Monday, October 29, 2012

Arturia Minibrute : Early Impressions

This isn't a review per se, I don't own the instrument. Just my thoughts after monopolizing it for an extended period of time at the shop.

The Minibrute is Arturia's first analog synth, quite an interesting move for a company formally specialised in software. It's small and it's cheap, but is it good? And does having yet another monophonic analog synth on the market matters anyway?

Well, it does matter, because there aren't that many companies invested in producing affordable analog synths, apart from Dave Smith Instruments. And the Minibrute is a wonderful instrument. To begin with, it might be somewhat inexpensive (as analog goes), but it feels pretty solid. It's surprisingly heavy for an instrument of that size. The knobs have a reassuring sturdiness, although the slidebars are a bit light. All in all, it's a synth that you won't be afraid to carry around.

The Minibrute only features one oscillator, but multiply the waveshaping tricks to make the best out of it.You also get a beefy sub-oscillator that's bound to shatter some glass. Soundwise, the synth certainly delivers. Some have questioned the use of the obscure Steiner-Parker filter design, but I totally support it. If you want a Moog ladder design or a CEM-style filter, well, go buy a Moog or a DSI. We don't need yet another Moog-like analog synth. It's a bold move from Arturia, but it absolutely makes sense, because it sets the Minibrute apart from the competition. Whether you like its sound or not is a matter of personal taste. When it comes to modern monophonic analogues, the Moog Little Phatty has a round, warm tone, and Dave Smith's synths sport that sophisticated, well-educated analogue sound. By contrast, the Minibrute, is punchy and gritty, and it has range, from analog ground-shaking basses to experimentally harsh screaming leads and other-worldly textures. It's an aggressive synth, that you can make to sound warm and soft or screeching digital.

The level of control is understandably great : one knob per function. You don't have any preset memory, everything is on the synth and the possibilities are numerous from an instrument in that price range. The arpeggiator works like a charm, and even features a swing mode.
Now the problem will be to actually buy one. The Minibrute I've played in the shop is the ONLY unit they've got at this point. They manage to get a couple units from time to time which are of course pre-ordered. Production levels are ridiculous. I know that Arturia isn't Roland, Yamaha or Korg, but it's still a bit jarring to see how they managed to mess the release that badly, after so many delays. Anyway, if you can find one and fancy adding a mean sounding, portable and programmer-friendly analog synth to your setup, go for it. I'll probably do when they actually build them in decent quantities.

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