Few companies create such tweak-able and genuinely unique products as Moog, but how does the company's latest foray into the world of 500 series stack up? Russ Long finds out.
I interact with dozens of pro-audio businesses in my endeavours, and it’s always refreshing when I encounter a company that consistently does things right. Moog is one of those companies.
Both the Analog Delay and the Ladder are beautifully designed, blending a modern look with a classy Moog vibe. The modules accept signals ranging from -10 to +4dB, making them easy to interface with both pro and consumer gear; a pair of either model can be stereo linked using the included jumper cable.
For this review, I had a pair of each model and, having utilised them both in stereo, I highly recommend getting a pair as their stereo integration adds a whole new layer of sonic manipulability. Both models are equipped with a relay-based and hardwired true bypass. Most importantly, both the Analog Delay and the Ladder have the uncanny ability to infuse life into even the deadest sound.
The Analog Delay
As a standalone unit, the Analog Delay is impressive, though not a jaw dropper. However, once you implement the plug-in or standalone editor and begin to utilise the additional features it provides, its true power rapidly becomes apparent.
As the name suggests, the Moog 500 Series Analog Delay is a delay with a fully analogue signal path. It provides up to 800ms of smooth, natural, and warm delay, adding an entirely new musical dimension to recording and mixing. The ability to control the device with Tap Tempo, CV, or MIDI gives the user significant control possibilities and the software editor plug-in provides the same recall and automation flexibility typically only found in plug-ins.
The plug-in provides a selection of various LFO wave shapes including Sine, Triangle, Square, Ramp, Sawtooth, Sample, and Hold, plus Smooth Sample and Hold modulations. There is control over the LFO rate as well as the amount the LFO modulates the delay line. Tempo sync is added as well as increased control of the modulation settings and delay time. There is even a Slew Rate control that determines the transition time from one delay setting to another and a pull-down menu that selects the behaviour of the CV/Tap input.
Initially, I thought, ‘Why do I need an outboard delay when I mix?’ I have several delay plug-ins that I love and some of them give me an abundance of convincing analogue tonality. Yet after spending time with the Moog I realised that it offers much more than any plug-in can. It’s both a delay and tonal shaping tool. Using it along with its plug-in provides all of the recallability and automation functionality that’s available in the box but with a true analogue device that can’t be equalled by a digital algorithm.
Over the past three months I’ve run lots of sound sources through the module and had wonderful results. As is the case with even the best plug-ins, sometimes the module isn’t the right choice; and unlike a plug-in, when the Analog Delay works, there’s nothing else that can even come close. Just using the box to subtly overdrive a lead vocal can be amazing and automating the Drive control for more aggressiveness in the chorus is a wonderful thing. I found the module can translate thin, sterile synth pads into massive sounds that I’d swear were analogue; it can even work wonders on electric guitar and bass.
The Moog Ladder
The Ladder is based on the classic ladder filter design on which Bob Moog filed a US patent in 1966. It’s arguably the backbone to the classic Moog sound. This Dynamic Transistor Ladder Filter packs the sonic bliss of the original ladder filter into a 500 series module.
As with the Analog Delay, the Ladder can work its magic on virtually any sound source. I’ve implemented it on the same standard audio fare as the Analog Delay and had fabulous results. After spending so much time utilising the MIDI controls on the Analog Delay, I wish the Ladder had the same MIDI implementation. Since there is no way to automate parameter adjustment, I typically route my source sound through the Ladder onto another track so I can record my performance. Besides capturing the sound of the Ladder, it eliminates the need to document any of my settings for recall.
When working with drums, I insert a stereo pair of Ladders into a parallel drum bus and push the Resonance control slightly beyond the point of self-oscillation which adds a powerful dimension to the sound. The module easily transforms a flat, dull bass into the punchiest bass I’ve ever heard and it works wonders on synths and electric guitar. To convert a mono keyboard into stereo, I’ve had great results multing the mono signal into two stereo-linked Ladders each with slightly different Resonance settings. The resulting stereo image is huge.
Unfortunately, the Ladder is void of CV/gate connectivity; beyond this (and its lack of MIDI), it’s a near perfect device.
RRP: £739 (Analog Delay), £579 (Ladder)
Russ Long is a native of Boulder, Colorado. His credits include the hit singles Kiss Me and There She Goes by Sixpence None The Richer alongside albums by Wilco, Newsboys, Dolly Parton, and Jim Brickman.