Monday, December 2, 2013

Arturia MicroBrute : First Impressions

This is not a review, just my impressions after playing it for a while at the shop.
The MicroBrute shows Arturia putting to good use the R&D devoted to its big brother MiniBrute. It is basically a stripped down version of the Mini, with a few twists.

The build quality is good. The bottom is metallic while the top is hard plastic. A tad less sturdy than the Mini, but reassuringly heavy and light enough to travel around.

It is indeed micro. I mean, it's really tiny. It takes more space than an iPad, but not by very much, making it the perfect tool for travelling or bringing to a gig when you need an analogue touch without being cumbersome. 

Of course it's got small keys. As usual some people will have reservations about that, and granted, small keys are always a compromise. In this case, I don't think it's much of a problem. Given the size of the instrument, a two-octaves mini keyboard makes more sense than a one-octave regular one. Besides, small keys aren't that much of a issue on a monophonic instrument (it's a different affair on the Microkorg when you want to play something polyphonic and complex, and it's ridiculous on the MicroStation).

The MicroBrute features a very complex oscillator section. Actually the most complex I've seen on an analogue synth (save for its big brother of course). Like Marc Doty brilliantly showed in its demo, you can do crazy sounds just by tweaking the oscillators and not touching the filter and LFO sections. It's that good. 

The filter section. Some have questioned the choice of an obscure design, but I think it's a good thing. Not every filter needs to be a Moog ladder filter clone and this one sure has character. Maybe it's me, but I thought that it was a bit smoother than the MiniBrute's filter, and even than the MS20 Mini's filter (which can be smooth too, but in a murkier, darker kind of way). In any case, you can make it scream like a madman or program gentle old school creamy tones.

The final point that needs to be stressed is the sequencer section. Now that's something fun. Its big brother has an arpeggiator. The MicroBrute has a sequencer. You can enter any sequence of notes on the keyboard and play it back by pressing a key AND you can transpose it live on the keyboard. The only drawback is that since the MicroBrute lacks a LCD screen, you can't input a precise tempo, but it's a creative tool in itself, since you can program up to to 8 sequences and seamlessly hop from one to the other.

All in all, the MicroBrute impressed me. It actually impressed me more than its big brother, which I thought was a big harsher sounding and "mean all the time". The MicroBrute looked like a more balanced instrument (I could be totally wrong on that, I haven't played the Mini for a very long extent of time).

Oh, and it's French;)

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