Monday, November 29, 2010

Korg ES-50 Lambda Polyphonic Ensemble Ad #2, Contemporary Keyboard, 1980

Korg ES-50 Polyphonic Ensemble Advertisement #2 from page 51 in Contemporary Keyboard February 1980.

Everywhere I look on the Internet, the ES-50 is almost always referred to as the " Lambda". But the only evidence of" Lambda" in this ad (and the previous ES-50 ad) is in the photo. Look hard enough and you will see a stylized Lambda symbol beside the Korg logo on the right side of the front panel. But that seems to be it.

So, I took a look at some online images of the ES-50 to see if there was any evidence of the symbol or name "Lambda" on the back on the unit. The result - nothing as far as I could tell. A recent ES-50 auction I found on MATRIXSYNTH (which, BTW, was what got me interested in researching this keyboard in the first place), included some really good images. But, again no sign of "Lambda". Name or symbol.

Left and right back images - from MATRIXSYNTH

But then I'm thinking... how about on the manufacturer's serial number label? But MATRIXSYNTH even included a close-up of that label, and again - nothing. Only the ES-50 name can be found in the "MODEL" field.

Manufacturer's label - from MATRIXSYNTH

The sparse Spec Sheet promo of the ES-50 was no help either. The ES-50 appeared in the January 1980 issue of CK (sandwiched between when the first black and white ad ran, and when the colour ad started) - and guess what? Again, no mention of "Lambda":
"The ES-50 polyphonic ensemble provides layers of multiple voicings ranging from electric piano, acoustic piano, harpsichord, brass, organ, and strings to human chorus sounds. All voices have separate articulation and are totally intermixable. Three oscillators are used and there is also a variable chorus modulator section. The unit also includes a joystick controller, stereo and mono outputs, variable speed tremolo, ADR controls, split voltage volume pedal input, and interface jacks.
[Side note: No pricing info in the Spec Sheet? Wussup with that?]

It took a bit more digging on the Web, but I finally found some official evidence that Korg called the ES-50 the "Lambda". has a fantastic Lambda page that includes some great images, commentary, and reference information including some sounds. But it is Carbon111's link to a PDF of the ES-50's user manual (PDF) that finally provided the proof. That user manual often included the word "Lambda" after the ES-50 title, or when the stylized Lambda symbol appeared.

I find it at least a little amazing that the name "Lambda" could stick around with so little promotion. More power to Korg for that one!

So, why name it "Lambda" anyways (besides the fact that they already had come out with a keyboard named "Sigma")? Time to check Wikipedia.

A couple of the uses/meanings of "Lambda":
  • Empty set in mathematics. Nope.
  • Subatomic particle. Nope. But cool.
  • A recurring symbol for the human resistance in the Valve computer game series Half-Life. Awesomely cool. But nope.
  • The likelihood that a small body will encounter a planet or a dwarf planet leading to a deflection of a significant magnitude. Ouch. That one hurt my head.
  • The wavelength of any wave, especially in physics, electronics engineering, and mathematics.

As for the ES-50 Lambda advertisement itself... after a brief advertising low-point with their Sigma advertisements, Korg, or should I say, Unicord, finally got back on track when they came out with that first black & white ES-50 advertisement.

And now, after that initial black and white advertisement ran only once on page 9 (some great real estate!), they turned the volume up a notch two months later with this colour version of the ad, which ended up running throughout the first half of 1980, and then again near the end of the year. The only downside was that this this far superior ad wasn't placed in the magazine nearly as well, usually running on a page somewhere in the 20s or 30s... except in December when it ran on the back inside cover.

I had mentioned in my last ES-50 post that it was really apparent which musician-based audience Unicord was directing that ad towards. And this advertisement zeroed in ever further.

First, colour really added some much needed "pop" to this well-framed, balanced ad - in particular bringing out the wood grain finish of to the top of the keyboard. Something I expect most ES-50 users would probably have appreciated.

Second, although the ad-copy didn't change much, if at all, the ad really played off of the simple user interface of the ES-50 by replacing the second half of the ad title to, "... and it doesn't take an engineer to play."

Third and last, in this new ad, Unicord decided to offer a $1 demo tape to those interested in its sound.

Not a bad deal, although "free" is always better. :o)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Korg ES-50 Lambda Polyphonic Ensemble, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

Korg ES-50 Lambda Polyphonic Ensemble advertisement from page 9 in Contemporary Keyboard December 1979.


