- Moog Concertmate MG-1
Concertmate MG-1 Manufactured by Moog Music Dates 1981 Price $499 Technical specifications Polyphony Monophonic
Timbrality Duotimbral Oscillator 3 (2 mono, 1 poly) LFO 1 Synthesis type Analog Subtractive Filter low-pass Attenuator ASR Memory none Effects Ring modulation Input/output Keyboard 32 keys External control CV/Gate
The Realistic Concertmate MG-1 is an analog synthesizer manufactured by Moog Music in 1981. Though built by Moog, it was sold by Radio Shack from 1982 to 1983 under their "Realistic" brand name and it was produced without some standard Moog features, such as pitch and modulation wheels. This cost cutting was aimed at achieving a lower price for the consumer market. The synthesizer also featured a pair of pass-through RCA jacks, which allowed users to mix in the radio or their favorite records into the final output of the live synthesized sounds. The Moog Concertmate MG-1 is the most widely owned of all vintage Moog synths, probably because it was produced in large quantities for the Tandy Corporation, and also it's relatively low price.
- Two oscillators with sync & detune, one producing either a Square or Sawtooth waveform, with the other producing either a Pulse or Sawtooth waveform.
- One 24db/oct low pass filter/VCF, that can use the envelope generator, has three-position keyboard tracking, and is capable of self oscillation.
- Three-part envelope generator, with separately adjustable Attack and Decay or Release, and selectable Sustain on or off. The Envelope Generator can be triggered by either the keyboard, or the LFO.
- Oscillator 2 can be tuned independently or hard-synced to Oscillator 1.
- Noise generator. (Digital Pseudo-Random Noise)
- Ring modulation (called "Bell Tone" this is Amplitude Modulation of VCO 1 and 2).
- Polyphonic oscillator. This is a divide-down square wave generator. It is routed to the VCF and the VCA.
- LFO that can modulate the oscillators and the filter using a Triangle, square or random Sample and Hold waveform
- Voltage controlled amplifier with Keyed, Hold, and Envelope modes (accessed via 3-way switch, misleadingly only labeled "Tone Sources" but also affects Poly signal)
- Portamento (called "Glide")
- External Control inputs for pre-MIDI CV/Gate.
Even though it shares the exact same plastic casing as the Rogue, it's a different machine in many respects. First, the power supply is internal, whereas on the Rogue it is an external wall wart type. Second, curiously on the Rogue both oscillators share the same waveforms and octave range selectors, whereas on the MG-1 there are separate selectors for each. Third, the MG-1 offers "Bell Tone" (AM Modulation of VCO 1 and 2) not found on the Rogue. And lastly, the added square waveform only polyphony often mistakenly called "organ sound" not found on the Rogue. The Mod Wheel of the Rogue has been replaced by two independent sliders, one for VCF and one for VCO modulation, and the Pitch Bend Wheel has no equivalent on the MG-1.
Finally, it can be easily found since it was produced in great quantities for distribution in the consumer market Radio-Shack stores, and not just for specialized music stores, and is usually less expensive than a Rogue, despite actually offering more. Mainly because of the big "REALISTIC" name in white letters on the back instead of the letters "MOOG" and the lack of Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels. But in smaller print at the back, it clearly states: "Custom manufactured by Moog Music in U.S.A. for Radio-Shack, a division of Tandy Corporation".
The Polyphonic features of this synth are of particular interest, as it was a rare feature at the time it was released. The polyphony section is independently tunable, and acts as a third oscillator, sounding like a square wave (described as a "cheesy organ sound" by some, and well-used by others). All of the sound-generating features come together in a mixer, allowing the levels the monophonic oscillators, noise, ring modulation and polyphony to be adjusted independently. Since the polyphony section is independently tunable, it can function as a rudimentary third oscillator, allowing the user to create more complex tones than on similar 2-oscillator synths. It is a common misconception that the Poly signal is not affected by the Contour. In reality, the Poly signal can be affected by the attack or initial decay time. Because of the VCA gate design, the Poly signal is not "faded out" by the release section. Similarly, the signal is not "held" with the two VCOs when in Hold or "Constant" mode. The rest of the modulation, including the sample-and-hold, will affect the Polyphonic Signal via the filter section. One thing to note however, the LFO cannot be used to modulate the pitch to create a vibrato of the Polyphony section. And also the Polyphony is total, meaning all 32 keys can sound all at once.
When the Contour (Envelope) is triggered by the LFO, it allows for periodic LFO-type waves to be applied to the VCF or VCA, depending on the Rise- and Fall-times. This allows the creation of Saw- and Ramp- waves, as well as asymmetrical Triangle waves and unusual trapezoids, not otherwise found through modulating with the LFO alone.
Unique Modulation Options
Although this keyboard is often erroneously described as having "less" features than its Moog siblings, the Liberation and the Rogue, there is a patch which only the MG-1 can do: The LFO can have independent amounts sent to the VCOs and the VCF on the MG-1. The Liberation and Rogue have to route both through the Mod Wheel with the same amount level. This is the benefit of not having the standard pitch- and mod-wheels.
Additionally, the synthesizer's features aren't labeled using the usual synthesizer nomenclature, instead using more "laymen friendly" terms such as "Tone Source" for the oscillators, "Contour" for the envelope with "Rise Time" for Attack Time and "Fall Time" instead of Decay or Release Time. Portamento is called "Glide" and Ring Mod is "Bell Tone". Also the color scheme is more appealing and vibrant and helps distinguish easily between sections, again for an easier understanding by the general public not familiar with analog synthesizers. Remember that this was sold in Radio Shack stores, not music stores.
The MG-1 in the Present
Still, this synthesizer is sought-after as an inexpensive way to get the famed "Moog Bass" sounds. It is also somewhat infamous in analog synth circles for having black polyurethane foam insulating the interior which did not keep well over time, turning into a black sludge which clogs the various moving parts in the synth (so much so that entire replacement switches and faders can be bought on eBay, specifically for this synth). As with many analog synthesizers, the MG-1's resale price is slowly rising as alternatives and working instruments become less common, and buyers and sellers congregate online.
Although there is a picture of Elton John holding the MG-1 on his arm in front of him in Radio Shack's 1982 and 1983 catalogs description of this synthesizer, he has never actually used it in any of his recordings or performances. It was strictly a publicity contract with the Tandy Corporation. That's why his name is not in the "Famous Users" list below.
- Math the Band
- Peter Gabriel
- 808 State
- Remy Shand
- Jesse Johnson of Motion City Soundtrack
- Spokes from The Gutterballs
- Performer Andrü (in his band named Andrü)
- Davo from Pull Tiger Tail
- The High Llamas
- Stefen Keen (Lake Baikal)
- No Doubt
- Motion City Soundtrack
- Robert Schneider (of The Apples in Stereo)
- Sam Hughes (of The Spinto Band)
- Users Manual
- Radio Shack (1982), Realistic Synthesizer by Moog Music
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