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If there was any doubt left, the analog monosynth keyboard has gone mainstream now. Fusing 70s electronic instrument design ideas with nerdy lust for sound with modern ideas about connectivity, accessibility, and timbre, a generation of instruments has made it a wonderful time for synth lovers to be alive.

And the latest from Arturia is compact and inexpensive, while still managing to squeeze in some unique sound-shaping concepts and a tiny patch bay for modular use.

Oh, before you ask, Eurorack fans – yes, it’s Eurorack-compatible. Alex Theakston from Source Distribution, who shot these beautiful photos and provided CDM with permission to share them, chimes in on that. “I’ve interfaced it with my modular,” he says. “The biggest plus is you can advance the sequencer using the gate in too.” (See also the SonicState review.)

And the price for all of this, complete with a pint-sized keyboard: just about US$349 / 299 € / £269 (EUR and GBP includes VAT).

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If you don’t want to read specs, Source has a stunning 20-minute demo video:

– and SonicState a terrific 16-minute video review:

The MicroBrute, like the MiniBute, is a one-oscillator synth (plus one unique addition, more on that in a moment). But it makes up for that single oscillator with a host of sonic features, and a very small size and price.

Highlights:

  • Built-in step sequencer, with eight patterns (variable rate or with MIDI clock sync)
  • MIDI, USB, and (Eurorack-compatible) analog Control Voltage (CV)
  • On that main oscillator, mix Saw, Triangle, and Square waveforms, with …
  • Overtone oscillator for additional harmonic content – not just a sub-oscillator, but ranging from an octave below to a fifth above, with a Sub > Fifth generator
  • Metalizer adds harmonics to the triangle waveform
  • Ultrasaw for an ensemble effect on the saw
  • Pulse Width control
  • Steiner-Parker Filter, as on the sibling
  • Mod matrix, volt-per-octave, with envelope out, LFO out, ultrasaw mod in, PWM in, metalizer in, overtone/sub mod in, filter cutoff in, pitch in
  • Audio input
  • 25-note keyboard
  • 1.75 kg (3.85 lbs)

Arturia are also quick to note that they have the first production units arriving on English shores at the beginning of November, and so you will see this ship right away.

All in all, it’s a rather nice design. I’d love to see more multiple-oscillators, or for that matter, even more digital/analog hybrids as they offer some additional oscillator coloring options. (It’s only available as a kit, but look at the versatility of the stuff Mutable Instruments is making in that area.) But you can’t argue with the fun factor of this little synth. And as with the MiniBrute, they’ve coaxed about as much as you can out of that single oscillator. The MiniBrute sounds really like nothing else. It’s something really distinctive; it drips personality as you use it. And packing in semi-modular capabilities is a terrific twist, giving you more in this smaller package rather than less.

We’ll be talking to the designers and trying one out for ourselves soon.
Arturia MicroBrute

All photos: Alex Theakston.

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  • gli

    that is beautiful

    looks very appealing and well thought out

  • Frank

    Nice, but it still has no presets or ways to actually STORE your sounds ?! Dealbreaker for me, come on it’s 2013.

    • Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte

      Is that the case? No way at all of storing sounds? Maybe that’s because the patch cords are too essential to what makes a sound. But it’d be nice if there were a way to store what the various knobs are doing.

      What is controllable over MIDI/USB? Parameters could be stored / recalled that way.

    • Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte

      As a followup, too bad it has no MIDI out … it’d be great to tweak it live, record the resulting CCs, then be able to play that back, edit it, etc. Unless it does that over USB?

    • squaretooth

      Just like the minibrute, microbrute doesn’t send or receive MIDI CCs.

    • Joshua Goran

      The lack of patch storage here is because the controls are probably 100% analog except for the sequencer, which means that turning a knob is actually directly affecting the corresponding circuit rather than controlling a digital processor which in turn sends analog voltages .

