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Arturia V- Collection - Moog Modular V (the theory)

Written on Saturday, 26 September 2015 09:53
Written by  Antonio Antetomaso


Arturia V- Collection - Moog Modular V (the theory)

Hi folks and welcome to the first appointment of this series of articles on the Arturia V Collection. The first virtual synth we will talk about is perhaps also the first product launched on the market by Arturia: the Moog Modular V.





For those who don't know which hardware synthesizer is emulated by this virtual synth, it was the Moog Modular System 55 that inspired artists as Keith Emerson and was perhaps the first modular system used in a live rock concert.




For those who want to know more about this giant of the past, I suggest to take a look at the user manual of the Moog Modular V on the Arturia web site (http://downloads.arturia.com/products/modular-v/manual/ModularV_Manual_2_5_EN.pdf) or at the dedicated web page on the Moog website (http://www.moogmusic.com/products/modulars/system-55), or at Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moog_modular_synthesizer).

Having a lot to say, let’s leave the history for now and let’s start talking about the virtual synthesizer offered by Arturia that is a "customized" version of the original System 55 due to this facts:

  1. It offers a step sequencer that was not present on the original System 55 made by Bob Moog and is modeled over the type 960 module made by Bob Moog himself;
  2. It’s polyphonic while the original Moog Modular was only monophonic (purists will turn up their nose);
  3. It offers a noise generator;
  4. It offers three filters;
  5. It offers two control pads;
  6. It can save presets and organize them in categories (again purists will turn up their nose).


First of all, let’s say that it can be used as a standalone synthesizer or hosted inside a DAW via VST, AU or RTAS protocols. The price is 99 dollars (or Euros). Let’s take a look at the main interface, in order to proceed top down.




First of all, since it’s a modular synthesizer, in order to let it produce sounds we have to connect outputs with inputs using virtual patch cords. To do this, what we have to do is to drag with the mouse from one output to the desired input to see the virtual cable connected. In order to learn what to connect to what, let’s examine the interface of the synth.

We can think about it as divided into three main parts:


The synthesis section



The core section of the synthesizer is composed by two cabinets and integrates the 33 modules necessary for the creation of sounds. Unlike the original System 55, the modules in the upper part can be exchanged via the menu that appears when their name has been clicked. It is thus possible to replace an envelope with a ring modulator, a filter with a frequency translator for an almost complete customization of the synthesizer.


The step sequencer and the effects



The cabinet situated at the top of the synthesizer, contains the step sequencer and 4 effects (one can choose a chorus or phaser for the right hand effect).


The virtual keyboard and the connections extension



Under the synthesis section we have a small extension containing the internal cables and under this last part we have the virtual keyboard and its assignable controllers.


Let’s start examining the synthesis section in detail, proceeding module by module.





The Moog Modular V offers 9 oscillators regrouped in three as in the original machine. Each group of three oscillator is driven using a fourth “master” oscillator, the driver, which establish the main tune, the pulse with modulation and the frequency modulation settings for all the three slave oscillators. Each of this slave oscillators can be tuned independently but starting from the master tune of the driver oscillator as well.

Again each slave oscillator can simultaneously produce saw, square, triangle and sine waves and each wave can be taken and driven into the mixer to be manipulated and heard.

Last (but not least), each oscillator can be synced to another oscillator using the “sync” switch and the virtual input underneath its controls and its frequency can be modulated by two sources connected to the two input under the sync one.





The Modular V offers two separate voltage controlled amplifiers, each one driven by its own ADSR envelope. For each one of them it’s possible to adjust the panning and the volume of the output signal.





Sixteen independent amplifiers are offered to treat the audio signals produced by the oscillators. Each amplifier has its own volume control knob and can be modulated by a modulation source connected to the input jack near it. Using the “link” red button we can create mixes of the signals in input to each amplifier: enabling the “link” button between an amplifier and its sibling makes the first output the sum of the signals in input to each amplifier.





The filters section, in the upper part of the synthesis section, is composed by three modules and the user can choose for each one of them one of the four filter types offered:

  • Low pass 24 dB/octave (type 904A)
  • High pass 24 dB/octave (type 904B)
  • Band pass and band reject 24 dB/octave (type 904C)
  • Multi-modes 12 dB/octave (low-pass, high-pass, band pass, band reject, bell, shelf)

Each filter offers an input to receive the signal to filter, an output to send the filtered signal to the mixer and one or more modulation inputs to modulate the cutoff frequency and (not always) the resonance.





