Moog Satellite. Courtesy of Bell Tone Synth Works.

An odd preset synth designed by Moog Music (from a concept by David Van Kovering) in the early 1970s, and manufactured by both Moog and the Thomas Organ Company. The Satellite was a low-cost monophonic analog synth, with a single voltage controlled oscillator and a conventional analog subtractive signal path. Interestingly, it did have separate envelope generators for the VCF and the VCA, which is not typical for a low-cost synth. One LFO completed the voice architecture. Th VCF was an unusual design that coupled a two-pole, low pass transistor ladder with a two-pole bandpass OTA filter.

The Satellite, as designed by Moog, was packaged in a case similar to the ARP Pro-Soloist (with which it was meant to compete), with organ-like tab switches at the front edge which selected the presets, and a few modifiers. A small bank of sliders to the left of the three-octave keyboard offered control over a few parameters. The parameters for the presets were determined by a matrix of resistors, a row of which was selected when a preset tab was pressed; it was possible to alter the presets by substituting resistors. An accessory port was intended for a pedalboard that would have offered features including a sustain pedal and an expression pedal to sweep the VCF, but this was never produced.


Close-up of Satellite controls on a Thomas organ console. Courtesy of Matrixsynth.

Several thousand Satellites were manufactured -- but the bulk of these were produced by the Thomas Organ Co., under license from Moog, for inclusion in Thomas' electric organs. These were produced as a modified version of the Satellite main board, without a case since it was incorporated into the organ case and used the organ's controls. (The organ main board is not directly interchangeable with the board from the Moog-produced version.) Thomas also produced a very rare standalone version that had a few improvements from Moog's version, including a 3-1/2 octave keyboard and some additional presets.

In 1975, Moog tried producing a higher-end preset synth based on the Satellite design, called the Minitmoog (not to be confused with the Minimoog). The major improvement was the addition of a second VCO, which could be detuned or offset from the first, or the two could be cross modulated. Another significant improvement was the addition of aftertouch to the keyboard, which was a feature that the Pro Soloist had. The selection of presets was also expanded, and a few additional parameter controls were added. However, the Minitmoog was late to the market and it never acquired the cachet that the Pro Soloist did. Additionally, Minitmoog customers criticized the synth for poor build quality. Only a few hundred were sold.

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