Moog Music (whose Matriarch synth is reviewed in-depth in our April 2020 edition; on-sale 19 March) have reissued their classic Vocoder, originally released in 1978.
The vocoder was invented in the late 1930s as a means of encrypting telephone signals; it maps the tonal qualities of one sound onto the amplitude and frequency content of another — usually a human voice. When analogue synths became affordable in the 1970s, producers used them in conjunction with vocoders to produce vocals with an icy, electronic sheen, and such ‘robot vocals’ have subsequently become a sonic staple for virtually every techno, hip-hop and house producer.
The new Moog Vocoder is modelled on the original design, but incorporates a modern power supply and higher-quality connectors. As on the original, there are 16 bands for optimal encoding of the human voice, ranging from 50 to 5080 Hz. Higher-frequency vocal information can be added to the output via the Direct mode switch to improve intelligibility if needed; further Hiss, Buzz and Balance controls allow you to fine-tune the quantity of sibilant and plosive sounds in the eventual vocoded output. A Sample & Hold switch, also addressable via a connected footswitch, allows imposed tonal characteristics to be held until the switch is released — so notes can be held without the need to provide sustained vocal input to the vocoder.
The Moog Vocoder reissue will be available later in the year, costing £5099$5000.