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Moog Releases Subharmonicon Semi-Modular Synthesizer

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). 

The Subharmonicon stars two VCOs, four subharmonic generators, two four-step sequencers, and four rhythm generators.

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’s 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.

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Subharmonicon Characteristics

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 – Understanding Subharmonics

In the world of synthesizers and electronic keyboards, we often refer to harmonics – a series of overtones occurring at fixed mathematical intervals above the fundamental pitch that are 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 same pattern – the harmonic series. 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 the length produces the fifth above that (ƒ3), etc. In every case, multiplying the original frequency by an integer creates a specific harmonic.

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.

These individual rhythm generators are used to drive one or both of the Subharmonicon’s sequencers. Once you engage more than one rhythm generator, you will hear how the different clock divisions can play off or against one another to synthesize a polyrhythm. Because each rhythm generator references the same clock, they will eventually re-sync to the same downbeat, causing the overarching polyrhythm to finally repeat. In this way, you can think of the rhythm generators as combining to create one larger, cyclic pattern. Rhythm generators can be switched on and off and assigned to different sequencers as you perform, creating complex polyrhythmic content – as well as some truly unique phrasing and grooves.

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

Availability

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

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