Moog is back, and after much success at the Moogfest 2014 festival in Asheville, North Carolina, where VIP engineering session attendees got to learn how to build their own Monophonic synthesizer, a huge demand from the general public came flooding in to the company who has decided to release a build kit of one of their most interesting instruments to date...the Werkstatt-01! An analog Monophonic Semi-Modular synthesizer with a powerful sound, boasting the infamous Moog 4-Pole Ladder filter, and not just a generous interface given its size (think Korg Monotribe), but the option to solder your own ideas unto the circuit board and its available ports, allowing you to circuit bend to your ear's desire while learning how to build your own synthesizers.
With CV Ins and Outs, which are patched using miniature cables, and a robust LFO section which can modulate the VCO for PWM as well as the filter section, the Werkstatt gives you plenty of sound crafting capabilities to really get the most out of this highly compact sound module. The Werkstatt uses a single oscillator design, borrowing from its predecessors with a wide range Voltage Controlled Oscillator that is capable of delivering ultra low basses that growl with fury, to self oscillating high frequencies that will just about shatter your sense of reality. It uses just Square and Saw waves like a TB-303 or even Volca Bass, and allows for Frequency or Pulse Width Modulation via the LFO (PWM knob in VCO section is just for Pulse Width-just a note!), or the envelope in the VCO MOD section. Using the envelope for modulating the Pulse Width is especially cool when you think about it, so its neat to find this feature on such a tiny box! The VCO section of course also has a Frequency knob that allows for the adjusting of the wave intensity.
The filter only uses a Cutoff and Resonance knob, but as mentioned includes the legendary 4-Pole Ladder filter from Moog that allows for ultra clean sculpting, and can be modulated in its own section as well using either the Envelope, or Low Frequency Oscillator; even giving you the option to change the polarity of the intensity knob.
The envelope here is quite simple, only adjusting Attack and Decay, but also featuring a sustain switch, which is nice for elongated release effects (so long as the keys are being played). The envelope can also trigger not just the filter, but also the amp as in other synths, as well as pitch (via CV), taking things a step further and at this point showing us that controlling pitch by this means is an important part of the process as more and more releases lately include this feature.
The LFO on the Werkstatt-01 uses Saw and Square waves to modulate sources like the filter and Pulse Width (PWM) as mentioned; but can be used to also modulate even deeper by using the CV I/O's. These include modulating the Oscillator section or the Amp, even the VCO's Exponential along or the filter. Using the expansion board, one can also trigger other gear with regular 1/4 cables, as well as having the Werkstatt itself triggered for fun sequences and modulation uses.
All in all, this is a fantastic piece from Moog, at a really affordable price, not to mention that with 16 available spots for adding your own circuits, what you get is a truly educational piece of hardware that can lead you down the path of DIY synth building. An artform that is not only as old as synths themselves, but also something that continues to gain lots and lots of popularity today. There is no soldering required until you want to expand, and while there is no MIDI, the CV options available especially when adding the CV expansion board really open up many more possibilities that make this one a must have, and a very sensible and practical addition to your studio.
Written by: Santino Fernandez