Moog Sonic Six
The Sonic Six is an interesting, although obscure synthesizer from the Moog history books. Its predecessor, the Sonic V, was designed by an ex-Moog employee for the muSonics brand. When muSonics eventually bought out R.A. Moog, forming Moog muSonics, the Sonic V’s basic design was moved into a portable brief-case style synthesizer, and with only a few tweaks, the Sonic Six was born.
The fact that the Sonic Six originated from another company’s design not only accounts for why the Sonic Six looks different than any other Moog, but also for some pretty unique differences under the hood as well. To start, it is duo-phonic, utilizing two analog oscillators with three basic waveforms each plus tuning, modulation and scaling controls. There are two independent LFO generators with advanced control options not seen on other Moog synths (for instance, an X/Y knob is used to mix and balance the LFO outputs). Also on-board is a Ring Modulator (that can modulate either Osc. B or external audio) and pink/white noise generators.
Moog synthesizers are known for their filters, and the Sonic Six strays from the usual Moog in this area as well. While it is known that ARP stole a filter design from Moog for use in some of their 2600 and Odyssey models, leading to lawsuits between Moog and ARP, according to Mark Vail in "Vintage Synthesizers," the Sonic Six actually used some circuitry in its filters which were stolen from an ARP design, although ARP never sued Moog over it. However, later models of the Sonic Six were eventually fitted with a more traditional Moog designed filter. In either case, the filter is a low-pass 24dB/oct which offers the usual controls and is capable of self-oscillation. The VCA, however, has a rather limited set of controls - attack and decay plus a sustain on/off switch.
Not commonly seen, they are actually rather durable devices and used ones generally (if proper care was taken of them) are found in good working order. It was originally designed for educational and home use so it is light and portable and even has a built-in amplifier and speaker. It’s a genuine Moog synth that is equally as obscure as useful these days. And its rather simple looking front-panel layout hides the uniquely flexible, powerful and great sounding little beast it truly is! It has been used by Freddy Fresh, Stereolab and Spectrum/EAR.
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Images from Perfect Circuit Audio.
Additional information provided by DAC Crowell.
Review updated Jan, 2011