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Analog synthesizers (and specifically modular synths) are undeniably cool, but some people still shy away from them due to a perception that they’re complicated and expensive. Thankfully, Moog has solved both problems with the new Mavis semi-modular synth kit ($349). Mavis is a genuine analog Moog synth that you put together from pre-assembled components, teaching you the basics of electronics and synthesis while saving you money. When you’re done, you’ve got a powerful little instrument that you can play as a standalone unit or integrate into your modular rig. Follow along as we dig into the surprisingly versatile Moog Mavis!
First and foremost, Mavis is a true Moog analog synth, so you can expect iconic Moog sound from its voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) and filter (VCF). The oscillator can blend between square and saw waves and features multiple modulation options for a huge variety of sounds. The classic 24dB/octave ladder filter features standard cutoff and resonance controls plus even more modulation controls for tweaking your sound.
Any of the modulation parameters can be controlled by the low-frequency oscillator (LFO) to create slowly evolving pads or intense, distorted leads. The LFO can even be used as a second oscillator, unlocking more tonal possibilities if you get creative. Mavis also features an ADSR envelope generator for shaping your sound, as well as a unique analog wavefolding circuit (the first on a Moog synth), which uses a form of feedback to morph any sound that goes through it—including external inputs. There’s even a sample and hold (S+H) circuit that allows you to create some truly experimental sounds.
So, what about the “semi-modular” part? Traditional modular synths (like the early Moogs and Buchlas or today’s mix-and-match rigs) are composed of multiple “modules,” each containing a part of the instrument, such as oscillators, filters, mixers, sequencers and so on. These each have to be manually connected via patch cables, but you’re free to connect them in any order you want. A semi-modular synth contains all the basic modules in one unit but still gives you the freedom to route signals creatively. The Moog Mavis features 24 patch points, providing access to all of its inputs and outputs (including a simple mixer) so you can enjoy the fun of modular synthesis without needing an entire rig. And if you do have other Eurorack modules, you can easily integrate Mavis into your setup.
Because the synth comes as a kit, you’ll need to put it together yourself before you can start patching. Fortunately, Moog has streamlined the process by providing limited components and straightforward instructions, so all you need to do is install the pre-assembled printed circuit board (PCB) in the chassis, affix the knobs, connect the power supply and a few other parts, and you’re in business—no soldering required. Without the extra labor costs of assembly, this Moog Semi-Modular Synthesizer is much more affordable than comparable units, and you get to learn a bit about electronics.
Once you’ve put the kit together, you’ve got everything you need to start making sounds. The synth includes a set of five green patch cables, as well as a translucent cover to protect your settings. You can play simple melodies or basslines using the 12-button “keyboard,” or connect an external keyboard or sequencer using the control voltage (CV) input. The manual includes several sample patches to use as a starting point, and Moog has put together a video featuring synthesists exploring Mavis to show off what it can do and spark your creativity.
We’ve only scratched the surface of what this surprisingly powerful little synth can do. Here’s what else you can expect from the Moog Mavis: