Arturia MicroBrute - Exclusive Review

Micro mono mania      24/10/13

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16:32 mins    

It's been a short but intense teaser campaign that pre-empts the Arturia MicroBrute, you may be reading this at 12.01am this morning, in which case I know you are a keen synthesist. The MicroBrute certainly is a synth worth staying up late for.

 

Update: Added a short Jam Video Here


Smaller than the MiniBrute, it has 25 mini keys, these do send MIDI velocity, but the MicroBrute cannot respond to any of that, purely on off for the internal synth engine.

The voice architecture is a simplified MiniBrute, but with a few twists - the first is the CV patchbay - Envelope and LFO out to 6 possible destinations - but lets get the facts:


One Analogue Oscillator with multiple, mixable, tweakable waves:

 

  • Sub Osc - a Square wave which can be harmonically tweaked between -1 octave and -5th
  • Saw - with Hyper saw - dial in up to 3 - detune mod via the patch bay
  • Square - variable PW
  • Triangle - with metalizer dial like the MiniBrute

 

 

Interesting that the Saw and Square are setup to be out of phase for some more tonal variations. All wave parameters are accessible via the CV patch bay.

Also, all wave level controls when dialed past the 12 o'clock position start to drive into the filter, like the Sub Phatty and Bass Station 2 do , adding a low harmonic distortion.

Filter

It features the same Steiner Parker filter that gave the MiniBrute it's character, minus the Notch filter, LP/BP/HP are what you get here with the same screeching - almost MS20 like sound but with it's own unique character. Filter resonance can go all the way and when combined with the BruteFactor (a VCA feedback loop) add all manner of harmonics. Envelope amount (+/-) is normalised to the Filter, no patching required.

Filter tracking is also included from 0-200%  - yes you can 'play' the filter sort of.

Modulation A single ADSR envelope for VCA and Modulation though VCA can be switched to Gate to give it single modulation duties, Envelope can be patched to pitch, filter (normalized), Sub tone, Saw mod, Pulse Width, Saw Metalizer. I guess that this is the only striking limitation, there only being on Envelope, but somehow it doesnt feel all that hamstrung by it.

There's a single LFO too with sync to the sequencer or just free run, speed is heading into the audio range, though only just. LFO waves are Triangle, Saw and Square. No extra vibrato LFO like on the MiniBrute.

Sequencer An 8 pattern, 64 step sequencer, with simple record and playback makes it very quick and easy to record a line - hit the Rest button to add one. What makes this interesting though are the configuration options (via an included App - Mac/PC). It's possible to advance the sequencer steps via an external gate input - which when hooked up to Korg Volca's sync out or another modular or audio trigger source means you can change the feel with ease, you can even just hit the Rest/Tempo button to advance steps too.

Interfacing

I loved the MiniBrute for it's simplicity of hooking up to other CV gear and MicroBrute takes this even further. With Gate in and Out plus CV out, it means hooking up to Modular stuff (1v/Oct) is a breeze, use the USB connection to let your DAW drive the synth. Frankly it's brilliant, being able to patch into the other points too makes this feel right at home with the  other analogue gear we have here. Only limitation is that you can't control the MicroBrute from CV, but it does have a MIDI in so you can workaround it. Heck for the price, there's got to be some limitations right?

Additionally, we have an external input on 1/4 jack which lets you send external audio into the Filter and VCA, gated from the keyboard only, but allows quick patching in of external Oscillators or audio sources with a recessed input gain knob to set the level.

Analogue So yes it is analogue, there's no MIDI control of any of the front panel, nor do they transmit any data when tweaked, as a result, it does take a moment or two to get into tune, though it's pretty quick. There are however some parameters that can be tweaked via  the MicroBrute Connection App:

 

  • LFO Key Retrigger - on/off
  • Envelope Legato - on/off
  • Midi Channel Transmit and Receive (individually selectable)
  • Note hold - on/off
  • Note Priority - High/Last/Low
  • Velocity Response 3 curves (only sent over MIDI/USB)
  • Next Seq Select Behaviour - to end, instant and continue
  • Gate - short/med/long
  • Bend Range - 1-12 semitones
  • Sync - Ext/Int/Auto
  • Step Advance - Clock/Gate input

 

Is love too strong a word to use for an inanimate object? Perhaps. But I really clicked with the MicroBrute. It has real character, plenty of sonic scope , even as only a single Osc mono with its limitations, and the patching and interfacing is really brilliant.