What a relief. After reacquainting myself with the Korg Sigma advertisements in my last blog post, I was pretty sure Korg had up-and-fired their old marketing company and decided to start using one of the VP's teen-age kids to do their ads. But, as you can see with this advertisement, Korg's ad agency is back in business!

So, why such a difference between the Sigma ads and this new ES-50 ad?

If you look back at those three Sigma ads (ad 1, ad 2, ad 3), you will notice they are distinctly different, not just from the Sigma ads, but from any other Korg ads that ran around the same time period. Ads like those for the MS-10, MS-20, and VC-10 were just so much more creative. Looking closely at all the ads, you will see the answer to this riddle lies in the contact info.

In the MS-10, MS-20 and VC-10 ads, and including this advertisement - the only distribution company mentioned was Unicord. But those Sigma ads included a large number of international companies, and in the first two ads, right at the bottom of the list of those companies (but separated by a line) is: "Keio Electronic Laboratory Corp. Tokyo, Japan". Turns out Keio Electronic Laboratory Corp. is Korg.

Side note: According to Korg's Wikipedia page, Keio's "fledgling offices were located near the Keio train line in Tokyo" and Keio can be formed by combining the first letters of the last names of Korg's two founders - Tsutomu Kato and Tadashi Osanai. How great is that!

And it gets better: "In 1967, Kato was approached by Fumio Mieda, an engineer who wanted to build keyboards. Impressed with Mieda's enthusiasm, Kato asked him to build a prototype and 18 months later Mieda returned with a programmable organ. Keio sold the organ under the name KORG, created by using the first letter of each founder's name plus "RG" from their planned emphasis on products targeted for the oRGan market".

Sorry, getting a little off-track.

Anyways, I'm guessing that Keio (Korg) paid for the Sigma advertisement production and placement costs. Unlike the other ads, including this one for the ES-50, that were probably created by Unicord's own Marketing peeps (and paid for by Unicord).

And a good thing too because I really like this ad when compared to the Sigma ones.

The ad title is fun and you know immediately what musician-based audience they were targeting. "At last, a synthesizer that doesn't sound synthetic".

The ad-copy provides the reader with useful information, and the Korg logo is placed nicely on the page with the new slogan "Korg - Does it for real". Not sure if that last part will catch on though... :o)

The angle of the photo is really nice as well, with a good view of the front panel.

But, I have to say, I kinda miss not having the Canadian distribution company on the ad.

Go Roughriders! :o)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Korg Sigma, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

Korg Sigma synthesizer advertisement from page 13 in Contemporary Keyboard August 1979.

This was the third Korg Sigma advertisement to come out. And you wouldn't know it just by looking at it, but this was the final ad in the series. The campaign was actually quite different from most synthesizer introductions at the time, and quite different from the other Korg ads running at the time too.

I blogged about the first two ads in the series last February. The first was the pre-launch ad in the June 1979 issue, and as much as I liked the visuals of the ad, I just didn't think Korg put in the same effort for the ad-copy. I also didn't think they let the ad run long enough. In the end, it didn't do it's job.

The second ad ran just one month later in the July 1979 issue - and like the first ad, only ran for one month. This one introduced the Sigma to readers as *the* performing synthesizer, where again, the visuals of the ad blew the ad-copy out of the water.

This last ad of the series started running the next month (August 1979), and Korg threw it into the ever-growing rotating list of their products showing up in Contemporary Keyboard at the time. It ran monthly until January 1980.

Korg had been really hitting CK readers hard with advertisements starting around November 1978. Before that issue, Korg usually had a single ad per issue, but then in August, September and October 1978, they went silent. Nothing. Nadda.

Then in November 1978, Korg started running three ads at the same time - for the MS-10 synthesizer, MS-20 synthesizer, and VC-10 vocoder. Korg continued to hammer these three full page ads in CK in most issues afterwards, until the Sigma pre-introductory ad was also put into the mix. Korg then had *four* full page ads running for at least the two summer months, until the VC-10 ad was phased out. I'll have to take a closer look, but off the top of my head I can't think of any other companies during this time period that had that many ads in a single issue. Not Moog. Not Oberheim. Not Roland. As I mentioned in a previous Sigma post, "a reader is either going to remember all four ads because they are a Korg-fanatic, or more likely, all that Korgmania is just going to get lost in a sea of gearporn".