      Adding patch storage would change the entire synth architecture and would likely add issues such as aliasing from low resolution and similar unfavorable results.

    • Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte

      That makes sense. And I guess dealing with those issues (as I assume other analog synths with MIDI control need to) would make it more expensive.

    • Jon Monteverde

      a friend posited that this would become the new MicroKorg, but I don’t see that happening as this lacks the appeal that the MK and its descendants have for non-synthesists.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, yes, I think that’s exactly right. The big, friendly knobs on the microKORG were a huge feature. So, too, was the mic. And it’s tough to replicate that formula, even superficially (Novation’s recent outing demonstrating that – it’s tough to recreate that magic).

      It’ll be interesting, though, I think it’s safe to say some of the original microKORG market *will* pick up things like this or the MS-20 mini. It will be a real test to see how palatable these purer synths can be.

    • Luder

      That’s what fullly analog is about. I would take this anytime over my digitally controlled mopho, even though it’s a much bigger beast. just because of the hands on control and VC. Yeah it’s 2013, and so many affordable new analog synths with CV around, I say: amazing! (seriously though, the market is big enough. just look elsewhere. this isn’t for you. fair enough.)

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Although in fairness the new DSI Mopho SE keyboard gives you hands-on control, a better analog filter, and can still route audio input. You get more external control options than you would via the little CV matrix here, and you get preset storage.

      I mean, it’s not a fair comparison as far as products – they’re completely different instruments, and the DSI costs three times as much. (So that DSI had *better* give you more!)

      *However* –

      It’s tough to say that “fully analog” is necessarily an advantage when it’s taking away things people want. And from a design perspective, there’s nothing saying you couldn’t have digital control, preset storage, and patchable CV. Heck, you could even add digital oscillators and get a broader range of sound. None of these things is mutually incompatible or impossible to build. And I expect we’ll see more synths go that direction to differentiate themselves.

      The MicroBrute seems like a reasonable set of compromises, and it’s hard to argue with its bargain price. But it’s funny to watch this thread – on one side, people failing to see why a budget analog synth would leave out preset storage, and on the other, claiming some things about the advantages of strict analog that ain’t necessarily so.

      At the risk of stating the obvious, maybe it deserves to be said – “analog” and “digital” are more implementation than philosophy. That’s why we’ve used digital circuitry to keep our analog oscillators in tune all these years. ;)

    • gLOW-x

      It would raise the price…in fact, you can double it to include digital to analog controls. And values would create steps.
      That’s why i still think analog is not for everyone ;)
      I like this one due to semi-modular, filter section and complex oscillator settings :D

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, there are ways to get around the stepping problem. And there are many analog synths that have solved this and, for instance, received CCs. But you’re right, the issue is component price and complexity.

      Of course, note, though, that you can get complex oscillator settings and patchable design out of digital synths, too. I wonder if we’ll start to see digital synths add CV. ;)

    • Greg Lőrincz

      There’s a real analog keyboard for peanuts and you’re still not happy… We’re soooo spoilt. Gears and getting better and cheaper and yet there are people who still moan. Frank, if you wouldn’t buy it because of the lack of the presets, stop making music please.

  • slabman

    I could see making a little box with 8 minijack plugs on it with a cable going to a Eurorack breakout panel. It’d wear & tear on the Microbrute

  • Zach Mahalo Collins

    It looks nice, but after the Minibrute I swore to never buy antoher thing fro Arturia. My Minibrute mysteriously stopped working 10 days after the warranty ran out. Then when I tried to contact Arturia, I didn’t hear back for two weeks and all I got was a pdf on how to do a firmware reset, which did nothing to aid my problem. Three more weeks and I’ve been told is to “do it again.” Still have not heard back from them. Worst customer service I’ve ever received.

    • brotherzzer0

      If you look at the Arturia user forums you will see a lot of stories like this of paying customers abandoned and ignored. This is bad business. Arturia had better hire more people or whatever they need to do to become a responsible company…they are developing a reputation for not supporting their products. It will hurt them sooner or later.