Not often I'll gush about a synthesizer, but the MicroBrute does deserve it, there's something about the form factor that all comes together nicely - it somehow is more appealing to me than the MiniBrute even though on paper, it has a lesser specification. It makes up for it in chrisma somehow.

Add to the fact that it costs a pittance in synth terms at £269/$299€299 - okay more than the Korg Volca's and you have a winner here. I only hope Arturia can make enough of them to keep up with demand.

 

 




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30 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
handbuilt coldfusion cms    Said...

if I had a dime for every time the Amazon S3 /iOS MP3 link was broken, I could buy a Microbrute :)

24-Oct-13 05:26 PM


noisemaker    Said...

Nice review as always. Do the envelope and LFO sync to the clock in so their outputs could be used in a eurorack set up please?

24-Oct-13 05:54 PM


Athar    Said...

Awesome review as always Nick..and very good price for an analogue synth...I will be getting one for sure.

24-Oct-13 06:27 PM


Koshdukai    Said...

Great deep and fun to watch review... as one would expect ;)

Thank you!

24-Oct-13 06:27 PM


   Said...

Nice review Nick!! The mod matrix really make this much more attractive!

24-Oct-13 07:27 PM


Rolandex    Said...

Nice review Nick!! The mod matrix really make this much more attractive!

24-Oct-13 07:27 PM


brian from usa    Said...

Seems like you left out a lot of stuff...what about the FEEL of the mini keys? Also just one EG rather than the two of the Minibrute is a big deal and you didn't even mention it. The "mod matrix" patching is great if you have some modular gear, but stupid if you don't. Like the MS20 you're forced to patch rather than just flipping switches to do the same thing..NOT live performance friendly. Because there's no attenuation, when you patch the LFO you can't control mod depth...which you could on the Minibrute. While the final setup with the Volcas plus the modular looks sexy, why are we so gleefully heading back to spaghetti setups?

24-Oct-13 08:02 PM


Sean In Japan    Said...

Great review as always. Really liked that bit you made at the end. The only thing I was hoping you'd speak to (which you normally do at the start of your reviews) is the build quality. I'd imagine it feels similar or the same as the minibrute? Certainly looks like a smaller version, just curious if it feels like one too.

24-Oct-13 09:22 PM


Robin Masters    Said...

I really thought this was going to be one of those fake synth promos like the Novation "Finger" single key synth from years ago. So why would anyone buy one of these when you can get a used brute on ebay for $50 more than the list price of the micro? Looks like more of the repackaged synth trend that's been going on recently. Polyphonic "PolyBrute" please!

25-Oct-13 12:40 AM


moss    Said...

Great in depth review Nick!

25-Oct-13 01:33 AM


Matthew Tanner    Said...

I like the kook of this, especially because it's so dinky - does anyone know if I could used the CV outs to trigger my old SH-09?

25-Oct-13 01:40 AM


NummerNoll    Said...

Great review as always. Nice with a patchbay, I do hope more companies are going to follow the idea of inter-connectivity since it makes simple devices more complex in an easy way. With software/hardware like Silent Way we now have a real midi-killer, I at least hope that... (And also hope something similar will be available for mobile platforms.)

25-Oct-13 03:06 AM


Razvan    Said...

What about the enclosure? Plastic?

25-Oct-13 03:38 AM


Nick B    Said...

Yep, plastic but solidly so, the keyboard is okay, not fabulous but is the synth that does it for me.

25-Oct-13 04:19 AM


blox electrix    Said...