As far as this ad is concerned, the ad-copy has the same "feel" as the first two ads with the addition of a bit more reference information. Plus, below the ad-copy is a list of bullets that include information on each of the main sections of the synthesizer in the photo. Unlike the first two ads, the photo in this ad is purely functional. Together with the section bullets, the photo provides the reader a good overview of what the Sigma has to offer.

I finally had a chance to play on a Sigma for an extended period of time just a few weeks back - which is what got me thinking of this third Sigma ad. Overall, I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be with the sound. Maybe I had built the Sigma up in my mind a little too much - what with those two joysticks and all that. But, in the end, I guess I'm not as interested in the performance side of this synth as I thought I would be.

Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Moog Source Part 2, Contemporary Keyboard 1981

Moog Source advertisement from page 71 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine July 1981.

I finished off Part 1 of this blog post writing about how much I loved all the futuristic aspects of the Moog Source. But, all that futuristic stuff aside, to me the most interesting thing about the Source was Moog's decision to add major competitor Roland's DIN sync technology to the machine.

I did some quick Google searches to see what kind of information I could find out about this addition, and two great online discussions bubbled to the surface.

The first discussion was from June 2005 and can be found on the Moog Music Forum. In the topic entitled "Differences in Moog Source", the question of differences in the back panel layout came up. According to forum participant "mc", the DIN sync interface was added in mid-1983 (a year and a half into the Moog Source's manufacturing run), and could apparently control the arppeggiator and sequencer.
"Every Source has CV/Trigger jacks. Newer Sources added a Roland DIN sync drum interface. This addition was implemented May 1983 after serial 3180 on 120VAC versions and 3285 on export 220VAC versions. There was a kit to upgrade older Sources, mine has the upgrade."
The DIN sync became a topic of conversation again in May 2009 on MATRIXSYNTH when a Moog Source with DIN sync went up for auction. Commenter Analogika provided some useful reference information:
"The Sync input was standard on all later Sources (it's mentioned in my manual as an addendum from February 9, 1983). There was a period were the cassette input was re-assigned to sync in via factory retrofit, and a sticker applied to the rear of the case. It's a rather bizarre semi-solution. The arpeggiator needs a clock signal in order to run, but the actual notes are triggered by pulses to the "reset" in."
Based on this info, I decided to look at images on the Web to see how the DIN sync was implemented. Sure enough, I found examples of all three versions.

You can view a photo of a pre-DIN sync Source below, taken from this December 2009 MATRIXSYNTH auction post. You can clearly see the Audio Out, CV, S-trig, and Cassette Interface connections. This is exactly what the back of the Source in this 1981 advertisement looks like.

[pre-DIN sync version - from MATRIXSYNTH]

A May 2007 MATRIXSYNTH auction post links to Flickr images of what I believe is the retrofit/sticker version of the Source. I've included both the left side and the right side of the back of the Source below, where it appears that the cassette interface connections and S-trig connections were expanded and moved to the right side of the instrument. As mentioned by Analogika in that 2009 comment, you can see where the cassette interface was re-assigned to sync.

['bizarre semi-solution': retrofit/sticker version
left and right sides - from MATRIXSYNTH]

A December 2007 MATRIXSYNTH auction post links to images of what looks to be the final version of the Source with the silk screened labeling. Again, I've included both the left side and the right side images below.

[silk screened version - left and right sides - from MATRIXSYNTH]

More interesting than answering the questions of "when, where and how", is the "why". Why would Moog install a competing company's technology in their synthesizer?

And that was actually what participant "ebg31" asked in that 2005 Moog Music Forum discussion I mentioned earlier:
"On another note, doesn't it seem odd that Moog Music would curry favour with a Japanese competitor by implamenting the DCB buss?"
No one really answered this question, but assuming that "ebg31" actually meant the DIN-sync addition, and not DCB buss, then yes, it was odd that Moog would include it, but maybe not for reason "ebg31" suggests (curry favour with a Japanese competitor).

You have to remember that the DIN-sync feature looks like it was added to the Source around early 1983. Synth companies from around the world, including Moog, had for some time already been slowly coming together on the development of the MIDI specification. So, companies were already willing to work together in some form.

