Moog Subharmonicon Synthesizer Now Available

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.

Features:

  • 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

Audio Demos:

Pricing and Availability

The Moog Subharmonicon is available now, with a street price of about $699.

12 thoughts on “Moog Subharmonicon Synthesizer Now Available

    1. I don’t think that sustained tones/chords were in the design plan. This seems to be absolutely nuts for Steve Reich-style music, like “Music for 18 Musicians” and “Pulse.” The patch panel is sparse for the tones, but is loaded for the patterns.

  1. This looks really interesting.

    Love how Moog gets actual musicians to demo its instruments. Why is that so rare?

    Looking forward to seeing what Lisa Bella Donna does with this thing!

    1. I do often tire of people randomly bashing on keys and spitting on guitars. That Korg BS with the plumber and the table saw showed us nothing!

    2. To be fair, the definition of an „actual“ musician is highly subjective. What is music to some is noise to others – and vice versa.

      1. luckily for us, suzanne does both! when i listen “velocity of love” i hear a cacophany noise, and when i listen to “buchla concerts 1975” i hear beautiful music.

        i suspect others may have the opposite experience.

  2. Awesome. Getting Suzanne Ciani for intro video is pretty amazing, and thing looks great for experimental MUSICAL purposes, not just experimental SOUND purposes.

  3. I only hear arpeggiators with high notes in about all the demos ive heard since yesterday… seems im not the right audience for this little synth.

  4. Inspired by this, I just ordered myself some 4040 counters. Hoping to have some divide-down fun with my Neutron. While I save up for something like this subharmonicon, of course.

  5. Got mine yesterday, no complaints at all. Gave this beast a reach around for a few hours, brought in the mother and the dam. Just got lost patching things, see what could make what do what. Dam modulating the cutoff of the sub, mothers sequencer controlling the VCOs of the sub while the dam added some extra modulation, just got real weird with it. The Subharmonicon alone I couldn’t say id absolutely love until I learned to tame it, but when you add more lfo’s and envelopes, it really opens up. Add a sequencer to reset the 4 steps then it gets pretty interesting.

    Also, something about seeing it released and also available the same day has the opposite effect of a tease/preorder marketing campaign.

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