Monday, June 4, 2012

Moog Music Inc/Moog Custom Engineering "Dual Voltage Controlled Oscillators" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1979

Moog Music Inc/Moog Custom Engineering "Dual Voltage Controlled Oscillators" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from page 46 in the January 1979 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

Like the first Moog Custom Engineering advertisement I posted, I decided to post the reseller ad that sits beside it. This time there is no real comparison I want to make, so maybe its because I haven't felt like writing too much lately and that extra little ad is a bit more of a diversion.

Unlike the first MCE ad, this one includes a few more layout elements. Like an actual title. And even paragraphs. Plus a photo!

The ad itself has a lot of good reference info about the Dual Voltage Controlled Oscillator.
  • Master tune
  • Pulse width
  • Output level controls
  • Sine, triangle, sawtooth, and rectangular pulse waveforms w/ individual waveform, octave, and on-off switches
  • Oscillator 2 has its own tune control and sync switch
To find more up-to-date info, I turned to the InterWebz. MATRIXSYNTH has a September 2010 auction post with some good photos of the unit (front and back), and according to a few sources online like this Moog Music forums thread from 2006 the oscillators were well respected:
"These were made by Moog Custom Engineering in the late 70s (along with the 3-band Parametric EQ, Graphic EQ, 12-stage Phaser, String Filter, and Vocoder) and reportedly are close to Mini Moog D oscillators"
Wow - that's quite the oscillators to use as a comparison. Good company, indeed.

But its actually the first part of that quote that intrigues me most. It seems that lately, Moog Custom Engineering often gets associated not just with the more "alternative" Moog products like their modules or mods for existing gear like this Dual VCO, but also with the Moog signal processing gear like the Parametric EQ, Graphic EQ, 12-Stage Phaser or Vocoder.

My last post on a Moog Signal Processors advertisement that came out around the same time period clearly indicates that this is a straight-up Moog product - even including the Licolnwood, Illinois address rather than the Moog Custom Engineering Buffalo New York address.

Like I just mentioned above, it was also Moog modules such as the 1528 Sample-Hold that were clearly labeled under the Moog Custom Engineering brand. And not just in ads. The Sample-Hold appeared in the March 1979 Spec Sheet section of CK as a Moog Custom Engineering product:
"Moog Sample-Hold Module. The 1528 Sample-Hold module samples an applied signal under the control of an internal clock or external trigger. The internal clock is voltage-controlled with triangle, V-trigger, and S-trigger outputs. The external trigger inputs accept V- or S-triggers. The sample circuit has variable glide and is adjusted for zero offset. Gain is unity. The 1528 is the same size as the 900 series Moog modules and its signal levels are compatible, but it requires a +-20 vols to +-24 volts DC power supply @ 50mA for operation. Moog Custom Engineering. 2500 Walden Ave., Buffalo, NY 14225."
So, after noticing this apparent differentiation, I starting asking myself how Moog might have distinguished what fell under the Moog brand, and what would fall under the Moog Custom Engineering brand.

I emailed Roger Luther from the most excellent Moog Archives Web site about the two apparent Moog brands, and here's what he had to say:
"At the time of that ad, sales and marketing were being run out of Norlin in Lincolnwood, but everything else... production, engineering, service, etc., was still done at the Cheektowaga plant (just outside Buffalo).  By then orders for modular systems and custom modifications were very few and far between.  We were producing fairly good quantities of Minis, Multis, and Polymoogs, and several new models were in the works.  Building modular equipment on such a small scale just didn’t fit into a volume production environment, so it was handled in the engineering department... same building, different area.  It’s been 34 years, but as I remember, there was really no dedicated Custom Engineering Staff.  At that time a lot of the custom work was done by one guy, but all of it was done by engineers and production workers that spent most of their time on other projects."
The email reply is full of great historical info, and the one thing in particular that it suggests is that indeed Moog Custom Engineering - at this time at least - wasn't really a department of sorts. It was more of a "brand".

So, then why create a second brand when Moog is already such a huge, well respected name in the synthesizer industry? I have a guess  (surprised? :) Here's my thoughts - and one I'm still working on.

There were certain Moog products that only worked through modifications or customizations. And since production, engineering and service was still run out of Buffalo, it would make sense to push any orders or questions concerning these products directly to the staff that could answer them. On the other hand, questions concerning instruments like Minimoogs could probably be handled at the reseller level, so therefore the marketing department address was fine to use in normal Moog ads.

Okay. I know. Just a guess. But, no matter, splitting your brand isn't necessarily a good thing. It can lead to confusion in the short term until people figure it all out. Moog? Moog Custom Engineering? Buffalo? Licolnwood. Gah.

And I'm all about consistency. So you could see why I get all bajiggity about this stuff.

Anyways - that's the end of my ramblings. Am still researching and will post more as I learn.

I leave you with this YouTube video by VintageStuff2. A micromoog with the Dual VCO (and a few other juicy Moog products). It starts off a little slow... but still, only 76 views? WTF?!?!

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