But what I find odd is that Moog decided to implement DIN sync when MIDI was about to be launched, or had already launched.

So, would Moog ever implement MIDI on the Source?

You can find Moog's official answer in the "Questions" section of the November 1983 issue of Keyboard, where Keyboard reader Richard De Laura asked, "Are any manufacturers planning to retrofit their older synthesizers and programmable effects with MIDI interfaces?"

As part of the answer, Bob Doerschuk wrote that, "A Moog representative stated that the Source and Memorymoog are the only two digital microprocessor keyboards produced by Moog, and that while the Memorymoog has a MIDI interface, no plans are being made to retrofit the Source."

So, although there was a good reason why the Moog Rogue never got a MIDI due to the fact that it didn't have a microprocessor, the Moog Source definitely would have qualified!

I can't help but think this would have reinvigorated Moog Source sales if MIDI had been installed. But of course, I think all synthesizers sales around this time period would have been reinvigorated if you slapped MIDI in. :o)

But that's just me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Moog Source Part 1, Contemporary Keyboard 1981

Moog Source advertisement from page 71 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine July 1981.

I recently blogged about a Moog Rogue advertisement, and it's Tron-influenced futuristic design elements. Well, Moog took it to a whole new level with this Moog Source ad that began to run in Keyboard around the same time period. Because not only does the design of this advertisement look as futuristic as that Moog Rogue ad did, but the design of the actual Source synthesizer is something straight out of a sci-fi block buster. In fact, maybe both ads were influenced more by the design of the Source synthesizer than the movie Tron... :o)

Moog wasn't just selling a synthesizer with the Source, it was selling "the future". Just look at that big photo showcasing the silver casing, front panel 1980's colour-scheme, and slick membrane buttons. But maybe slick isn't the right word. The Moog Source was the first (and last) Moog synth to use membrane-type buttons, but from what I understand they were just a little more reliable than the buttons on my Roland JX-8p, and a little less than the ones on my Matrix-6r.

The size and placement of the back panel photo tells us a lot about how Moog was positioning the Source in the marketplace. Back panel photos are often large, and included in an ad so that readers can see all the cool in's and out's. But the small back panel photo in this ad is pretty much useless, and the placement of the photo makes it look more like an after-thought. It's like it was thrown into the ad just because "it's always been done that way". In fact, the small photo is literally pushed aside for what Moog was really trying to sell - the power of digital technology. And all that digital power can be found in the much larger, centred, vertical photo of Moog's "programmed memory chip" and the accompanying Z80 microprocessor.

The Z80's Wikipedia page actually devotes a whole section to its integration in musical instruments under "Notible uses". I didn't realize the number of popular synthesizers that used the Z80 for one thing or another. Gear from Akai, Emu, Lexicon, Moog, Oberheim, Roland, SCI, and Waldorf are listed. Ironically, the only synthesizer that stands out as not being mentioned (on the date of the writing this blog post) seems to be the Source - and it was the one pushing the microprocessor right on the ad! Anyways, the whole Wikipedia article is actually quite an interesting historical read. I recommend it.

The ad-copy of the ad reinforces everything a reader takes in visually through the design. First, unlike this Rogue ad, there is no misunderstanding what synthesizer the reader is looking at. The title "The Source" shows up twice in two different large fonts. And, to make sure Moog got the whole microprocessor-thing across to readers, peppered throughout the ad-copy are words like "digital", "program", and "programmable". This was, after all, the first Moog synthesizer to offer patch storage.

But Moog wasn't dumb - they didn't let years of tradition get totally lost in a sea of one's and zero's. They make it perfectly clear to all potential buyers under "The Sound" section of the ad: "Moog filter, Moog sound".