    • AlainCl

      “Arturia had better hire more people or whatever they need to do to become a responsible company”

      This is what happens when one of your main selling points is price, not service. And this is why I’ve been a well-served customer of companies like Apple and Yamaha: your product’s price pays for design before and support after.

  • Andy Cartridge

    i can see this thing being alot of peoples entry point into the world of modular synthesis

  • Charlie Cowper

    The modern day 101?

  • Charlie Cowper

    xxx

  • Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte

    it’s really nice to see the oscilloscope on the sonic state review. makes me want to have one running whenever I’m tweaking synth sounds :)

  • deepchild

    can you clarify, Pete – you can control the internal sequencer via some sort of pulse/trig input, ala-101 (or the Korg Monotribe etc?) After years of gigging, Ive found that midi to Ableton clock sync remains one of the biggest sticking points for me – something which my Electron units just dont gel with, despite their specs and sequencer. The 101 has remained stallwart live-aresenal for me for this reason – the realtime scratch-sequencer + simple, direct trig-sync options (by way of simple audio-trigs from Ableton live) have made it essenetial and elegant.

    In short, if the Minibrute could harness this simple (essentially latency-free) combo of ‘audio-trig’ sync + simple, real-time, internal-sync/arpeggiator, Id be sold…

    • SteveElbows

      That stuff is mentioned from the 13:19 mark onwards of the sonicstate video review. I have no CV experience myself so I cannot add any help as to whether a standard audio feed can be used for such trigger signals.

  • Mitchell Sigman

    Doesn’t seem like some of these guys are understanding how true analog synthesis works. May not look that way, but it would be far more complex to make everything digitally storable. And you’d lose the true continuous nature of the knobs… and if you can’t remember how to recall how to make sounds on a synth this simple, analog synthesis ain’t for you.

  • Dick

    With this on the horizon is there any reason to own the OG minibrute?

  • Gunnar Lockwood

    I would like to politely and respectfully request that people stop calling patchable synths “semi-modular.” They aren’t made up of configurable modules, so it seems to make more sense to call them what they are. Being patchable is great. Interfacing with modular gear is great too. This synth looks and sounds wonderful and I applaud Arturia for making analog hardware, especially because it is patchable. Be proud. Be patchable, I say! Patchable synths are not inferior to modular synths! If you disagree, I’m sorry to interrupt and nitpick.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Okay, fair. Semi-semi-modular? ;)

      I picked up on Arturia’s marketing speak here. I would defend it, though, in that the prefix “semi-” is meaningful. Modularity is as I understand it, broadly speaking, a description of the self-contained design of components. Whether or not you can configure those modules is something else.

      “Semi-modular” is something we do use pretty routinely in software (not just hardware) to describe systems in which signal can be rerouted internally.

      I think probably it’s most objectionable on the MicroBrute simply because there’s not a whole lot that little 2×8 matrix can do (and “patchable” is, you’re probably right, a better term).

      On the other hand, “semi-modular” seems an excellent way to describe the MFB Kraftzwerg II:

      http://www.schneidersladen.de/en/mfb-kraftzwerg-mk2.html

      And it doesn’t fit your definition of configurable components. But if it did, then I’d say it was just modular, not semi-modular.

    • Aaron

      Patchable synths are semi-modular. Semi-modulars have never had configurable modules. I’m not adopting a change in definition after 30+ years just because some guy comes along and tries to say otherwise.

      To put it more direct, the first semi-modular synths like the SEM, Arp Odyssey, Korg MS20, Roland System100, etc. are integrated synths where the routing to the individual components can be interrupted and re-routed. They’re “semi” specifically because they are integrated and not comprised of replaceable modules, though still routable.

      Any other opinion is revisionist bologna.

