Monark - a Reaktor-based MiniMoog

Those of us who know the value of the old classics drool over their “for sale” postings. When a rare gem from the glory days of analog synths comes on the market, the price drives upward since everyone knows they’re worth the price in sound quality and it’s hard to resist owning a piece of history…...right?

One of the original MiniMoog synths.

...that is until it shows up at your house and needs a full capacitor rebuild along with a power supply refurbishing. Oh, and it won’t hold tune no matter what you replace - what used to be tuned to A=440Hz simply won’t stick and no matter what, your ‘little gem’ makes the whole track out of tune.

Right…

Truth is, analog synths are often worth their dollars but they come at a price - maintenance and stability. If you have the opportunity to own one, be sure you do your HW and check the product for condition - or at least negotiate a return if things don’t work out!

With today’s digital emulation tools, it’s possible to get the best of the old world - sound quality and easeeasy of use - without sacrificing price or convenience. Sure they emulators are not the same thing but they’re pretty damned close and for the convenience and price, it’s often better to go digital. 

TIP: To see how deep the backstory goes on a tool like Monark, please visit the NI website to read all of the science and technology behind emulating one of the world’s most classic mono synths.  

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/synths/monark/

One of the first things to know about Monark is that it is not it’s own synth - it is a device that was built within Reaktor, an object-oriented code environment for synthesizer development. As such, you won’t find Monark within the standard DAW plug in list - you must choose Reaktor as the plug in to find it!

Once you load Reaktor, an empty tool will load with the default “Factory” option selected. Change this to the first tab - Player - to find Monark. Then, simply drag Monark to the empty field on the right, similarly to how you added an instrument in Kontakt.

An empty view of Reaktor.

The basic layout of Reaktor. Choose “Player” as the main tab then drag the device from the lower left selections to the field on the right.

TIP: Monark is a monophonic synth (which means you can only play one note at a time) which generally implies that bass is one of its strongest uses. However, as you navigate the presets, you’ll find some percussive and other types of sounds that it can create as well. This should reinforce the “synthesizing your own drum sounds” lesson from the previous section…

Before we get into creating your own sounds with Monark, take a few minutes (hours perhaps?) to explore the various presets within Monark. Note that since Monark lives within Reaktor, there are two places to adjust the preset but they end up doing the same thing.  Switch through the presets and mark the one’s you like instantly. When you’re ready to begin creating your own sounds, select the preset 6.1 INIT- Monark. This ‘zero’s out’ the device and you’re now ready to create your own sounds!

Navigating presets of Monark in Reaktor.

TIP: As you surf through the presets, note the various categories of sounds - 5 folders are based on the type of sound within the preset and the 6th is the User group. As you find any sounds you like, it’s advised that you save them within your user folder for quick access. It’s hard to remember preset names so collecting the good ones and organizing them how you like is the best way to keep track of the good stuff!

Monark’s Basic Layout

There are 4 main panels to Monark. From left to right, these are:

  • Controls. Here’ you’ll find controls over things like master pitch (there are several octave ranges the device can use), fine tune (+7 semitones), glide controls and modulation controls.
  • Oscillators. This is the main “timbre” section where you can choose to engage up to 3 oscillators, each with up to 6 wave shapes. Tri, Sine-Tri, Saw, Sq and 2 different pulse waves. There are also several octave ranges available per oscillator and Osc 2 and 3 have a “drift” knob which introduces some imperfections to the oscillator, recreating the authentic sound of older synths that often would lose their pitch settings.
  • Mixer. The mixer controls the behavior of each oscillator where the three main knobs correspond to the three oscillators. Next to each volume knob is an “on/off” button per oscillator.
  • Filters and Amp. These controls should be familiar. The top row is the filter itself, the second row is the envelope for the filter while the third row is the envelope for the Amp.

Note the shapes in Osc 2 vs 3, the buttons in the mixer, the two noise states, feedback and load. Add review of filters and filter env (contour = amount of filter env)

These should all be somewhat familiar as we’ve seen many of these parts in Massive and in Kontakt. One of the best parts of Monark is that similar to the tool it emulates, the layout is quite simple yet powerful and you never have to go very far to find a knob to perform a function.