The Spec Sheet for the Moog Source appeared a month before this advertisement started to run in the June 1981 issue of Contemporary Keyboard. It contains a lot of great reference information, and one of the most interesting things about this spec sheet is the description of how to change settings (in bold). The idea of no knobs on a synth was still pretty new at the time, so it's actually described in quite a bit of detail for all the people that may have been scratching their heads:
"Moog Source Synthesizer. The Source is a microprocessor-controlled programmable monophonic synthesizer. It has a three-octave keyboard, two VCOs, and a noise source. The oscillator's range is from 32' to 1'. They can produce sawtooth, triangle and variable pulse waveforms, and can be synced together. The two four-stage envelope generators are micro-processor-generated and control the VCF and VCA. The oscillators and filter can be controlled by an LFO which puts out triangle and square waves. Modulation and pitch wheels are included. The unit will remember up to 16 patches, and it comes with a cassette interface built-in so the total number of patches that can be stored is virtually unlimited. The front panel controls are touch switches. When one is pressed it is assigned to the incremental control at the left of the keyboard. This pot and LED readout then give you a numerical readout of the value that the switch you hit is set at. You can adjust this value as you like. There is also a software-generated sequencer (two real-time-loaded sequences of up to 64 notes each), an arpeggiator, automatic triggering, and sample-and-hold. Moog. 2500 Walden Ave., Buffalo, NY 14225."
As much as I love all the futuristic aspects of this synthesizer, there is one thing in particular that really got my attention with this synthesizer. Unfortunately, this blog post is already kinda long, so I'm going to save that for part 2.

Besides, I'm still typing it... :o)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moog Ten Band Graphic Equalizer and Three Band Parametric Equalizer, Contemporary Keyboard, 1978

Moog Ten Band Graphic Equalizer and Three Band Parametric Equalizer from page 9 in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine April 1978.

This ad popped up in Contemporary Keyboard in April 1978. and continued to run in the following two issues. Then it ran again in September 1978. The two equalizers were also featured as CK Giveaway #25 in the April 1978 issue ($600 value!).

Normally I'm not much into vintage signal processors and effects gear, but the first time I really paid attention to this ad, it kinda felt 'weird' to me for some reason. For the first few minutes I couldn't put my finger on it, but then it suddenly hit me in my marketing-type head.

The weirdness had nothing to do with the technology side of things. Or even the design of the ad (although you will notice that the descriptions beside each instrument should have been switched around). No, the thing that bugged me was the fact that neither of these units had a "cool" name. They had model numbers on the back that are often included in online descriptions, but that's just not the same as a cool name that appears on the front panel. And the ad just refers to them as 'Moog Graphic Equalizer" and "Moog Parametric Equalizer".

Moog had a good thing going with their x-moog naming convention around this time period. MiniMoog. MicroMoog. PolyMoog. Minitmoog. Multimoog. You get the idea. Not the most creative, but still, they were descriptive terms and the names just "worked".

Calling them Equamoogs or some such name would have definitely been a bad idea, but surely the marketing team could have come up with something. These two pieces didn't even use simple letter/number combos such as Moog GE-3 and PE-10 (I'll let you figure those ones out). Maybe Moog had figured out they had done the x-moog naming thing to death and they were in a transition period. It would only be a year or so later that they would change their naming convention with the Moog Prodigy. And from then on, it was balls-to-the-walls with gear names such as Liberation, Opus-3, Source, Rogue, and Taurus. Whoa! All favorites. And most are now the names of electronic acts. :o)

Because I'm not really into vintage effects, I decided to flip through a few issues of CK from the same time period just to see what other effects companies were doing in terms of naming conventions. MXR had their Phase 45, Phase 90, and Phase 100 phase shifter pedals. Horner had their Vari-Phaser phase shifter. And Polyfusion had their stereo panner SP-1. All decent enough - but nothing spectacular. And it gets worse. MXR also had a digital delay named the "Digital Delay", And Ross had their digital delay named "Stereo Delay". Booo.

It's not to say there weren't some goodies out there at the time. In fact, what I think was one of the most progressive effects names at the time turned up in an October 1977 CK Spec Sheet promo - the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man Deluxe analog delay. Electro-Harmonix *still* sells a Memory Man Deluxe delay that uses the same font and very similar graphics and controls that they used back in 1978. Nice.