    • Gunnar Lockwood

      I’m sorry that you missed the part where I never demanded anyone’s agreement. Also, I accept your evaluation of my text-fart as baloney. I did actually pre-emptively apologize though. Anyway, I have more baloney for you below.

      My opinion is that one of the defining and differentiating features of something like an MS-20 is not that it’s internally made up of modules or somehow… semi-made-up-of-modules, or that you can perform the commonplace act of routing or interrupting signals within it, but that it can be patched with cables. That’s really cool, and my opinion is that its ability to be patched should be hyped instead of calling it something that implies a deficit. It’s a state of half-being.

      It seems to me that a semi-modular synth is called so because it’s almost like a modular synth. It’s nearly a modular. It vaguely resembles a modular in some way, and I just don’t think that’s useful. I think patchable synths have very compelling reasons to exist and they don’t need to graft something else onto the word we use to define them.

      Your routing and signal interruption definition just doesn’t hold up, unless I misunderstood. Is a Minimoog semi-modular? You can route, mix, and interrupt the VCO’s and modulation, and you can even send external audio into it. I’m not well versed in its guts, but it looks like there’s more than one PCB in there. Are those distinct modules?

      Or is it the perceived complexity that makes you want to compare an Odyssey to a modular synth? If so, why don’t we just say that it’s complex and flexible? Those are just examples of words that might help to set expectations without needing to see the thing itself. Slider Island? That’s a stupid example, but even that tells you more than semi-modular.

      Someone might prefer a patchable synth because of the way it can talk to other patchable gear in deeper ways than just pitch and gate, but the basic configuration is set and normalized and it works for them. That characteristic has nothing to do with modules, so why is the word there? If modules are present in a Cwejman S1 MkII, they’re in every synth and they cease to be a useful way to differentiate between the various kinds of synths. Calling something patchable also makes it clear that you’re not talking about something like an Arp Odyssey, which doesn’t feature a large number of jacks unless it’s been modified. You do most of your work with the sliders and switches, not jacks and cables. If you hate dealing with cables, there’s an obvious benefit to that interface.

      I respect your opinion, but I think we can do a better job of being clear about the things we’re discussing. Cool? I think you saw a demand where there was none. I made what was intended to be a polite, gentle, and silly request in the name of clarity, that’s all. “Revisionist” sounds so sinister! Baloney… you did get me there.

      I know that we’re all just synth otakus, passionately text-farting about inconsequential marketing terms and features. And I would hug you and buy you a beer for that.

  • doh!

    MIDI thru? – come on

    • Greg Lőrincz

      You’re life must be so hard.

  • Ycros

    I love my MiniBrute, but argh, this would be cool given the modulation possibilities and the tweaks they’ve done to it.

  • Shannon

    Who needs patch memory? It would take longer to find the patch you wanted than to program it from scratch.

    • Xebulon

      Seriously – if you want to save a preset, just take a photo of the control settings!

  • Foosnark

    This is the first of the “new” analogs I started to actually consider picking up. I love the convenience of doing everything in VSTs, but I also miss my old beat-up microMoog and this is a lot more synth than that ever was.

  • http://fkillmary.com/ Jason Duerr

    Where are the rack mount ears?

  • synthorama

    No MIDI out? :(

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, it’s not clear what it would transmit via MIDI out.

      We need a DIY kit for multi-port MIDI, though. ;)

  • thoughtswondersandthelike

    Analog monosynth keyboards have always been a lot of fun to work with, at least from my perspective.

  • thoughtswondersandthelike

    I just really like monosynth.

  • RajaTheLatestToTheParty

    if they keep coming out with semi-semi-modular stuff like this for such an affordable price, i may begrudgingly(because of the impending consumer-addiction that will ensue once i let the flood-gates of the analog world open), join the world of hardware/analog modular synthesis.

    (then again, so long as i never actually hear it in real life and only hear it in youtube videos, i may never actually perceive the sound quality as being anything better than what could be done with supercollider. here’s hoping i can remain fooled ;D)