Being popular as a person may be a complex formula. But for keyboard synths, “a fun, cute, cheap date” just about covers it. And — sorry, any snobs out there, but no complaints about that. So it is that Novation has a 37-keyboard that combines lots of sound and effects from the company’s UltraNova into a compact body, bringing the price at dealers to about $500 bucks US.

(Actually, to quote Novation’s press release, personally I endeavor to be “compact” and “affordable,” myself, though I don’t think I qualify as “amazingly powerful.”)

It’s impossible to look at this and not think of the Korg microKORG – and little wonder, as that synth has proven a huge hit for all kinds of musicians, including synth first-timers and expert studios alike. But the sound engine here is unmistakably Novation-esque, and Novation has a feature set that should be competitive with other synths in this price range. Of course, for not much more, you begin looking at synths like the Arturia MiniBrute – and there’s an analog-versus-digital deathmatch waiting to happen here, because the digital MiniNova gives you additional sonic flexibility even as the MiniBrute focuses on old-school, everything-gets-a-physical-control, no-menu playability.

One reason to pay special attention to Novation’s new synths is that the designer is Chris Huggett. He’s the guy not only behind Novation’s best synths – Bass Station, SuperNova, Nova, and now UltraNova – but also the 1978 EDP Wasp and OSC OSCar. He’s a designer from the analog era who’s found religion as far as digital. (Despite the name of this site, I take no particular sides in that battle, but I will say – don’t understimate the potential of a digital synth, or in knowing a bit about history, digital and analog alike.)

We’ll take a look at this synth soon, so in the meantime, here’s a look at specs as provided by Novation. No judging yet – this is all on paper:

  • 37-note mini-keys. Novation says they custom-designed the keybed; I’ll be interested to feel how this stacks up against the ubiquitous Korg rival.
  • Three oscillators, five effects slots, two filters, six envelopes, three LFOs, 36 wavetables. Yes, I love analog synths, but digital does have its advantages.
  • Sound and effects engines from the UltraNova.
  • Gooseneck mic.
  • Vocoder. (Everyone needs one.)
  • VocalTune – a “don’t-call-it-AutoTune” pitch effect, for when you don’t want to sound only like a robot but do want to alter your voice, presumably. It’s simple: it corrects your pitch to whatever key you play.
  • Arpeggiator “with real-time rhythm performance editing.” (You can see a bit of what they mean by that in the video.)
  • “Animate” is interesting – a real-time modulation setting accessed by push buttons with hold and latch. In the video, the effects seem a bit cheesy, but we’ll have to take a closer look.
  • Parameter matrix maps controls to four knobs; filter cutoff is always a dedicated control. (The poor copy writer had to explain to people what filter cutoff is, which they says “allows you to always give your sound the ‘wow’ factor.” That’s okay; I don’t know how to explain the sound of a filter sweep, either, other than to make the sound. Actually, it sounds a little like saying ‘wooowwwwwwww.’)
  • USB. (powering via USB is possible, too)
  • Patch management via plug-in.
  • XLR, jack inputs for using the vocoder and effects with external instruments.
  • Two mono 1/4″ outputs plus dedicated stereo headphone out.
  • Five-pin MIDI input, output, sustain pedal in.

Availability: October
Pricing: US$624.99 list / $499.99 street [no word on international pricing, but that’s an international launch… fingers crossed, oh mighty Euro…]

More videos from Novation:

Vocoder and AutoTune video [which, for some reason, Novation won’t let us embed]

  • tyler

    seems a little expensive. I thought it was going to be $400, which I would buy for sure.

    • detter

      expensive? 500 bucks? lol

    • Obscure Robot

      For $200 more, you can get an UltraNova which has bigger keys, touch sensitive knobs (and twice as many) and aftertouch. I prefer the UltraNova (or, better, a SuperNova II) but I’m sure the $200 savings will make a difference to a lof of musicians.

    • Yucatec

      The ultranova doesnt have the interactive arpegio!! The ultranova is too big for traveler! The ultra nova is for the studio!! This one is for the street lover…200 Buck is a lot of money saved for new fun,portability,but still ultranova engine!