And guess which spec sheet write-up also appeared along side the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man Deluxe. You got it - the write up for these two Moog equalizers also ran in October 1977 - a full six months before the Moog ads started to appear. But the fact the two Moog equalizers appeared together in the Spec Sheet promo was a good indication that the two units would also be advertised together in the future. The spec sheet gives us some good historical reference information I haven't run into very often online:
"Moog parametric and graphic equalizers. The Moog three-band parametric equalizer has a range that is adjustable from 4 octaves to 1/4 octave on all three filters. The maximum available cut/boost on the 4-octave width is +-12dB; on the 1/4-octave width it is +-20dB. Nominal input level over 30 to 15,0000Hz is +4dBm. The overall frequency response with the effect switched in is 30 to 15,000Hz. A status switch controls whether the parametric is in the circuit or not, and an indicator light goes on when the effect is engaged. Power requirements are 100 to 135 volts AC @ 60Hz or 200 to 270 volts AC @ 50Hz, selectable from the rear panel switch. The ten-band graphic equalizer's overall frequency response is 30 to 15,000Hz +-2dB. Maximum available cut and boost on each band is +-15dB, and the insertion gain is adjustable from -10 to +10dB. The unit has nine band-pass filters spaced one octave apart from 31Hz to 8kHz and a shelf-type filter at 16kHz. Like the parametric equalizer, the graphic has a status indicator light that lets the performer know when the effect is in the circuit. Power requirements are the same as those for the parametric. Moog Music, 7373 N. Cicero Ave., Lincolnwood, IL 60646."
Doing this research has given me more appreciation for vintage effects, and has definitely made me more interested in getting more involved in both vintage and current effects gear. I have to confess I do usually have a Boss OS-2 Overdrive/Distortion pedal attached to my 303 (along with a Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor :o) And I have been doing more effects-based experimental-type stuff lately. I'm no where near the point where I can get full-on Chris Carter in my studio, although it is something definitely to strive for. Definitely hit "play" on that video I've linked to.

Oh - and anyone who wants to buy me the book "Analog Man's Guide to Vintage Effects" for Christmas can find it online. Hey lady-friend! I'm talkin' to you...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Moog Rogue ad #3, Keyboard 1983

Moog Rogue 1/3-page square advertisement from page 25 in Keyboard Magazine March 1983.

Okay, I'll get to the ad in a sec... but first, just as this blog post was 'going to press', a question about the Moog Rogue popped into my head. I just had to start digging through old issues of Keyboard to find the answer. Thought it might be interesting to others...

Why didn't Moog ever retrofit the Moog Rogue with MIDI?

Advertisements for the Rogue continued to run for at least a year after MIDI was introduced, and I think it would have been a great little synthesizer to quickly pop a MIDI interface into. It would have been the cutest thing ever. But it seems Moog never did this (or at least advertise it).

Even better, Moog had not only shown signs of supporting the specification, but had already introduced MIDI into one of it's synthesizers by mid-1983. In Bob Moog's July 1983 Keyboard article entitled "M.I.D.I - What it is, What it means to you", he lets readers know where each company stands in terms of supporting MIDI. Three companies had already "shown" at least one of their synthesizers with MIDI (at NAMM, I'm guessing...):
"Digital Keyboards, Moog, and Octave-Plateau are each showing a previously-introduced instrument which they have equipped with MIDI...

...The Memorymoog is equipped with a new polyphonic-sequencer-plus-MIDI package which mounts inside the instrument and is controlled by the LFO section of the Memorymoog front panel. The package will also be available as a retrofit".
So, if Moog was doing it for the Memorymoog, why not the Rogue? Maybe cost?

I quickly recalled reading that MIDI interfaces were relatively cheap. After searching frantically through old issues of Keyboard trying to track down this tidbit of info, I finally found it in the exact same article I just referenced above:
"An especially attractive aspect of MIDI is that there is very little hardware associated with the interface. A complete MIDI Interface adds $25 or so to the list price of an instrument that already incorporates a microprocessor. Furthermore, future specification updates are not likely to involve hardware changes, so that, hardware-wise, the 1983 MIDI will probably not go out of date for a good long time." [Aside: Bob nailed that prediction...]
Can you see the problem? It's cheap if the synthesizer already has a microprocessor, which the Rogue unfortunately doesn't. So I guess Moog decided it wasn't worth the effort. Although a quick Google search shows that at least one third-party eventually did.

Well, back to the ad. And it's an odd-ball.

This advertisement appeared only once as far as I can tell. And it wasn't at the end of the long sporadic showing of the full-page, full-colour version of this ad, but smack in the middle. For some reason Moog decided - FOR ONE MONTH - to run a shrunk-down black and white version of that full-colour ad.

The ad uses a modified version of the full-colour background. It's not just a re-use, the designer has actually moved the smaller photos to better fit within the matrix-squares in this ad's format. The ad-copy has also been pared-down to fit the smaller size.

But in the end, it never lives up to the full-page version.