This is magic. I love 2013 ! Gimmie !

25-Oct-13 07:06 AM


GoAnalogue!    Said...

No real reason to buy the old monosynths anymore. Plenty of affordable small synths to go around. Pair this up with a DAW and you have got the best of both worlds.

25-Oct-13 09:24 AM


Mr. Vincent    Said...

Fine review. The second video is even better! Gives a good example of its sound. Thanks

25-Oct-13 09:42 AM


sensien    Said...

Hi Nick , you wrote ".. you can't control the MicroBrute from CV " Surely you can use the pitch in, in the mod matrix and the gate in the back? Did I miss something ?

25-Oct-13 11:18 AM


Niklas    Said...

I'd like you to go deeper into the differences between this and the Minibrute. For us, still undecided which one to pick up, that would be greatly appreciated!

25-Oct-13 12:04 PM


SUBTRACTIVE NOBODY    Said...

The Brute Family definitely has it going on. No doubts there. I am blown away by what they are doing to the competition too! Now everybody else gets to try and figure out how to make something just as affordable, just as mean sounding, and just as fun to play with that has all the bells and whistles like CV, lots of knobs, and the creativity of these 100% ANALOG brothers. I’m no fortune cookie but I see good things in Arturia’s future.

PROs: SOUND, PRICE, AND CONNECTIVITY

CONs: SILLY MINIATURE KEYS THAT DRIVE ME NUTS. I’M NOT WILLOW! GIVE ME SOMETHING I CAN PLAY!!! :)

25-Oct-13 12:20 PM


Mattsynth    Said...

Great review Nick. Mini keys and single OSC are not for me. I would also like to see some patch storage. I am going to save my money for the MaxiBrute.

25-Oct-13 02:35 PM


GTRman    Said...

Someone Said: I’m no fortune cookie but I see good things in Arturia’s future. Apparently they have never tried to get any kind of service from Arturia? I have and it is horrible or completely non-existent.

25-Oct-13 02:44 PM


Brutefactor    Said...

For once I agree with GTRman on that - I love my Minibrute but getting a simple elevated key fixed has become a long process.

25-Oct-13 03:24 PM


Robin Masters    Said...

So I did some digging and found the Novation equivalent (not really) to the MicroBrute.

http://web.archive.org/web/20021025134953/http://www.futuremusic.co.uk/finger.htm

26-Oct-13 12:02 PM


Patrickdafunk    Said...

Arturia is starting to become my favorite company. If only they would make a compact POLY SYNTH then I am fan for life.

26-Oct-13 02:12 PM


bobbyd    Said...

Again, a great review. Nick, what are the physical dimensions of the MicroBute?

26-Oct-13 02:25 PM


congo bongo    Said...

Robin Masters? I never saw you in MAGNUM P.I., unless you were higgins all along.. or is this the robin masters of the robin masters' orchestra

Anyhoo, the minibrute is solid, sounds good and at that price, considering the competition, including it's own bigger brother ( or sister), is a deserved seller.

Someone else here has commented on the fact that there's so many modern low priced monos with connectivity, that you can put together a good, solid analog set up for less than £1k, and you're good to go.

28-Oct-13 06:58 AM


E03    Said...

Awesome programming tool for any modular system, and with the inclusion of usb transfer to the sequencer & the synth thats genius. To be honest i like this more than the mini, more useable for my needs.

I own a old Roland MC-4 and would love to use these two together with the system 100 and ms20. If the sequencer can output on a separate channel and the software is cool i.e. load midi files or change sequences remotely, im so there- prob am all ready. Good work Arturia

30-Oct-13 09:50 PM


noisemaker    Said...

Hi Nick. In your tests did you try turning all the oscillators down at all? I'm getting a strange click on attack and release of the notes. Wondered if it was the same on yours. Best wishes

15-Nov-13 12:21 PM


MicroB    Said...

As sensien said, can we use the Pitch In and Gate In to trigger the VCO????

27-Nov-13 01:26 PM


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