Until now, the Taurus instruments have always included organ-style pedals but Moog's latest box of tricks, the Minitaur, changes all that. Featuring a compact, wedge-shaped design, this bass synthesizer is designed to sit front and centre in your studio environment to add a rich sonic foundation to your mixes, or slot into your live kit bag at very little cost to your back muscles. In case you're already wondering why the control set (of which more very shortly) is limited to "bass sounds" only, Moog have capped the key range of the instrument so that it won't sound above C4. This is slightly frustrating as its sonic architecture would certainly allow sound design in more "lead" territories too but perhaps to preserve the relevance of other products in the Moog line, this has been set as a limitation.
Minitaur employs a twin-oscillator design with both sound sources allowing access to sawtooth or square waves, a light coming on for the square wave option when pressed. Each oscillator has a dial to let you balance levels independently, while the frequency for oscillator 2 also has its own dial, to provide gentle detune, +/- 1-octave pitch separation between oscillators 1 and 2, or any other tuning offset you prefer. Moog's legendary 4-pole low-pass filter section is present, as you'd hope and expect, with cutoff from 20Hz to 20kHz, resonance control (which will happily self-oscillate, if you give it the chance) and envelope generator amount. This can be set to normal or inverted shapes, with the central position assigning no envelope to the filter. The (VCA) amplifier section is limited to a single dial to control output level, covering both the main output and the headphone level. Envelopes for both the filter and amplifier sections are four-stage ADSR designs with dedicated dials for attack and sustain levels, while the third dial can control decay only or, with an illuminated press of the release button on the right-hand side, release as well. Attack and decay/release times are controllable from one millisecond to a whopping 30 seconds, so it's unlikely you'll find yourself restricted by Moog's generous limits here.
Below the release button is another which lights to activate glide mode for overlapping notes, with a dial to control glide time lying above. Finally, in the bottom left-hand corner, the modulation section provides LFO control with rate from 0.01Hz to 100Hz, LFO-to-oscillator and LFO-to-filter amount dials. The LFO can clock to incoming MIDI signals, so finding a musically-relevant speed is child's play and, as you might expect, an upper threshold of 100Hz for the LFO Rate brings radical, unpredictable and super-warped tones to your speakers. Speaking of MIDI, as each dial on the Minitaur outputs MIDI control messages, recording changes on the fly to complement the notes you've sequenced is simple. This comfortable relationship extends to patch dumping so that settings can easily be recalled which is particularly useful as Minitaur features no preset locations.
In terms of connections, the rear panel offers direct access to your computer via USB, while there's a MIDI in port if you're a little more old-school. However, if you're really old-school, there are CV inputs for pitch, filter and volume and a gate input too. Rounding off the rear-panel connections alongside the power inlet are 1/4" audio in and outputs, the latter of which provides a mini headphone output too. Incoming audio can be blended via the mix level dials, offering you the opportunity to bring the legendary Moog filter to other elements of your mix. The final panel features extend to a MIDI indicator LED, a flashing, slightly larger one to keep tabs on the LFO speed and a fine tune control to bring Minitaur's pitching in line with other tracks within your mix.
If you've never touched a Moog synth before, none of the panel descriptions will prepare you for the joy of actually playing with these dials as you begin to bring Minitaur to a track in progress. It's staggering to have a bass sound in place from almost any soft synth you care to mention, to replace it with Minitaur and to hear how bass should really sound. In fact, it's hard to think of an electronic music genre which wouldn't benefit from having Minitaur propping up a mix from such a solid foundation. If you make dubstep, you'll love integrating the LFO section into Minitaur's twin oscillators, separated by octaves for powerful slabs of undulating richness. If you're a techno fan, the sawtooth waves, resonant filter and envelope shaping will provide anything from warm, bubbling sequenced bass to full on acid-influenced bleeps. For pop producers, the colossal, full tone of both oscillators working with open filter settings will comfortably cover both bass and low-mid range, providing thickness at the mix stage.
Despite the frustrations of Minitaur's active pitch range being capped at C4, from a performance point of view, it simply can't be over-stated how the "one knob per function" design of this instrument comes into play too. For live performers, setting up a killer bassline and manipulating it in real-time is huge fun, while for producers, having a wedge-shaped, thoroughly approachable instrument dedicated to bass just sitting there, begging to be played with is too much to resist. If you're looking for a monophonic bass module to cover your needs which combines sumptuous sound with a friendly control set, Minitaur will more than deliver.
Ease of use: 4.5/5