The ad actually does one thing better than that full-colour version. The name of the synthesizer is in LARGE BOLD LETTERING. No need to go digging into the ad-copy to see what synthesizer this ad is for. I also kinda like the scan-line stroking that appears around the Moog logo - very TRONy. In the colour version of the ad, the stroke effect is a blend of colours that probably would have been lost when converting directly to black and white.

The shape of the ad is what I refer to as "1/3-page square". It appears two columns wide, and only half a page tall. It is probably a good value for the advertiser that can't afford a half-page ad, but definitely wants more real-estate than the more common 1/6-pager (1 column, half page).

But I would think that Moog could definitely have afforded full page advertisements, and in fact had been running at least one full page ad (sometimes two) in every issue of Keyboard since June 1982. AND, they continued to run full page ads after this 1/3-page ad ran, until April 1984 when they took another break from advertising at all in the magazine.

Even more strange is that Moog ran *another* black and white 1/3-page ad in this issue for the MemoryMoog with a similar TRON-like background. So, that's really more like 2/3's of a page of advertising in the same issue. I'm not sure that running these two black and white ads would have been better than running one full-page, full-colour ad. Maybe they were trying something new. Maybe they just couldn't get the space that month.

What ever the case, it at least makes for a unique retro advertising experience for me. :o)

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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moog Rogue, Keyboard 1982

Moog Rogue advertisement from page 39 in Keyboard Magazine, June 1982.

I was flipping through Keyboard yesterday when I came across this Moog Rogue ad. It wasn't the first Rogue ad to appear in Keyboard Magazine, but it is the one that I always remember when I think of the Moog Rogue. And my first thought was, "Hey - MoogFest was just on, what a great way for me to contribute in my own little way".

But as great as MoogFest was (and I'm jealous as heck that I couldn't make it), there were two other memories that flooded back into my brain when I started looking more closely at this ad that clinched it for my blog post. And, surprisingly only one of them was synth-related.

First the non-synth-related memory:

The Moog logo immediately brought back my first memories of using Photoshop's "stroke" feature. I used that "stroke" feature a lot on band posters a long while back. The Moog logo really would have gotten lost in this ad if they hadn't put those ever-expanding blue, pink, orange and yellow stroke lines around it.

Now the synth-related memory:

The grid line graphic elements making up the backdrop of this ad immediately brings me back to memories of watching the movie Tron, which, probably not-so-coincidentally, came out the same summer as this ad. I wonder just how much TRON's computer-generated glowing blue design influenced the art and culture of the time. I'm guessing *a lot*. But that's not the synth-related bit.

According to Wendy Carlos Web site, she was asked to produce the computer-world portion of the score for TRON back in 1981 - which you might have guessed, included a synth or two :o)

You can find some great historical information about the original TRON soundtrack on her Web site, including her TRON anthem 'first sketch' and some great anecdotes. There is also a PDF link to a Keyboard article written by Bob Moog entitled "Wendy Carlos & Michael Fremer reveal the secrets behind the soundtrack of TRON". An excellent read. A few quick Google searches will provide even more great info.

And now that the new TRON movie is coming out, I'm getting even more excited looking at this Rogue ad. The new movie was apparently scored by Daft Punk, and I recently saw the latest preview for it on YouTube:

To me, the original TRON movie was all about the visuals and the soundtrack. And I expect no less from this new movie. I'm crossing my fingers this movie lives up to the hype I've built up in my tiny little brain.

So, those two great memories definitely influence my opinion of the ad. And I do love this ad. Honestly, I can only think of one thing about this ad that bugs me. You have to look *really* hard for the actual name of the synthesizer - The Rogue. The logo can be seen in the photo in the top-left corner, and on the photo of the synth itself. But both of those are rather small. And it's not until you get to the end of the third line of ad-copy that you see the name.

If you look around the Web, the Rogue often gets a date of "1981" stamped on it. But, this Rogue ad actually appeared very sporadically throughout 1982 (June, September), 1983 (November), and, yes.... even 1984 (March). The only difference between the 1982 version of the ad and the later versions is a call-out box in the top right corner that reads, "Now, surprisingly affordable, visit your dealer". Which is strange, because the first line of the original ad copy included the text, "never been so affordable". In fact, two-thirds of the ad-copy is devoted to telling the reader how affordable this synthesizer is.

I guess they were making sure they hit *that* nail on the head.