As far as synths go, Moog has a history that most can’t rival. Bob Moog and his instruments have inspired generations of music-makers and continue to do so. The Moog synth bass sound alone has defined more than one genre of music over decades. Moog has been recently adding to the budget end of its range, most notably with the Moog Grandmother.
The Moog Grandmother isn’t a preset synth; it’s a monophonic, semi-modular 100% analog synth influenced by Moog’s of the 60s and 70s. It has a 37-key Fatar keyboard, 41 patch points, and a real spring reverb.
Our verdict on the Moog Grandmother
We love it; it’s that simple. It’s not a synth for all occasions, but it’s a composer’s dream. You’d be forgiven for thinking you won’t get a genuine classic Moog experience at this price, but you’d also be wrong.
- Fantastic interface.
- Value for money.
- Real spring reverb.
- Vintage Moog architecture.
- Great for sound design.
- 41 patch points.
- Preset synths may be better for some gigs.
Despite being a relatively cheap Moog, the Grandmother has some very impressive and flexible features.
Being completely analog isn’t a feature as such, but we wanted to highlight it because it’s one of the things that makes the Moog Grandmother so special. In this price range, you are more likely to find digital or hybrid synths than full analog.
Real spring reverb
By real spring reverb, we mean there is a physical spring reverb chamber inside the Moog Grandmother. Lots of sound designers search for plugins that deliver the sound of an authentic spring reverb. So, to have one built-in is a very nice addition by Moog.
An authentic spring reverb is a beautiful thing, and this one is particularly versatile. Thanks to the Grandmother’s instrument input, you can plug in your guitar (or other instruments) and take advantage of the reverb.
There’s also a reverb out jack on the back of the Moog Grandmother. While the mix knob controls the dry/wet mix of the spring reverb, the reverb out is always 100% wet.
Semi-modular design and connectivity
The semi-modular nature of the Moog Grandmother is probably its most notable selling point. It’s an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to move into modular synthesis, and it’s also ready to go right out of the box with no patching at all.
If you already have any Eurorack or modular gear, you have lots of ways to interact with the Moog Grandmother with 41 patch points. The available patch points include 21 inputs, 16 outputs, and a four-point passive Mult.
The Utilities module is where you’ll find the four-point Mult, which allows you to share/distribute control signals. You can take a source signal from somewhere like the Modulation generator and send it to (up to) three different locations.
As well as sending a single source to multiple locations, you can also use the Mult to combine two audio signals and send the result to a single input.
The Utilities module features a static -6 dB/octave High Pass Filter. This filter isn’t part of the hardwired signal path and must be patched in to become active.
The last feature in this section is a helpful control signal attenuator that offers both normal and inverted values.
Arpeggiator and sequencer
The Grandmother’s Arpeggiator is pretty standard. You can create a rhythmic/melodic pattern by holding notes on the keyboard. You can also alter the playback direction (forward/backward/random) and octave range.
The built-in Step Sequencer allows you to store/record three sequences with up to 256 steps each. It’s not the most in-depth sequencer compared to something you might find on a workstation or arranger keyboard. But, it’s more about creating rhythm or soundscapes than complete songs, so it fits the synth well. Stored sequences are easy to recall for performance.
This module has patch points for Keyboard Pitch Out, Keyboard Velocity Out, and Gate Out.
Multi-Trig is a feature that Moog introduced with firmware update v1.1.3. It determines how the Envelope re-triggers based on your playing style.
By default, Multi-Trig is switched off, which means if playing legato, the Envelope only triggers on the first note. To make the Envelope re-trigger, you’d have to play staccato, which would change the feel dramatically.
With Multi-Trig switched on, the Envelope will re-trigger on each note, even when playing legato.
It might not seem like a huge feature, but for certain sounds, it’s incredibly useful.
The Grandmother has two almost identically designed Oscillators. Each Oscillator begins with three patch points for Wave Out, Pitch In, and PWM In.
The main controls of each are for octave and waveform selection (Triangle, Saw, Square, Narrow Pulse).
