Then and Now: The Moog Phatty Series

On May 23rd, Moog Music will celebrate the 80th birthday of their eponymous founder, Bob Moog. Though Bob passed away in August 2005, his company continues as one of the premiere establishments in music gear with a legacy that's impossible to miss regardless of what type of music you listen to. Before his death, Bob Moog worked on one last project for his company, the Moog Little Phatty. Released in 2006, this compact powerhouse quickly established a reputation as one of the most desirable new synths on the market.

In the past 8 years, Moog has released two variations on the Little Phatty: the Slim Phatty and the Sub Phatty, with a third, the Sub 37 debuting this year. Though each model carries its own distinctions and variations, everything in the Phatty line carries the quality Moog intended with the original. Today we’re looking through each of the four Phattys, looking at specs, and stacking them pound for sweet analog pound.

Moog Little Phatty

The Little Phatty is a completely analog signal path monophonic synthesizer featuring a 37-note keyboard, two Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCOs), a continuously variable Waveform selector, 2 ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release) envelope generators, and a solid LFO with six waveshapes. Obviously there’s a lot to unpack here. The dual Variable Waveshape VCOs allow for a dizzying array of possible wave shapes by drawing from a pool of four shapes (Triangle, Rectangle, Square, Sawtooth) and combining the waves into a new pattern. The envelope generators allow for a minute control over the filter and volume settings. The filter is a classic Moog ladder 24dB/octave featuring onboard controls for Cutoff, Resonance, Keyboard Amount, Envelope Generator Amount, and Overload. Everything is housed in a futuristic concave body with an easily navigable control display for active sound shaping during performance.

The Little Phatty debuted as the Tribute Edition, featuring wood siding, blue LED lighting, and a decal of Bob Moog’s signature as opposed to the traditional Moog logo. The company later released the Little Phatty Stage Edition, featuring all-black casing, red and orange lighting, and the Moog logo decal. The Little Phatty Stage II was the last incarnation of the series before discontinuation in 2013 and featured slight electrical and hardware upgrades as well as a USB interface.

Moog Slim Phatty

Moog’s next variant on the Phatty line came in 2011 with the release of the Slim Phatty. The Slim Phatty is an essentially the same as the Little Phatty (save for the smaller buttons and more economic spacing), but in a rack-mountable unit. The unit features the same hardware and specs as its predecessor, including the two VCOs and the highly desirable 24 dB/octave filter for creating that signature Moog sound. The model is intended as a desktop unit or as a compact way to include the power of the Little Phatty in a rack rig. The Slim Phatty is produced in either white or black casing with the option of wooden end-caps for a retro look.

Many saw the release of the Slim Phatty as a disappointment, in that the devoted fan base of Moog hoped for a completely new synth. However, the model made the Moog sound even more accessible to a wider audience and presented players with the same quality construction and sound at a reduced price. Not exactly a unit for beginners, the Slim Phatty is an economic means for a producer to add Moog sound to his studio or for a synth junkie to add one more prize to his collection. Naysayers had to only wait a few years for a true synth successor to the Little Phatty.

Moog Sub Phatty

Though the synth community was (and still is) avidly awaiting a polyphonic synth, Moog debuted the Moog Sub Phatty, as another monophonic variant on the Little Phatty series in 2013. The Sub Phatty is similar to its predecessors at initial glance, but the techs over at Moog made a slew of adjustments and upgrades both over and under the hood. The Sub Phatty features a 25-key keyboard (the Little Phatty hosts 37), a pink noise generator (lacking in previous models), 2 VCOs with extended range alongside a newly added sub oscillator for enormous bass depths, and an extended range Moog Ladder Filter of 20Hz-20Khz. Throw in a streamlined panel board with a more intuitive knob layout and the Sub Phatty can seem like a completely separate beast.

Though the Sub Phatty is approachable for beginners, an entire separate world exists in the hardware and electronics. MIDI and USB capabilities allow for the Sub Phatty to hook into Moog Librarian Editing Software, where players can store up to 100 custom-created patches. The customization and different options for sound sculpting becomes a little involved. An option called "Shift Mode" is activated by hitting the Bank 4 and Activate panel buttons simultaneously and then navigating through 51 additional controls by pressing the low C, C#, D, and D# keys.

Moog Sub 37

Moog sent waves through the synth world this year at NAMM with the announcement of the Sub 37. At initial glance, the Sub 37 may just seem like a Sub Phatty with an elongated keyboard and extra knobs, but like everything Moog makes, they always soup up a new model. The Sub 37 features 257 presets, expansive mixer section, and a programmable arpeggiator. Most notable and enticing of the new features is the Duo Mode, which allows the two oscillators to be independently operated, offering a dizzying amount of control and possibilities for new sounds and textures. Rest assured, the Sub 37 is another example that the spirit of Bob Moog is alive and kicking over at Moog Music.

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