These two virtual instrument plug-ins are the two best simulations of a real instrument that I've seen and heard to date. Although Walter Sear might disagree with me, both of these simulations do a very credible job of recreating the classic sounds of the original instruments. They're even endorsed by Bob Moog himself! Sure, I'd rather own the real instrument, but I can't afford either one. If you factor in that these also stay in tune, won't need recapping, and are polyphonic, you'd have to be a luddite to slag these soft synths.
It's the attention to detail in every way that makes these so satisfying to use. The "look and feel" on both is realistic, and the GUI is easy to use. On the Minimoog for instance, you can pick one of three types of wood for the cabinet, while on the Modular, you can adjust the tension and elasticity of the patch cables. This attention extends beyond the visuals into the sound modeling itself. Care has been taken to model the Moogs without any aliasing effects, and even the slight instability of the original Moog oscillators is faithfully reproduced. Filters are also carefully modeled, and analog-style soft-clipping mode is available (although this greatly increases the CPU drain). If I had to choose between these two instruments, I'd take the Modular over the Minimoog because of its increased capabilities: nine oscillators versus three, three filters versus one, the building-block architecture, and the super- bitchin' analog step sequencer. (This last feature is essential for all Dark Side Of The Moon era Pink Floyd tribute bands.) The Modular is a bit more difficult to program than the Minimoog due to its huge array of modules, but there is a vast library of very good and very usable presets to get you started. Consider also that the modular design is a great way to learn sound design and signal flow. As is, the Modular is easier to program than my Dave Smith Evolver and sounds just as good. But sometimes you just want the classic sound and easy programmability of a Minimoog. Gearheads like me will prefer the Modular, but I'm sure the Minimoog will find a huge audience. Both synths, while faithful to the originals, have extended capability, like the aforementioned polyphony and MIDI control, of course. The Minimoog also adds a modulation matrix, LFO, arpeggiator, chorus, and delay.
One huge feature that the Minimoog boasts is the ability to process external audio through its filter by inserting it into an audio track. This is a big bonus, as I use my hardware synths to process audio just as much as I use them to generate audio. The Modular is expected to have this feature added in a future update due out by fall of 2004.
I compared the sound of these two plug-ins to my three hardware synths, The Evolver, a Micromoog, and a PAIA modular rig, and set up some similar patches on them. In all cases, the plug-ins more than held their own against the hardware synths except in the case of the PAIA, which was thin and tinny next to the plug- ins and other synths.
The manuals for both of these plug-ins are excellent. They are well written (in three languages), and each includes a nice history of Moog synthesizers. Both make for nice books to fill your studio bookshelf, with the Modular manual about twice the size of the Minimoog's. I want a nice manual when I buy software. I just bought an update for Quark Express, the program I use to lay out this magazine, and all I got for my several hundred dollars was a CD in a brown cardboard mailer, which feels like a gyp. Copy protection relies on CD and serial-number verification, and installation is allowed on multiple machines but requires occasional verification with the CD. It's not iLok, but it's much better than copy protection schemes that require multiple trips to the company's website to verify one copy on one hard drive. The Arturia plug-ins are a joy to play and use, and they're a great value. (Minimoog V $199 MSRP, Modular V $329; www.arturia.com)