and a filter input. And when I finally invested in a midi-CV converter it became infinitely more useful to me. I’d never sell it and use it on everything I’m writing these days.

  2. It was endorsed by Elton John… how could you go wrong?

    I never owned an MG-1 but I saw a lot of them in pawn shops and garage sales. Although it was designed by Moog it shares some features of the ARPs such as the sliders, which inevitably got dirty and noisy.

    1. You’re kidding? I had one of those back in the mid 80’s. Sold it real quick. Was at the top of the “Limited” list. Was more of a novelty than anything else. It just wasn’t a serious musicians piece of gear back then. I mean come on, Radio Shack sold it. That should tell you something.

    1. Completely agree, that was a fantastic video and should be a benchmark for future ones. Thanks for sharing and kudos’!

      1. Thanks. If anyone wants to lend me an analog monosynth to do a similar demo, I’d be happy to do more. 😉

  3. I found a couple of these babies at flea markets years ago. They’ve been very loyal additions to my arsenal. Couldn’t live without them. Definitely an anomaly of the early 80s that you would never see again.

  4. I still have one. actually a great fun synth. got mine back when they were “not cool” so it was super cheap. and I have a soft spot for Realistic since I came up using a bunch of radio shack crap when I was a kid (mics, PAs, etc). I actualy love the cheesy poly wave, you can do some cool stuff with it, though it doesnt trigger over CV, only the reg Oscs do. reminds me of Ween every time I hear it, lol.

  5. Excellent video. Should be watched in conjunction with Marc Doty’s six (six!) videos on the MG-1. It even talks about the Poly function which (I’ll have to check this) I don’t remember Marc going over at length. Actually I don’t remember him mentioning it. Were there earlier MG-1s that didn’t have Poly? Or later ones? This needs clarification.

    1. Those are good too but this demo manages to show every feature incredibly quickly (yet easy to keep up with) and in the context of an actually enjoyable piece of music. I can’t compliment the creator of this enough on the production!

      1. I originally had a Rogue, but had to sell it. When I was able to get another analog, Marc’s MG-1 series had a big hand in choosing the MG-1 instead of another Rogue. And yes, he covers the polyphony in parts 4 and 5. Thanks for watching.

  6. I got given one of these in the first band I played in, sound great when playing sustained bass through a phaser. These use to be cheap as chips when I first started buying used gear on eBay

        1. I used to make that exact same sound with mine, before I got my first drum machine (a TR-606, another thing I wish I had held on to instead of lending to a friend who let a dog pee on it.)

  7. I’ve owned many synths, but the MG-1 remains my favorite. Mine stays in tune very well and despite a lot of people’s opinions, i find the poly section very useable. played side by side with a Rogue and a Micromoog, i still like this one. Its from 1983 and i’ve only had it serviced once.

  8. I really miss Radio Shack.It wasn’t just for consumers,but hobbyists also.Now, [in Canada,at least], we’re stuck with horrendous garbage like “Best Buy”,or “The Source”.Everything they sell is made in China. Just disposable crap.Don’t even bother trying to fix it,just throw it away !! UUUrrgggg !!!

    1. They are gone in Canada? I have about 4 or 5 RadioShacks near me. They aren’t what they used to be. Seems like they mostly sell cell phones and the odd cable now.

      1. There was a point where the components and RadioShack branded products they sold were of such cheap and poor quality, that their reputation suffered. I still go in there for the occasion adapter or electronics parts/tools, but they never really restored their rep. Had I been at the helm, I would have done a reboot.

        “We at RS take pride in our products and our service. We have gone through our entire product line and are working with our suppliers to ensure the highest possible quality and value for our customers. If you ever have a problem with a product come in and talk to us. We’ll make it right.”

        But yea… that ain’t gonna happen.

        A recent slogan: “You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers.”

        …. all of them: “no.”

      2. Yeah, Radio Shack in Canada was bought by Circuit City. Tandy responded by pulling their naming rights, forcing the entire chain to rebrand and resource everything. The company was rebranded as “The Source.” It now stays afloat selling Bell cell phone and $8.95 headphone adapters.

        1. I was in RS looking for tape and the girl says we have three different kinds. I think normal, chrome and metal. But no. It was C30, C60 and C90 all normal bias.

          1. I was in a Radio Shack buying solder recently. A kid comes in and says “My speakers say 200 watts and this amp is 100 watts. Will that work?”. Radio Shack guy, “No.”.

  9. a piece of music that shows (ie plays) everything (or a lot) this machine can do, while, at the same time, we can see how it is registered on the actual panel. wow – i am impressed. this is how a demo video should be done.

  10. This is my only hardware synth right now (sadly). I love the ring modulator, especially when you tune the second oscillator down a fifth. This gives you a super biting sound. The self oscillating filter can produce a lot of crazy sounds as well! Turning the “peak emph” all the way up and then setting the cutoff frequency just to the audio range can give a super low bass sound. The construction obviously isn’t fantastic but it’s a budget synth.

  11. I used to have an MG-1 way back when. I remember it being cool.

    100% agree on the video. That was incredibly informative and clear. Impressive how a simple idea like that can convey so much info.

  12. The MG-1 was my first synth! Bought it used back in 1983 from the music store across the street from my high school where I spent many a lunch hour. The MG-1 was my first synth! Bought it used back in 1983 from the music store across the street from my high school where I spent many a lunch hour. I had it for years. but unfortunately I blew mine up near the end of the ’90s when I accidentally shorted a power transformer while attempting to repair it after it was dropped. (The only time I’ve ever made an instrument I was fixing worse. Doh!)

    This is perhaps the best hardware synthesizer demo video I’ve ever seen! It’s clear, concise, well organized and actually listenable! (Even a bit catchy!) If you’re the fellow who made it, please contact me, I’d like to talk to you about producing demos for our software products. (Admiral Quality Poly-Ana, etc.)

  13. Correction. That should be power *transistor*, not transformer. Not sure how the first sentence got repeated either. Sorry!

    P.S. Contact me at aq AT admiralquality DOT com. Peace, out!

  14. also my first synth! picked one up at a garage sale in 98, only played guitar at the time. such a great introduction to analog synths!

    1. I disagree.v $500 seems like a consumer price to me for the early 80’s. That’s what a home computer cost then (TI-99/4 was $525. Commodore 64 was $595) for just the main unit–no monitor, storage device, printer. In 1984, the Tandy 1000 computer came out at $1200, and the goal was to be a consumer computer to take on the IBM PCjr.

      My recollection of that time is that consumers would pay a lot for electronics (I remember saving up for months and months for a Canon consumer SLR in the late 70s), but not expect to be able to buy as much crap as we can today.

    2. Brendan

      The most popular ‘pro’ synth from around the same timeframe, the DX7, was $2k. That would be equivalent to nearly $5k in today’s dollars.

      1. Yeah, but the Minimoog Voyager XL is $5000 and reasonably popular today… so the MG-1 was like the Mophox4 or sub phatty of its day? I think the price scaling is pretty fair – $500 got you a computer (specialist electronics) or synth in ’81, and $1300 is about what you’d expect to pay for a specialist (say, gaming or audio production) computer or lower-spectrum synth today.

        I’m not really arguing anything, I just find the marketing perplexing and a little hokey, but I was a wee’un back then. Were they trying to create a consumer demand for synths as a recreational commodity like a TV or camera? A synth in every home? I feel like there’s an undergrad sociology thesis in there at least 🙂

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