It’s that time of the year again. Yes, a new synth from Moog is released. Just as they have done before, Moog has released a MoogFest exclusive synth now to the public. This time it’s the Subharmonicon, the Semi-Modular Analog Polyrhythmic Desktop Synthesizer from Moogfest 2018. Let’s see what this one is all about.
Here's the full video review:
Moog categorizes this synth under their Semi-Modular collection along with the Grandmother and Matriarch but I would create another sub-category of Eurorack style desktop semi-modulars from Moog and place the Subharmonicon in there. The Mother 32 being the OG, followed by the DFAM and now the Subharmonicon. It does have the exact same form factor as the other two and also falls in the same price range. Just like the other two, the Subharmonicon can be removed from it’s housing and placed in a Eurorack compatible casing. Unfortunately you will have to source out your own ribbon cable. It also has the classic 32 point patchbay on the right, though personally I feel it’s only 31 as the 32nd patch point is a MIDI IN jack. This used to be a separate 5 pin jack on the Mother 32.
This is where the synth really shines. Borrowing from the Trautonium, Mixtur-Trautonium & the Moogtonium, the synth uses a divide down circuitry to set the pitch for the two sub-oscillators. The synth has two main oscillator sections with two sub-oscillators each! The sub-oscillators can be divided by up to 16 values. So technically you can voice a 6 note chord with the synth. Unfortunately the synth only has one VCF and VCA section so the voice will be monophonic or paraphonic at best.
This is one of the best aspects of the synth. Borrowing from an old machine from the 1930s named Rhythmicon, the Subharmonicon can create polyrhythms based on the main internal or external clock signal. There are 4 Rhythm generators that can clock divide the main tempo down from 1 to 16, to produce a variety of different polyrhythms. There are two 4 step sequencers, one for each of the oscillators, though the sub-oscillators can also be independently assigned to the sequencers. This whole idea of applying pitch values to an independently generated rhythm harkens back to Joseph Schillinger’s mathematical composition theory from the 1950s. Almost endless possibilities with just a 4 step sequencer!
The patchbay does provide a lot of flexibility to manipulate the rhythm generators as well as control the main oscillator along with the sub oscillators. Though when comparing the patchbay to the Mother 32’s equivalent, you will notice it lacks mults, CV mixers as well as LFO outputs. The Mother 32 has a very deep Assign jack that could be customized to output a variety of different things. Nothing of that sort on the Subharmonicon.
The Subharmonicon is a welcome addition to the already thriving Moog-Eurorack collection. Yes there are some drawbacks with the patchbay and yes there is only one voice path for the oscillators, but a lot of the core elements of the synth are available as outputs on the patchbay making it easy to exploit using other modular systems. I was a bit disappointed with the DFAM as a modular device & specifically it’s sequencer but Moog has done well with the Subharmonicon making it great for endless musical creations.
Price: $699 USD
Pros: Very novel sequencer and polyrhythm generator.
Cons: Lacks an LFO.
Full video course coming to Ask.Audio Academy / macProVideo.com soon...