Thursday, August 12, 2010

Moog Prodigy, Contemporary Keyboard 1980

Moog Prodigy synthesizer advertisement from page 91 of Contemporary Keyboard February 1980.

This advertisement is an oldy but a goody. It was Moog's introductory ad for the Prodigy, and ran from late-79 into the mid-80s. It's fabulous because it doesn't follow the standard format in any way, shape or form.

Title-image-copy format... Nope.
Clear, idiot-proof ad-copy... Nope.
Giant logo and/or gear name... Nope. In fact, your eyes have to go looking for it.

And that is why it works for me!

Introduced in the holiday-packed November issue full of your standard black and white ads such as those for the Korg MS-20 and Octave Kitten/Cat 'SRM', this ad (and to be fair a few others) definitely stood out. It made you stop and read. And think a little while you were at it.

The best feature of this ad is the connection between the definition text 'a highly talented child' and the main tag line 'It lives up to its name'. It is a perfect fit - they don't even have to mention the Prodigy's natural father - the Minimoog.

And thus we come to the reason for this post (I scanned the image early last year - but never blogged about it).

I've just become infatuated with the Moog Prodigy. I very briefly had one back in the early 90s, but sold it fast as lightning when my chance to buy a local Minimoog came up. I didn't know much about the Prodigy at the time, and I just didn't get a chance to delve head-first into it's programming before it flew out of my hands.

I do recall that my Prodigy had that old-school Moog feeling about it. It wasn't anything hardware-wise - the knobs, the switches. It just 'felt' familiar, if that makes any sense. Poor thing sat uncomfortably next to my Moog Source - the complete opposite in design and feel (what a difference a year or two makes). Unlike the Prodigy, the Source took the word 'futuristic' to a whole new level. The Source would have looked right at home on the set of the film "Logan's Run" (which, btw, has been in the running for a remake for the last decade).

But now my Mini is in the shop and the verdict is out on whether it can be fixed without the loss of an arm and/or leg . I have to admit that while waiting for the estimate, I've started to get a bad case of gear-lust when a Prodigy showed up on eBay... In Canada... No customs hassles... :o)

Time to do a bit of digging to see if the Prodigy could possibly be a quick fix.

A Google search brings up a few sites with some good reference material - but surprisingly little for such a popular synthesizer. According to Wikipedia, about 11,000 were produced, mostly during the first half of the 80s, with at least one model update that allowed the VCF to be controlled by an external source. I can't recall if mine had that feature or not.

The synth's specs are well documented on Wikipedia, as well as Vintage Synth Explorer. Heck, you can just look at the front panel in the ad photo - what you see is what you get. Basically two VCOs sporting saw, triangle and pulse, 24dB low-pass filter and VCA, both with ADS envelopes, LFO, portamento, pitch+mod wheels and a 2.5 octave keyboard.

A simple, standard monophonic synthesizer that looks good on paper. But how about the sound? How does it compare to the Minimoog?

Well, apparently I'm not the only one trying to compare the Mini to the Prodigy. A May 2010 post on Synthtopia led me to this video on YouTube that pits them against each other.



A few blogs posted this video, along with their two -bits of commentary. Switched On Synthesizers summed it up with:
"To my ears the Prodigy sounds brighter but the Minimoog has warmer sound. If you think that on the second hand market a Moog Prodigy costs 1/4 of the price of a Minimoog it's not a bad choice to buy a Prodigy and save the difference to buy other equipment ( please don't kill me for saying this )"
A fair point?'s forums recently had someone looking for a Prodigy as well. One of the members (and fellow Canadian!) suggested buying a Litty Phatty instead. I have to say I've thought of replacing my older synthesizers with 'compatible' new synthesizers if/when they become available. The Voyager as a replacement for the Minimoog. Litty Phatty for the Prodigy (and the Mopho for the Pro-One for that matter!).

Wait. Did I just go from trying to decide whether to purchase a Moog Prodigy as a quick fix, to now replacing a Minimoog (that may or may not be broken) with a Voyager and a Prodigy (that I sold in the early 90s) with a Little Phatty?

Seriously - that is one bad case of gear-lust.

But I do hesitate to give up the past without a fight. Is it cost? Inherent value of history? Just 'cause? I'm not sure why.

I'll think about it some more while I play on my $60 Monotron :o)

1 comment:

LDT said...

I miss my Little Phatty!!!

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