    • Steve H

      Only expensive when you consider a microkorg can be had new for $400.

    • Yucatec

      Microkorg have only 128 sounds !!! here it s 250 +128 User!!!and weak arp!! This mininova is about to kill the Microkorg!!!

  • Peter Swimm



    Faux-Auto-Tune looks cool.

  • RoBerto Briceño

    I Love that big Filter Knob

  • Sarah Wrap

    Right after Mr. Member’s Only ™ jacket says, ‘drop the beat’.. I came. twice.

  • Philippe Pascal

    Nice sound and attitude.And seems funny to use.
    Will be a big seller for sure, ever with KORG on the way 😉

  • gwenhwyfaer

    The indications for UK pricing appear to be about the £300 mark. If it ends up at £250 on the street, I suspect it’ll sell truckloads (although maybe not – I don’t think the Xio was that big a seller even when it was remaindered off at £170).

    Also, Novation’s promotional material is a bit sketchy about this, but from the preliminary manual it looks as though you can fully edit patches from the miniNova itself, rather than being dependent on external software – something that always worries me about synths (I have an EVS-1…). It’s a maze of twisty menus, all alike, as you might expect, but it is possible.

    Incidentally, Huggett’s had a hand in all Novation’s synths, not just the Nova series. And he’s long been a fan of digital technology; I believe even the Wasp used DCOs, and the OSCar’s waveform and control signal generation were all-digital – in fact, I wonder if the OSCar would have been 100% digital if off-the-shelf technology had been up to implementing a decent digital filter section in 1982.

  • Readydot WeAre

    Now just look at that thing, I mean sure the inner parts do count more than the exterior, but I really think that Novation presents here one of the best looking and practical compact synth design I have seen: the wood pannels, the big knobs, the parameter slider, the wheels, everything works brilliantly together visually. It looks quite sturdy and seems to be able to support some rough handling.

    The only thing I really am worried about, is the data knob… Nova2 anyone…? I hope they put the best and most durable encoder in there, they could find…

    • Graham Metcalfe

      I agree…the visual/functional layout and aesthetic for this synth is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Simple clean and elegant but allowing access to a lot of the under-the-hood power.

  • Ondes Martenot Enthusiast

    If only the Novation MiniNova had a ribbon controller like the Minimoog Voyager XL.

  • Andrew Hicox

    damn toy keys. I don’t care what kinda custom designed bed they sit in. toy keys are a pain. I love love love the sounds on my microkorg, but I can’t really play it unless it’s midi’d into a keyboard with adult-sized keys.

    Honestly, I wish they’d make these “compact” synths with half an octave of for-real sized keys if they have to … instead of cramming two and a half octaves of the casio-I-got-for-christmas-in-1985 toys r’ us keys onto ’em.

    also it has a dubstep setting.
    just sayin’

  • Kevin Snowden

    Looks awesome! Does it also run on batteries? Put on some strap locks and it would blow the Roland AX away!

  • jeph Nor

    This thing is seriously bad*ass looking, and the synth engine sounds like it would pack a punch (even the autone-coder would be fun)- but why is it such a huge step backward from my ancient X-Station where interface is concerned? There are only a few, strangely chosen parameters in the matrix, and they took up space with a stupid preset selector knob. I should also mention that the XStation has the killer XY pad…

  • J

    I wonder if you can route the synth engine into VocalTune? (and I wonder if it’ll get added back to the ultranova or if we’ll see an ultranova mk2)

    Wish they went with a categories (pad, bass, lead, etc.) rather than genre, which seems pretty useless.

    Someone care to point me to a demo that gets freaky with the wavetables? :)

    • Tomas

      Man! Look a bit better – there is categories og BASS/PADS/STRING/LEAD etc on the left of main big knob. !!

  • joel in Dallas

    I just ordered the full size Novation Ultranova from B&H Photo for $590, plus it has a rebate for a gig bag. I do not like tiny keys!

  • SuperNovice

    few dumb questions, is it multitimbral, those performance animations buttons are they recordable into a sequencer, does it run on batteries?