Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer

  • By: Thorsten Meyer
  • Date: Tuesday, 1 March 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer

The Subharmonicon is a unique semi-modular analog synthesizer that allows for the creation of harmonic structures never before heard. It employs two independent oscillators, each with its own sub-oscillator, to create unprecedented levels of sonic complexity. The oscillators can be tuned in intervals or locked to each other to create harmonically rich sounds.

Moog’s Semi-Modular Synthesizer Subharmonicon becomes available to everyone. So far, the model has been available years ago during Moogfest, and now you can order it already or soon from your retailer. Now we can all dive into the subharmonics of this famous Moog synth.

The Subharmonicon happens to be stimulated by the Rythmicon (rhythm machine), the Trautonium by Friedrich Trautwein, and the Schillinger System (method of musical composition) named after Joseph Schillinger (1895–1943). 

Subharmonicon Black 1 scaled

The Subharmonicon stars two VCOs, four subharmonic generators, two four-step sequencers, and four rhythm generators. The VCOs can be set to intervals, or you could even use the two oscillators as one LFO. The four generators produce pitches an octave below the notes played on the keyboard. What’s more, there are two envelope generators and a Moog Ladder Filter with resonance control.

Even though it has been designed for live performance, it is also perfect for studio production and sonic experimentation. The Subharmonicon is a unique semi-modular analog synthesizer that allows for the creation of harmonic structures never before heard. It employs two independent oscillators, each with its own sub-oscillator, to create unprecedented levels of sonic complexity. The oscillators can be tuned in intervals or locked to each other to create harmonically rich sounds.

Moog’s Semi-Modular Synthesizer Subharmonicon becomes available to everyone. So far, the model has been available years ago during Moogfest, and now you can order it from your retailer. Now we can all dive into the subharmonics of this famous Moog synth.

The Subharmonicon happens to be stimulated by the Rythmicon (rhythm machine), the Trautonium by Friedrich Trautwein, and the Schillinger System (method of musical composition) named after Joseph Schillinger (1895–1943).

Subharmonicon Detail 29 crop 0 scaled
Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer 7

Harmonically opulent waveforms such as sawtooth waveforms produce a range of harmonics above that primary frequency—and the subharmonic series at work in the Subharmonicon inverts this natural order of overtones.

The four sub-oscillators can be distributed from the two oscillator base frequency down to up to four octaves from the fundamental to create stacked, harmonically related tones. The two VCOs and four sub-oscillators can be tuned to create up to six-note chords.

Subharmonicon Characteristics

Subharmonicon’s characteristic is that it employs two independent oscillators, each with its own sub-oscillator, to create unprecedented levels of sonic complexity. The oscillators can be tuned in intervals or locked to each other to create harmonically rich sounds.

Subharmonicon’s characteristic sound starts with two analog VCOs and four Subharmonic Oscillators for a total of six powerful sound sources.

Each subharmonic tone is mathematically derived from one of the two main VCOs, giving the resulting chord shapes a beautifully coherent quality. Onboard quantization lets you dial in perfect intervals every time with selections for multiple tuning systems. Choose from contemporary Equal Temperament settings, the heavenly intervals of Just Intonation, or the unlimited freedom of no quantization at all.

Animating Subharmonicon’s distinctive chord shapes is done through a polyrhythmic pair of 4-Step Sequencers. Each sequencer is clocked by any or all of four Rhythm Generators that output mathematical divisions of the master tempo.

Layer multiple Rhythm Generators on top of each other to create complex polyrhythms and discover inspiring new patterns and styles. Delve into Subharmonicon’s dual Envelope Generators, Moog Ladder Filter, and analog VCA to call up dynamic articulations ranging from lush pads and blurred edges to percussive plosives and ritualistic rhythms.

Although no patching is required to start creating, exploring Subharmonicon’s modular patchbay unlocks worlds of possibilities as you make novel connections and plug into new ideas. The 32-point 3.5mm patchbay can be patched into itself, expanding Subharmonicon’s onboard capabilities, or interfaced with Mother-32, DFAM, and other external Eurorack-compatible gear (MIDI Type-A adapter included for DIN to 3.5mm MIDI input). Use as a standalone synth with included +12V DC power supply or simply remove the front panel to install into any Eurorack system.

