Sonic LAB Review: Novation Mininova

Compact Nova synthesizer      30/10/12

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14:41 mins    

This is not a new Korg MicroKorg - this is the Novation Mininova, though you could be forgiven in thinking that there’s a pretty striking resemblance. Separated at birth even.
 
When you consider that the MicroKorg was one of the biggest selling synths for a long time, you can see that Novation want a piece of that. And so they created the MiniNova - it's the UltraNova synth engine squeezed into a smaller shell - 37 mini keys, four knob parameter matrix, genre and category bank switch plus a gooseneck microphone for vocoder and input duties.

Nova
The Nova engine has 18 voice polyphony and monotimbral operation - that means only one sound at a time. Each voice has:
3 Oscillators
1x Noise Source
2x ring modulators
Square, sine, tri, sawtooth and pulse waves
20 digital waves and 36 wavetables
2x multimode filters
20 modulation slots
6 envelopes
3xLFO
5x effects slots

This is as you would expect, but what makes the Novation Mininova different is it's performance control - this seems a bit unlikely considering it's diminutive size, but it's true.

Welcome To The Matrix
First up, the parameter matrix - this in itself is nothing new, but the easily accessible row selection slider makes it swift and easy to flip between parameter sets for quick tweaking. The biggie though is the Animation Control -these are the same as the touch control on the UltraNova but are 8, backlit buttons, that also double as 8 favourite memories and 8 arpeggio step select switches. In Animation mode, it is possible to map each of these buttons to any of the 66 possible destinations, giving you instant parameter changes - these can be subtle or dramatic, depedning on how they are programmed.
What this means is that as well as the four tweak knobs, you have another 8 ways to tweak the sound.

Sound Engine
There are no surprises in the way the unit sounds, with the number of waveforms available, some complex harmonic sounds are achievable, the effects play a strong part in the sound of this synth with plenty of algorithms to choose from including EQ, compression and distortion - which are used to great effect to improve the sonic weight of the basic oscillators.
With the oscillator density and detune - giving you hypersaw like waveform multiplication and vSync giving the oscillators the chance to scream -  there’s a lot of tonal variation.


Effect algorithms:
EQ - 3 band, Compressor 1+2 ratio, threshold and ADSR,  Distortion 1+2, Delay 1+2 - single and multiple echos, Reverb 1+2 hall and room, Choruse 1-4 chorus and phasing,  Gator - 32 step sequencer.


Vocoder
We have the same 12-band vocoder as the Ultra, but with the addition of some new Vocal Tune patches - these take the incoming signal -  and tune it either  via  dynamic processing or by using the keyboard to pitch the signal - you can do that  hard AutoTune type stuff with it if you wish.

Editing

While it is possible to edit all parameters via the front panel, its not a barrel or laughs, Novation tell me that in addition to currently available librarian software, a full editor will be along soon - which will make the whole process a lot more fun and like to have you creating unique sounds of your own.


Connectivity
Stereo output (2x mono 1/4 jack) stereo 1/4 headphone output,
inputs  - mic (XLR) and line,  sustain pedal, MIDI in and out plus USB - this is not a MIDI  interface  but you can choose which ports you use to communicate with the MiniNova.
9v power input, though you can power it from the USB port.

Finally
I was impressed with the Mininova, somehow more so than with the UltraNova. I think this is perhaps due to the clever way in which you can get to many sound parameters with a minimal amount of front panel  controls. Somehow because of it's small size it sounds bigger than it looks if that makes sense?

A good prospect for those just wanting to get a first synth and access to so some contemporary synth sounds, or a more experienced user who wants the Nova synth engine, but doesn’t need all the keys and control.
At this price the Mininova is hard to  ignore. - recommended

Available now
£299, €399, $499

 


 

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