Why Classic Synths Like Moog’s Model D Are Still Totally Relevant Today

They still sound as awesome as they did 50 years ago

  • The Minimoog Model D is now a Mac app.
  • Software synths can sound as good as hardware. 
  • But hardware is still way more fun to play.
Someone sitting at a desk using the Model D Minimoog app on a computer.


Moog's classic Minimoog Model D, a 50-year-old synthesizer, is now available as a Mac app, and musicians are as excited as if it were a brand new instrument. 

In the world of musical instruments, older is often seen as better. Some of this is nostalgia, inertia, and the desire to copy past artists instead of creating new music. But some of it is that a lot of those old electric guitar, effects, and synth designers got it right the first time. The Minimoog is one of those. Born in 1970 and still the blueprint for many modern synthesizers, its sound can be found on everything from 70s prog rock, to 80s synth-pop, to Nine Inch Nails and Portishead. 

"It is difficult to replace the hands-on experience of using any of these hardware synthesizers. It's not like clicking your mouse around the screen. As a result, many users would prefer to stick with the hardware," Paul Agwa, music producer and owner of music software site DAWSnPlugs, told Lifewire via email. 

Mac Model D 

Moog's software recreation of its classic synth has existed on the iPad for a few years now and is regarded as being one of the best software synth' conversions.' It sounds fantastic, just like the analog original, and adds a few extras not available on the hardware version.

The biggest one is that it is polyphonic. That is, it can play more than one note at a time, which makes chords possible. It also has some built-in effects, including delay and a looper, and you can save and recall presets instead of having to note the positions of knobs on a sheet of paper. 

Over the shoulder view of someone using the Moogmini Model D software on a MacBook pro in a coffee shop.


That iPad version also ran on Apple Silicon Macs because those Macs can run many iOS apps. But now it's available as a proper standalone app, and as a plugin, for all Macs, and all DAWs, or Digital Audio Workstations. 

Old Gold

The Minimoog is what’s known as a subtractive synthesizer. It uses analog oscillators to generate sound waves and then a filter to remove frequencies (hence “subtractive”) from those waves to shape the sound and stop it from sounding like retro bleep-bloop video game music. 

Other types of synthesis have been invented over the years, but sound waves are sound waves, and Bob Moog’s subtractive method has proven to be robust and flexible and is still as useful today as ever. If you want a fat bass sound, use a Moog. If you want a screaming lead sound, ditto. 

Just like the electric guitar, the piano, or any acoustic instrument before them, the Minimoog—and other subtractive analog synths—is now a classic sound in its own right. We don’t wonder why the violin is still relevant today, even while it gets pushed into more and more experimental kinds of music, along with the classical pieces of the past.

The same could be said of classic synthesizers. Their sounds, and the moods and feelings they evoke, can be used either to create nostalgia or to subvert expectations. 

The Minimoog Model D software shown on an Apple computer sitting on a desktop.


The Hardware Angle

For this article, I asked musicians why hardware is still important when software like the Model D app exists. After all, being able to play chords and also being able to open as many instances as you like, instead of being limited to the single synth sitting on the desk, would seem like a no-brainer advantage. 

But there are many reasons to prefer hardware over software. One is the hands-on nature of knobs and keys. "Many people find it easier to get into a state of flow with hardware," Emilio Guarino, a musician who runs GlitchMagic, a website that sells samples of hardware synths, told Lifewire via email. This might be the single most important reason to use hardware. Imagine trying to play a guitar or violin with a mouse, and you'll immediately see why. 

Another reason is that hardware lasts longer. And old, analog hardware that can be repaired isn't much different from a piano in that regard. 

"Hardware is more' future proof' than software. Ever upgrade your computer OS only to realize it broke a synth plugin that you love and is no longer maintained? Hardware doesn't do that," says Guarino. "You may never need (or want) to upgrade a quality synth, only maintain it."

Both hardware and software have their place, and the beauty of Moog's Model D app is that the quality of the sounds isn't the deciding factor. And there's another bonus. The app costs $25, whereas you won't get the hardware version for much less than $7,000.

Was this page helpful?