Monday, February 22, 2010

Moog Polymoog Synthesizer, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Moog Polymoog Synthesizer ad from page 5 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine June 1977.

This is the second Polymoog ad to show up in CK, running in a few issues between June and September 1977, during the time that Moog had a monopoly on page 5 (which was most of 1977). Great real estate if you can get it - right across from the "Letters" section. I scanned and uploaded the first ad back in June of last year. That post also included the description of the machine from the Spec Sheet section of CK.

While recently speaking with an acquaintance at my local music store hang-out, we got onto the topic of the Polymoog. How cool it was that the Polymoog was *fully* polyphonic and had a touch sensitive keyboard. But when we started talking about the editing features, I soon realized we were talking about two totally different instruments. When I asked him to clarify whether we were talking about the Polymoog Synthesizer or the Polymoog Keyboard, he looked at me with a blank face.

We took over one of the audio editing demo computers and started surfing around so I could show him the differences.

Wikipedia's Polymoog page is quite good for some basic info (compared to some of Wikipedia's other synthesizer pages) and pretty much sums it up. Basically, the name Polymoog can either refer to the original Polymoog Synthesizer or the largely pre-set Polymoog Keyboard. The latter was basically a stripped-down version of the first, similar in appearance and sharing the same case and keyboard.

You can compare the image of the Polymoog Synthesizer from this ad and the one on Wikipedia with an image of the Polymoog Keyboard from this blog post. You can definitely tell there are quite a few differences.

In short, the big differences I found on the Web are:

Model number:
Polymoog Synthesizer - 203a
Polymoog Keyboard - 280a

Release date:
Synthesizer- 1976 (some sites say 1975).
Keyboard- 1978.

Synthesizer: $5295.00 US
Keyboard: $3995.00 US
*According to's 1979 Moog price list.

Synthesizer- Eight: strings, piano, organ, harpsichord, funk, clav, vibes, and brass.
Keyboard- Fourteen: vox humana, string 1, string 2, electric piano, piano, honky tonky, clav, harpsi, brass, chorus brass, pipe organ, rock organ, vibes, and funk.

Controls - right side of panel
Looking at the right-side of the front panel, the Synthesizer had a full section of controls that the Keyboard was missing. This included extensive controls for loudness contour, resonators (low, medium and high controls) and voltage controlled filter (cutoff, Q, modulation and envelope controls).

Controls - left side of panel
The left-side of the front panel had a few controls in common. Both had pitch and beat controls, as well as octave balance (volume for low, middle, and high octaves of keyboard). But that is where the similarities ended.

The Synthesizer had a host of other editing controls in the right-hand side: external keyboard glide control, master gain controls, and extensive oscillator modulation sections that included controls for sawtooth FM/rectangular FM/PM, rectangular (pulse width) shape/mod, and sawtooth levels.

The Keyboard version only had some simple hi-pass filtering, attack rate, and basic modulation controls.

There are a number of Web sites out there with some good basic information, including Vintage Synth Explorer and

But the *best* Polymoog site I have ever found has got to be Dubsounds Polymoog Owners Club, "dedicated to owners and enthusiasts of Moog Polymoog 203a and 280a synthesizers". It has the most comprehensive history of the Polymoog that I've seen anywhere, a great scan of the manual, and much more.

Definitely check it out.

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