The name used by two different synthesizer and theremin manufacturing companies, both founded by synth design pioneer Bob Moog. After receiving his Ph. D. in engineering, Moog set up his first company, originally named R. A. Moog, in New York City in 1953.
R. A. Moog
The company originally manufactured theremins and various bits of electronics used in music production. Moog began working on his first synthesizer designs in 1961 (at about the time that he moved the company from New York City to Trumansburg NY), and the company introduced its first modular synthesizer products in 1964. Coinciding with Don Buchla on the West Coast, the Moog company developed the concepts of voltage control and on how to package synth circuits in the form of modules that mounted on rails inside a case. The company grew at a moderate rate until 1968, when Wendy Carlos released Switched-On Bach. This created a flood of orders that the company could not keep up with.
Needing financing to grow the company, Moog began seeking an investor. He wound up having to agree to sell the company to investor Bill Waytena in 1971, in order to obtain the needed funding. Waytena had his own company, Musonics, which he merged with R. A. Moog. The combined company was first caled Moog-Musonics, and then shortly after changed its name to Moog Music. Manufacture of modular systems ceased shortly after the sale. Waytena moved the company from Trumansburg to an old manufacturing site near Buffalo, NY, much to the dismay of the staff members.
The company began manufacturing the iconic Minimoog in 1970, shortly before the sale. The Minimoog was designed to be played live on stage; it was simpler and cost a lot less than the modular systems, and sold well as soon as it was introduced. In 1975, flush with Minimoog orders on the books, Waytena sold the company to Norlin, which at the time was a holding company which also owned the guitar manufacturer Gibson, among other things. Norlin began expanding the product line greatly. The company had been working on the concept of several different synth modes, optimized for different functions but designed to work together. This concept was called the Constellation, and it consisted of three synths which could be integrated with a common stand and control pedals:
- The Apollo, the company's first polyphonic synthesizer.
- The monophonic Lyra, a more featured, high-end version of the Minimoog.
- The Taurus bass pedal synthesizer, optimized for playing bass lines.
The Apollo was riddled with problems and one or two prototypes were built. A few Lyra units were produced and sold; among the customers was Keith Emerson, who used one extensively on Brain Salad Surgery. However, Moog decided to withdraw the Lyra from the market for more work; a further developed version appeared several years later as the Multimoog. The Taurus was very successful and sold well.
The Polymoog, Memorymoog and aftermath
Chief engineer David Luce was determined to continue pursuing a polyphonic synth, and in 1976 the company, after much R&D expense, finally released the Polymoog. Unfortunately, the Polymoog proved to be a very expensive synth to produce, and Moog lost money having to apply a large number of engineering changes to already-sold units at customers' locations. And, it was shortly overshadowed by the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, introduced the following year. To bring in additional revenue, Moog began doing guitar amplifier design for its corporate sibling Gibson, and various contract electronics manufacturing efforts for other companies. After the Prophet-5 pushed the Polymoog out of the market, the company invested money in the design of the Memorymoog, an attempt to design its own version of a voice allocation polyphonic synth. As was the case of the Polymoog, the Memorymoog was a complex design and was beset with manufacturing problems, and Moog once again had to spend a lot of money on warranty service.
In 1983, Norlin decided to liquidate itself. To save Moog Music, a management group led by Luce raised financing and bought the company in a leveraged buyout. They took on a large debt load and needed revenue. Telecommunications deregulation was causing the market to explode in the U.S. Moog made an unsuccessful attempt to get into the telecomm systems business, further draining cash. They developed a new synth model, the SL-8, intended to go the various Roland and Korg mid-range polyphonic synth models one better. It was a good design, but at the first industry convention where the SL-8 was demonstrated, Yamaha introduced the DX-7. The Moog sales team saw the writing on the wall and the SL-8 project was cancelled. There were no further new models, and without new products to compete with the new digital synthesizers being introduced by competitors, Moog lost market share and synth manufacturing gradually ramped down over the next five years. The company changed hands several more times and finally ceased operations in 1993.
Big Briar and the revival of Moog Music
While all of this was going on, Bob Moog had relocated to Asheville, NC and established a new company, Big Briar, after his departure from Moog Music. Big Briar had been doing low-volume manufacturing of theremins and a few other products, including the Piano Bar designed by Moog in collaboration with Donald Buchla. Big Briar made no attempt to get into the synth market until 1999, when it began to ease its way in with the line of Moogerfooger effects, which were basically modular-synth modules packaged as guitar stomp boxes. Bob Moog began pursuing various legal actions to try to recover Moog Music's intellectual property, and he prevailed in 2002. At that time, Big Briar became the new Moog Music.
The newly-remamed company got off to a roaring start, introducing the Minimoog Voyager and a line of control voltage processors, as well as continuing to expand the Moogerfooger line. In 2005, the Little Phatty was introduced to be the Voyager's smaller, less expensive relation. Unfortunately, that year, Bob Moog was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he died shortly after. However, the company has continued on, releasing the Voyager XLl and several smaller products in the time since Moog's death.
As of August 2015 the current product lineup includes the Voyager, Voyager XL, Sub Phatty, Sub 37, Minitaur, Werkstatt, theremins, guitar effects boxes, the Moog Guitar, and accessories. Moog sells both direct and through dealers. October 2015 saw the introduction of the Mother-32, basically a complete monophonic synth voice designed to be mounted in a Eurorack format modular synth.