Subharmonicon production version has a built-in quantizer, Midi support, envelope controls, and a lightly modified sequencer section. Time to add another Moog Semi-Modular to your setup, Moog Mother-32, and Moog DFAM.

Subharmonicon Detail 6 scaled
Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer 8

Subharmonicon – Understanding Subharmonics

In synthesizers and electronic keyboards, we often refer to harmonics – a series of overtones occurring at fixed mathematical intervals above the fundamental pitch responsible for a wave’s shape and timbre. A wave shape may contain certain harmonics in a particular pattern of relative strength, for example.

We know that pitch can be modified by changing the length of an organ pipe, a guitar string, the column of air in a trumpet, etc. The remarkable thing is that the ratio between the original pitch and the altered pitch always follows the harmonic series pattern.

So if we have a guitar string vibrating at a frequency (ƒ) of 440 Hz, and we halve its length by playing at the 12th fret, the string sounds one octave higher (ƒ2) at 880 Hz, or double the original frequency. One-third of the length produces the fifth above that (ƒ3), etc. In every case, multiplying the original frequency by an integer creates a specific harmonic.

Moog Subharmonicon UNDERSTANDING SUBHARMONICS
Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer 9

Creating an undertone, or a subharmonic is more challenging in the physical world. Instead of multiplying the original frequency by an integer value, we must divide by an integer value.

We cannot simply build a guitar that becomes twice as large in order to play the first subharmonic, one octave down in pitch at 220 Hz (ƒ/2) from the original pitch (ƒ) of 440 Hz.

Subharmonicon – Understanding Polyrhythms

Polyrhythms employ multiple rhythms playing at once to create complex, interweaving phrases. In the same way that a subharmonic oscillator uses an integer value to modify the initial pitch (ƒ) of an oscillator to create a musically related subharmonic, each Subharmonicon rhythm generator uses an integer value to divide the current clock value (t) to create a new rhythm.

Moog Subharmonicon UNDERSTANDING POLYRHYTHMS
Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer 10

The Subharmonicon’s two sequencers are driven by individual rhythm generators. You’ll notice how the many clock divisions may compete or collaborate to create polyrhythms when you have more than one rhythm generator on at once.

Because the same clock is utilized by each rhythm generator, they will inevitably re-sync to the same downbeat, resulting in the overall polyrhythm repeating. In this manner, you may think of the rhythm generators as coming together to form a larger, circular pattern.

When you use the same rhythm generator in multiple songs or during live performances, it can create complex polyrhythmic material – as well as some truly distinctive phrasing and rhythms.

Subharmonicon Specs

  • SOUND ENGINE: Analog
  • SOURCES: VCO 1, SUB 1, SUB 2 / VCO 2, SUB 1, SUB 2
    Each VCO features two additional subharmonic oscillators
  • FILTER: Self-Oscillating Ladder Filter, Low-Pass, 4-Pole (-24 dB/Octave)
    4-pole (-24 db/octave) low-pass Moog ladder filter
  • ENVELOPES: VCA EG (Attack, Decay); VCF EG (Attack, Decay)
  • SEQUENCERS Analog (x2)
    Each sequencer controls any combination of its associated VCO, SUB 1, and SUB 2
  • STEPS: 4 Steps per Sequencer, selectable Quantization
  • CLOCK: Driven by any and all of the Rhythm Generators
Moog Subharmonicon Specs
Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer 11

Conclusion

The Moog Subharmonicon is a semi-modular synthesizer that allows you to create subharmonics and polyrhythms. It has two sequencers, each with four steps, and a range of clock divisions that you can use to create complex rhythms. The synth also has two VCOs, a ladder filter, and envelope controls.

Now that you know a little more about the Moog Subharmonicon, what do you think of it? Is it something that you would be interested in using? Let us know!

Availability

Moog’s Subharmonicon is available for example at our friends’ Signal Sounds.

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