The difference between the two comes with a Frequency knob on Oscillator two that lets you detune it from Oscillator one. You can modulate the pitch of Oscillator one using the Pitch In patch point.
A Sync button allows you to hard sync the phase of Oscillator two to the phase of Oscillator one. To stay aligned with Oscillator one, Oscillator two will produce more complex waveshapes, creating a different kind of sound.
The Oscillators are the heart of the synth, and these are powerful with a vintage flavor.
Another key factor in the Grandmother’s classic Moog sound is the four-pole -24 dB/octave Low Pass Ladder Filter (10 Hz – 20 kHz).
Modulating the Filter Cutoff is one of the best ways to get more out of the Moog Grandmother. It enables you to add movement and character to the sound without being overbearing.
You can also affect the Cuttoff frequency via Keyboard Tracking. The Envelope Amount knob determines how much of the Envelope’s control signal will be applied to the Cuttoff frequency.
Increasing the Resonance will boost the signal at the Filter Cutoff frequency.
The Mixer module is the last stop before the Filter, and gives you a choice to replace hardwired sources with external audio signals.
The Envelope module is one of the things we like most about the Grandmother. The ADSR Envelope generator isn’t unusual, but it’s the design/layout that we like.
Most similar Envelopes have a knob for each parameter. Instead, the Grandmother has a slider for the Sustain parameter.
This layout is important because Sustain deals with level, while the other parameters deal with time. A slider often feels more accurate and intuitive when dealing with any level/volume on a keyboard. In this instance, it works very well.
The Modulation module (based on an analog LFO) does much of the heavy lifting when it comes to sound design.
It allows you to apply modulation to multiple sources. One of the most creative functions of the Modulation module is the Sample/Hold Out. It can be used to pulse the Filter’s Cutoff frequency and must be patched to a specific location to be used.
As far as sound design goes, you can think of the Moog Grandmother as a blank canvas. We say that in a sense that it doesn’t push you in a particular direction as some synths do.
If we had to choose an area it works best in, the word that comes to mind is cinematic. The Grandmother is outstanding if you are looking to create textures, soundscapes, drones, epic bass tones, or anything cinematic/ethereal.
Within those kinds of sounds, you can cover every feel/emotion you need.
If you want soaring lead sounds, you can get those too; we just think its main strength is elsewhere.
The Moog Grandmother over-performs in terms of sound quality versus price.
If you need a synth that lets you jump quickly between lots of contrasting sounds on stage, the Grandmother isn’t the one. For example, if you play in a function band, you’d be better off with a synth with lots of presets or lets you store patches.
However, if you perform longer pieces where you alter the sound gradually, like Jazz, Funk, Electronica (modular synths), it’s fantastic.
It really comes to life in sound design and composition. The layout makes the Grandmother easy to use and understand. Once you have a basic grasp of the synth, it becomes a joy to use with its hands-on, tactile approach. As a composer, you can get lost in it for hours upon hours.
There isn’t much to say in this area other than it’s absolutely solid. It’s reassuringly heavy for a 37-key synth.
The Fatar keyboard feels great; it’s light enough for leads and heavy enough to be expressive.
All of the knobs and controls feel premium and sturdy. Although it’s a modern synth with a vintage flavor, it looks and feels like an old-school bit of gear that will last a lifetime.
Compared to other synthesizers
As much as we like the Grandmother, it’s always wise to look at a few others in a similar price range.
Grandmother vs. Modal Electronics Cobalt8
The Cobalt8 is an awesome digital synth. It won’t give you the analog character of the Grandmother, but it’s a great all-rounder with more features.
Grandmother vs. Korg Minilogue XD
Korg’s Minilogue XD gives you the analog character and will suit a broader range of performances. But, it doesn’t create the same magic as the Moog.
Grandmother vs. Behringer Poly D
Whether you love or hate Behringers range of tribute/clone synths, you can’t deny the Poly D packs a punch. If you want the Minimoog sound at a fraction of the cost, it’s worth a look.