While my main coverage in Forbes is computing and AI, I occasionally write about audio and music. This time I had the opportunity to test a new analog synthesizer from Moog Music designed as a great entry device for the aspiring musician or enthusiast. The new product is called Mavis, and it delivers the sound of a classic Moog product but in a very compact and portable form factor and is also compatible with the Eurorack modular system.
To reduce costs and offset some manufacturing and supply constraints, Mavis is all analog (although with some new twists). You also do the final assembly yourself.
The result is you get a genuine Moog analog synthesizer for $349 (USD).
Like the Subharmonic I tested two years ago, Mavis comes packaged in natural-colored cardboard. The instructions fold out to poster size. All Moog products are assembled in Asheville, NC, but in this case, the final assembly is provided by the new owner (you even get to “sign off” the final assembly). The front panel is metal with Moog’s usual high-quality components. After checking out an “easter egg” under the flexible keyboard rubber that I was tipped off about, the final assembly took less than 30 minutes using the tools provided by Moog and a small Philips head screwdriver. Even with taking time for some pictures. Assembly requires no special skills; no soldering iron required.
I immediately set up some of the suggested patches that come with the unit and started playing. Moog does recommend you let the analog circuits of Mavis warm up a bit, but as a stand-alone device, the changes were hardly perceptible. As I mentioned in the Moog Subharmonicon article, I am not a musician, but love to tinker with synthesizers. Once you get started, there’s no end to the knob-turning sound experimentation. Let the experimenting begin!
Because of the low cost and small size, Moog used smaller “stick” potentiometers (variable resistors) that are not as easy to manipulate, but generous spacing between potentiometers definitely helps. There’s even little graphics on the panel to clue you in on the function each potentiometer controls.
Just on its own, Mavis is a capable and expressive analog synthesizer with patchable modularity. It is ready to go with a one octave mini-keyboard and is a great starting point to learn about synthesizers and comes with detailed documentation. Mavis also adds a new (for Moog) audio folding capability, rather than clipping signals, for new timber component and expands the sonic palette.
Mavis can also be installed in Eurorack setup or a Moog semi-modular system. The Mavis then becomes a 24-point CV-controllable module (44HP) that can be combines with other voltage-controlled devices. Moog supplies support for its other semi-modular instruments: DFAM, Mother-32, and Subharmonicon. For some professional applications, you may want to fine tune the factory calibration yourself and Moog includes a tool for that as well.
Moog pays a lot of attention to keeping operating power low because they want the unit to be passively cooled (no fans) and in a compact size. The power brick that came with my unit is small and delivers 12 Volts at 0.5 Amps. Moog specifies average power consumption at about 1.8 Watt, so it should be possible to run Mavis off a battery pack for portable use.
Mavis Key Features:
- 24-Point Patch Bay
- Full Range Analog Voltage Controlled Oscillator with pulse-width modulation (PWM)
- Voltage Controlled -24dB Moog Low Pass Ladder Filter
- Audio Rate low frequency oscillator (LFO) and 4-Stage Envelope Generator with crossfaders
- Moog’s first-ever Wavefolding circuit allowing for additive synthesis
- Modular utilities section with attenuators, offsets, mults, and a flexible DC-coupled mixer.
- Patchable Sample and Hold (S+H) Circuit
Mavis Kit Comes with:
- Assembly manual
- Assembly tool
- Tuning tool
- Suggested Patch overlays
- Protective Cover for storage and travel
- Power supply with international plugs
- Patch cables (5)
At $349 USD, the unit is not the cheapest analog synthesizer, but it is a Moog Music product, and it makes a great entry-level synthesizer that can continue to be of use for years to come. Mavis owners have access to an array of creative materials designed specifically to help guide them explore the product and how to patch with other Moog semi-modular instruments. It is available at Moog authorized dealers worldwide. To locate one, visit moogmusic.com/dealers.