Two distinct cyclic modulation sources are offered, the first in the upper part, the second in the lower part of the synthesis section.

They are identical and offer simultaneously these waveforms:

  • Sine
  • Triangle
  • Saw
  • Square
  • Pulse

The pulse wave can be modulated with a distinct input source or manually using the “Manual” knob. Furthermore the user can delay the start of the LFO or “fade in” the signal produced.





Near the filter section we have six auxiliary envelopes to add to the main two ones attached to the two VCAs. Each one is an ADSR envelope and can be used as a modulation source to modulate anything the user wants.





It can offer both white and pink noise using two separate outputs for each type of noise, for a total of 4 outputs. In addition to this, the module offers a low pass filter and a high pass filter for filtering the two noise generators in the manner the sound designer likes.

Let’s take a look at the step sequencer section in deep, now.





The giant step sequencer accurately reproduced from the original model and, maybe, the part of the instrument giving the greatest fun. It’s the most important part of this section so it’s worth to take a deep look at it. First of all we need to say that the connections to the various modules are “hidden” to simplify the programming phase to the musician: the output of the step sequencer is routed to the desired module using the mouse on the small LCD display at the bottom of it.

The step sequencer is composed by three main components:

  • The low frequency oscillator: it controls the timing of passage from one sequence to another. Its speed can be set statically with the “frequency” button and dynamically with the modulation input on the first page. Two buttons, “on” and “off” respectively start and stop this generator;
  • The eight-step sequence manager: each step defines 3 levels of output modulations, using 3 knobs. The manager moves from one step to another on each pulse from the low frequency generator. The 3 rows of sequence can also be chained to create a longer sequence (up to 24 steps);
  • The output controller allows the management of the 4 modulation outputs for the current step. We have in fact a modulation output for each row that outputs the value of the active step. The fourth output sends, at each step, the value taken from the “active” row when we link them together in order to produce a 16 steps sequence or a 24 steps sequence. The rows are taken from top to bottom.

The description above may be a little complicated at a very first reading, I know. But I can assure it’s more complicated to explain than to use it, so in the next appointment I’ll supply some videos showing how to build patches using the Moog Modular V, with particular attention to the step sequencer. It’s a promise!

Let’s proceed further with the other modules of the step sequencer section.





From left to right, this is what is offered to the musician:

  • Resonant filter bank (Fixed Filter bank): it adds deep equalization to the outgoing signal coming from the 2 output VCAs according to the state of the switches “VCA1” and “VCA2”. This equalization is done with the help of resonant filters with 12 band-pass filters; each of the bands has a level (positive or negative) and bandwidth setting. This module also possesses a low-pass filter (80 Hz) and a fixed high-pass (12 kHz).
  • Chorus: a chorus module whose modulation rate can be set with the “rate” knob, whose amplitude can be set with the “amount” knob, and whose width can be set by the “delay” knob.
  • Stereo delay (Dual Delay): stereo delay of the incoming signal with independent left and right channels that can be driven with two control columns.

Finally it’s the time to analyze the last section of the synthesizer, the virtual keyboard with all its virtual controllers.




This section offers five octaves of virtual keys and the following controls to rapidly modified the final timbre.  

  1. Portamento;
  2. Pitch bending and modulation wheel;
  3. A section used to define the pitch bending and the filter bending ranges, to set the keyboard mode (mono, unison, poly), to enable the retriggering of the envelopes at every key pressing;
  4. A section used to control 4 independent key follows, each one used as a modulation source to route to whatever modulation input on the signal path;
  5. The shortcuts to the two master envelopes attached to VCA1 and VCA2;
  6. The shortcuts to the master gain and master pitch;
  7. Two X/Y pads to assign to whatever modulation input on the signal path;
  8. The shortcuts to the cutoff frequency control of the three filters. 


Above the virtual keyboard we have the “Keyboard controllers” section, which offers a set of modulation outputs, each one related to what is generated by the keyboard. Using this section one can take the signal generated by the controllers on the keyboard section (for example the velocity, the aftertouch, the modulation wheel and so on) and the ones generated by the sequencer lines and use them to modulate whatever he wants.




Have you had enough? No? What about some videos showing some concrete examples on how to program this beast? If you want them you have to stay tuned for the next appointment.

In the meantime take a look at this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbL-dk_u8VI) showing what this toy can do.



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Last modified on Saturday, 26 September 2015 09:53