The Moog Subharmonicon – a unique synthesizer that was originally introduced in 2018 as a Moogfest limited edition – is now available as a production instrument.
The Subharmonicon is designed to let users work with subharmonics and polyrhythms. To design the Subharmonicon, Moog drew inspiration from theories on music composition that arose in experimental circles during the 1930s and 1940s.
Subharmonicon is inspired by Joseph Schillinger’s mathematical systems for musical composition and is influenced by two analog innovations from the 1930s and 1940s: the Mixtur-Trautonium, which employed a series of subharmonic oscillators to generate electronic undertones, and the Rhythmicon (developed by Leon Theremin, the inventor of the Theremin), an instrument capable of sounding multiple harmonically related polyrhythm generators simultaneously. Learn more about these historical instruments and how the past continues to inform the future of sound here.
“A long time ago, when I was in college and first met Bob [Moog], the Rhythmicon came up a couple of times,” recalls Steve Dunnington, Senior Hardware Lead at Moog Music. “One of his other students was into Schillinger…and I’ve always been fascinated by patterns that repeat differently each time…and that’s a thing you can explore [with Subharmonicon]. This instrument was inspired by some of the ideas and musical concepts of Schillinger, such as the idea that by taking a set of pitches and superimposing them on a set of rhythms with a different length will generate rotating musical motives.”
The Subharmonicon uses the same format as the Mother-32 and DFAM, letting you use it as a standalone synthesizer or integrated into a Eurorack modular system.
The Subharmonicon features two VCOs, four subharmonic generators, two four-step sequencers, and four rhythm generators. The four sub-oscillators can be divided from the two oscillators’ base frequency down to up to four octaves from the fundamental, to create stacked, harmonically related tones. The two VCOs and four sub-oscillators can be tuned to create up to six note chords.
The sequencer section features two four-step sequencers. The sequencer rate is not only controlled by the tempo knob, but rather the subharmonic divisions. These can be divided by an integer from 1 (no division) to 16 divisions of the master clock. This means it will take 16 clock pulses for the sequencer to move one step. The subharmonic used to clock the sequencer can be selected using buttons. These subdivisions of the master tempo make it possible for the four-step sequencer to perform much more complicated sequences.
The sequencer can be routed via switch to affect the primary VCO pitch or the subharmonic frequency. Onboard quantizers allow you to constrain the sequencer notes to specific scales, such as equal temperament or just intonation.
The Subharmonicon also features a classic Moog low pass filter, which can be used to filter out harmonics at the output stage. Harmonics can be removed using filtering and emphasized using the resonance of a filter, which highlights the harmonics at the cutoff frequency via feedback.
The VCA and VCF have independent envelope shapes with attack and decay stages.
The Subharmonicon is semi-modular and requires no patching in order to make sound, but it also offers 32-point patchbay, letting you open up the Subharmonicon to integrating with external modular or semi-modular gear such. The Subharmonicon also features a MIDI input, so it to be controlled from external MIDI devices.
- Two VCOs
- Four sub-oscillators that can be tuned to subdivisions of master VCO frequencies
- Two four-step subharmonically clocked sequencers
- Sequencers can affect VCO pitch or subdivisions
- 32-point patchbay for rerouting signals and integrating with external modular devices
- Moog low pass ladder filter
- Analog VCA
- MIDI integration
- Amp and filter two-stage envelopes
Here’s the official intro video, featuring the music of Suzanne Ciani and visuals by Scott Kiernan:
They also shared several hands-on demos:
Exploring the Pitch Sequencer
Exploring the Polyrhythmic Sequencer
Using Subharmonicon with Mother-32 & DFAM
Pricing and Availability
The Moog Subharmonicon is available now, with a street price of about $699.