Learn Subtractive Synthesis With The Moog Mavis

In this video, David Hilowitz takes a look at the new Moog Mavis and uses it to introduce the basic concepts of subtractive synthesis.

The concepts covered apply to essentially any vintage analog synthesizer.

Is the Moog Mavis a good synth for learning the basics of synthesis? Check out the video and share your thoughts on the Moog Mavis in the comments!

19 thoughts on “Learn Subtractive Synthesis With The Moog Mavis

  1. I finally checked out a review of this synth, Nick Batts review on sonic state, and was very unimpressed by what you get for the money. I found features and build very underwhelming – very small and fiddly plus no damn midi. Sounds ok though.
    I’d save up for a mother32 if I had to have a Moog or go for something from the competition – east beast/west pest, dreadbox, neutron, crave(X2 maybe?) if I wanted semi modular or a bass station II/korg monologue/microfreak.
    We are spoiled for choice nowadays for cheap monosynths. Sorry Moog but this wouldn’t be my recommendation. I don’t even like the name. DFAM, mother32, grandmother were great names – humourous but still somewhat cool – Mavis? What’s next? Wilma? Dorothy? Mildred?

    1. Peter Kirn at CDM has some great thoughts on the Mavis v the PGH Modular boxes (at least, the East Beast) that put this into perspective for me: the Mavis can do much higher rate modulations and has more FM capacities- overall it’s a tweakier thing with a wider range, even though nominally in terms of architecture they’re supposed to do the same thing as subtractive monosynths. in this regard, it’s sonically deeper/richer even with similar parameters. i guess that’s the point.
      (but still, not for me personally either, probably.)

    2. Synths don’t built or sound the same, two mono synths have less in common than a guitar and violin.
      This is more of the way brands present their products, talking about better values, exotics, history and contrasts…
      Commenters swallow this shit, compering colors and presenting their opinion like it has any meaning to others practice, I guess they mostly try to find a justifications for their decisions.

      1. I was just giving my thoughts as the article had requested and do not appreciate being referred to as a shit swallower – feels like a personal attack which I thought wasn’t allowed here.
        I said I liked the sound of the synth – it was mainly the form factor that I was unimpressed by. I find that the physical interaction with any instrument to be vital to the way I use it.
        I also don’t agree with the guitar/violin analogy. I have often found the difference between one acoustic guitar and another to be greater than one analogue monosynth and another (though not always). I don’t own or play any violin but I’ve found they sound vastly different to a guitar and I’m guessing they feel a little different too.
        Anyway, thanks for the abuse. You’ve encouraged me not to comment anymore – in fact I’ve just removed synthtopia my bookmarks and will not be back.

        1. tash & Chuck Biscuits – Let’s keep it friendly!

          tash talked trash about marketing – calling it ‘shit’. This may be crass, but it’s not a personal attack. Not deleted!

          In another comment, though, tash said “John: repackaging the same negative attitude toward everything over and over”.

          That IS a personal attack. Deleted!. Tash gets a free ride to the moderation queue in the future!

          Chuck Biscuits – Synthtopia tries to keep the comments on the site free from hate speech, spam and personal attacks. We can’t protect you or anyone else, though, from other people being crass or even toxic on the Internet.

          We encourage you to do what’s best for you, even if it means limiting your visits to Synthtopia. Thanks!

        2. I expressed my opinion about what you wrote not about you,
          The equivalent of two different guitars will be two 303 clones with no added features or other major deviation from the original design.
          As complex as the actual playing on any given fretted musical instrument can be (and every snowflake has it’s unique structure) different synths are less recognizable from each other by ear.

  2. Is this just Moog wanting their share of the current trend of travel-sized synths? Whatever the case, if I were to considering an ultra compact (semi) modular (for myself, or as a gift), I’d save up an extra hundred 100,- and go for the Modern Sounds’s Pluto. That one looks and sounds fresh.

    1. Pluto looks really nice. But is it analog? Does it have analog filters? I don’t think so but I couldn’t find much info about it.

      1. It’s digital. If it doesn’t say it’s analog its not analog, usually when its fully digital most brands hide this fact although “everybody” says it doesn’t matter…

        1. Recently acquired a Pluto and am finding it quite inspiring. But it’s a very different kind of synth. 100% digital. Three different oscillator engines per voice (of which there are 2): virtual analog, wavetable, and a kind of FM/noise “percussion” voice. You can also run external audio through voice 1. No filter. Simple modulatable VCAs per voice (“level”). Sequencer and other modulatable parameters driven by the unit’s clock dividers (5 of them) which have some interesting controls. Manual here: https://www.modernsounds.co/pluto. See also: https://github.com/vanslembrouck/pluto.

          I also picked up an East Beast and have been very happy with it. Great filter, very clever design… in some ways, it seems to be more truly standalone than the Mavis.

      2. To be fair, I don’t care about the whole analogue/digital aspect in synths that come in these small packages. Analogue isn’t a shortcut to it being better, but it sure helps selling units. The synth market has been getting stale, to me at least, so personally I welcome a resurgence of digital. In the early 2000s we all got sick of it, because of that era’s technical limitations, but digital is where it’s at for actual new sounds. And to me, that’s what playing synths is all about. Yeah, I don’t belong to the synth world’s Gibon crowd, so to speak, but that’s fine.

        1. Oh I agree to some extent, but just asking because curious about Pluto and because this was a page about learning subtractive synthesis. (Some Pluto reviews mention LPGs, still not sure if they’re digital.)

          Some points where digital seems to shine to me — where it goes beyond emulating analog hardware and does something different, like physical modelling.

          Some points where I’m not so sure: audio rate modulation — simple example, Karplus Strong is so easy and intuitive on analogue hardware, but takes some effort to get right via patch cables in digital emulation. Does the pluto have loads of AD/DA converters? Or maybe they’re not audio rate in this case, just clocks, so it possibly doesn’t matter.

  3. Moog: repackaging the same three waveforms and a ladder filter over and over. that’s the real power of a strong brand; little or no meaningful innovation.

    1. Yeah, but this has a wavefolder.
      A first for any Moog synth.
      So, maybe, perhaps, your wrong?
      Don’t get me wrong, I think this is expensive for what functions you get and, like Chuck Biscuits, I watched Nick Batts review and thought the same.
      I have Moog’s Werkstatt and that’s quite featureless too, but it’s half the price of the Mavis.
      My biggest gripe with the Mavis though is the name. They call it a Monophonic Analogue Synthesizer Voice. That spells MASVI, not MAVIS. Why not call it an Monophonic Analogue Voice Synthesizer?

  4. I think it works as a good value foundation module for someone thinking of starting a modular rack, particularly if you factor in the cost of buying a complete voice, wavefolder and basic utilities. I’m not sure why they didn’t try and squeeze in a TRS midi input, it would certainly make integration into a beginner setup easier.

  5. Mavis is the name of a fairy from the 1981 British cartoon “Willo the Wisp”. There is also a dog character named “Moog” so this is likely where the Mavis name came from.

    I think it is important when summarizing an analog instrument to do so from the perspective that the sounds produced sometimes are greater than what one can conjecture from the sum of its parts. If you watch the mylarmelodies youtube video, you will know what I am talking about.

    My only negative on the Mavis is that as I am used to playing the Mother’s sequencer keys like an ersatz keyboard for solos, the key buttons on the Mavis by comparison are too clicky and don’t feel nice to play.

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