THE MODEL E1 MOOG GUITAR ($3,650 retail/$3,400 street with tremolo) is a production instrument based on the $6,500 Paul Vo Collector’s Edition model reviewed in the November 2008 issue of GP. The E1 has a slab alder body instead of maple-capped mahogany, chrome hardware instead of gold, and fewer cosmetic touches—but it is endowed with the same electronics and Vo Power sustaining and muting capabilities (and onboard Moog Ladder Filter) as its fancier sibling. For $745 more you can add the MIDI Option—which includes a standard 13-pin Hex output along with a MIDI Volume control, and Output and Patch Change mini-toggle switches—and a fixed bridge version of the E1 is available for $3,500 retail. (The MIDI Option is also offered as a factory retrofit on all Moog Guitars for $999.)
The stylishly understated E1 comes in black, butterscotch, or candy red, and its three-piece set neck boasts an ebony fretboard expertly fitted with nicely dressed jumbo frets. The Wilkinson tremolo bridge is responsive to even the subtlest manipulations and it accurately returns to pitch thanks, in part, to the sturdy and efficient Jinho locking tuners (though there was some mechanical clanking when the tremolo arm was used aggressively). The Moog pickups and associated controls— including the finger-friendly textured knobs—are identical to those found on the Collector’s Edition model.
The workmanship on this instrument is superb. The joints are exceptionally clean, the bevels and cutaways smooth, and the finish flawless. The factory set action may be a tad high for some players, but it matches well with the .010-.052 proprietary Moog strings (.011-.052 and .009-.046 are also available), and intonation is excellent throughout the fretboard.
The E1’s straight guitar tones are less bright than those produced by the maple-top model, with slightly less sustain—but I didn’t detect any compromises in performance, and the piezo pickup actually sounds smoother and more “acoustic” than previously. Also, a new trim-pot on the Control Pedal now lets you more accurately match the guitar’s output signal to your amp’s input, which is a significant improvement.
I played the Paul Vo Collector’s Edition prototype for several months, and used it extensively while recording my latest album. After spending hours of quality time with the E1 I can say that it plays and sounds very much like the more expensive boutique instrument, especially since I don’t use it for “regular” guitar parts. I’m still able to get a huge variety of sounds—from gentle string-like sustained chords to reed and double-reed-like timbres to koto-like percussive plucks to over-the-top distorted mayhem—largely by just altering the way I attack the strings with a pick or my fingers, varying left-hand finger pressure and vibrato, and manipulating the Control Pedal.
The Moog Guitar isn’t for everyone, but at just over half the price of the original version, the Model E1 will put this revolutionary technology into the hands of a lot more players. Only time will tell what they do with it.
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Functionally identical to the non-production model.
CONCERNS Tremolo produces mechanical noises.
CONTACT Moog Music, (828) 251-0090; moogmusic.com