Thursday, November 4, 2010

Moog Rogue, Keyboard 1981

Moog Rogue synthesizer advertisement from page 15 in Keyboard Magazine, November 1981.

Overdrive? Well, that sounds interesting!

This black and white 1/2-pager was the first ad for the Moog Rogue, running in Keyboard during the latter half of 1981 and again at the beginning of 1982. It was then replaced by the much more colourful, full page Moog Rogue advertisement that ran sporadically from 1982 to 1984.

This humorous car-racing themed ad ("sorry, air conditioning and racing stripes unavailable") heavily promoted one of the main features that Moog must have thought would set this synthesizer apart from the pack - OVERDRIVE.

"Overdrive" is not only featured prominently in the opening tag-line of this well-designed advertisement ("Shift into OVERDRIVE, OVERDRIVE, OVERDRIVE, OVERDRIVE..."), it is also the first feature to be mentioned in the ad-copy: "Twin oscillators with hot new overdrive circuits".

So, what was so special about the overdrive?

According to Stuart M Condé, a self-described "creative, and somewhat opinionated sporty animal loving extrovert" (great bio!), it's the main reason he loves his Rogue so much. Stuart created a Moog Rogue page on, and explains that it's a great way to get "nasty over-driven 'hoover' type sounds, or a deep warm bass". Just "whack it up and it saturates the filter to produce a distinctively rich sound which is perfect for bass or screaming lead sounds. It's not quite as appealing as the overdrive circuit on the Mini-Moog but it still sounds wonderfully organic."

Interestingly, what Moog thought would be such a great feature to promote, and what is now known as such a great feature of the Rogue, seemed at the time to... well... get a little ignored by everyone else. Or at least, that is how it looks to me.

For example, the overdrive function received only a few sentences in the "Mixer and Final Output Controls" section of Dominic Milano's dual Sequential Pro-One/Moog Rogue Keyboard Report that came out in January 1982.
"The mixer has an interesting feature - you go into an overdrive mode when you get to about 5 on a scale of 1-10. This gives you some warm and fat intermodulation and harmonic distortion. It adds some bite to the sound of the unit."
In Dominic's defense, I guess he is indirectly referring to the overdrive in the introduction of the report by remarking that the "Rogue is a useful tool in creating nice-sounding lead lines". And again at the end of the Rogue section of the report where he states that "it's pretty good at lead lines". But, if Moog thought the overdrive feature would be such a hit that they based their whole advertisement theme around it, you would think it would have been mentioned as being directly responsible for the sound in review articles such as this Keyboard Report.

So, is that Keyboard Report indicative of how the Rogue's overdrive feature was received by the synthesizer community at the time? Did Moog over-estimate how well the overdrive feature would be received, and respond by later changing it's marketing strategy for the Rogue?

This certainly would seem to be the case when you compare this ad to it's replacement.

The overdrive functionality that Moog positioned so prominently in this advertisement was virtually lost in the follow-up full-page Rogue ad. Look at that ad and you will see that "overdrive" gets just a small mention in the ad-copy and a small photo-op in the top right-hand corner. Instead, Moog focuses on one of the Rogue's other unique qualities - Moog sound at a small price.

I can't tell you if Moog's reason for shifting their marketing strategy was due to the synth community's lack-luster response to the overdrive feature, or if it was just a Moog marketing guy's whim that led to the change. But something happened to make them change gears (pun intended).

Or, am I over-thinking it [again]?

Maybe Moog was just expanding on the original theme of "overdrive" to a more generic "Moog sound" at a more affordable price. The overdrive is, after all, one of the main features of the Minimoog sound. Maybe it wasn't such a jump to go from one to another. Meh.

I do know that if you look around the Web today, the Rogue is still known for being a cheap way to get that Moog sound we all so love. So, in the end, Moog probably made the right decision. And, in the end, Moog still seemed to be selling Rogues well into 1984.

End note: BTW - you can read more about the Pro-One/Rogue comparison report in the second half of my rather long-winded Pro-One clear-plexiglass blog post.


Stu said...

Great article and thanks for the quote..I do love the Rogue and I've owned many mighty analogues over the years.

It may not be the most versatile synth but what it does do, it does well and it still surprises me after all this time.

It is also worth mentioning that, while many of my microprocessor based synthesizers that SCI, Moog and Roland were putting out at the time have all needed a fair amount of maintenance work with dead voices etc, the Rogue has never even required calibration and is still tune perfect.

Hex said...

I just wanted to say THANK YOU!!! for this wonderful depository of vintage synth ads!!!!

Keep em coming! :D

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