Jun 28

arturia_minibrute_synth

INTRODUCING THE ARTURIA MINIBRUTE

It is good to see that manufactures are still bringing out new Analogue Synths. Many of them are small and compact with sufficient knob-tweaking controls for you to create your next Dubstep sound or effect for a movie soundtrack. Arturia are one such company and have taken the step in producing their first Analogue Synth – the Arturia Minibrute.

In terms of Arturia products, top of my list is the Spark, which is a drum machine, part hardware, part software and people seem to be saying that the Spark and the Minibrute are both of high quality without the price to match. I need to get it out of the box and see what it sounds like and assess this value for money.

GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR ARTURIA MINIBRUTE

It has excellent packaging in its bright orange box and inside you will find the power supply; the manual as well as ten preset sheets to get you started with creating sounds and five blank sheets. These preset sheets simply sit over the controls. This is a small keyboard but once out of the box its square shape which many other keyboards don’t have, gives you the impression that it is much larger. It has a solid, well constructed feel to it and its size is 325 x 390 x70 mm which is 12.79 x 15.35 x 2.76 inches and it weighs 4 kg which is 8.8 lbs.

In my eagerness to start playing, at the last minute, I decided to have a quick look at the manual and was very glad that I did because as the Minibrute is analogue, Arturia advise that it should be switched on and then not played for five to ten minutes. The time this takes depends on the external temperature but once I had warmed up its circuitry it did stay in tune. If it does not, you will need to use an external tuner and fine tune it with the ‘Fine Tune’ control.

MINIBRUTE KEYBED AND CONTROLS

arturia_minibrute_controls

The keybed itself has a really great action for a keyboard of two octaves and has aftertouch. The action is fast and for me the keys have a nice return, suitable to my own playing style. I wonder whether they will invent the Maxibrute with 61 or more keys?

So what is a Minibrute? We know that it is an Analoge and Monophonic Synth that has a single voltage controlled oscillator, with a sub-oscillator and multiple waves. It seems also to have a voltage controlled filter that is multi-mode; two envelopes one for amplitude and the other for the filter; an Arpeggiator and also Control Voltage In and Outs so it is able to send and receive MIDI as well as control voltage and gate signals. This is great if you have other Analogue equipment. I looked, but I could not see a Ring Modulator.

The metal control panel looks very solid in construction with its heavy blue-grey case. You will see an array of solid knobs, switches and faders sensibly laid out. You might find some movement in the knobs but it is nothing to worry about. On the left-hand side are the modulation and pitch wheels and under these are the up and down octave buttons – +2 and -2.

There is quite a bit of control here with three rows of controls. Row 1 has 15 knobs and 3 switches. Row 2 has 14 faders and Row 3 has 14 knobs and 5 switches and 1 button. Row 1 is basically three sections for the Oscillator, Filter and Global controls. In the Oscillator Section you can switch-in a Sub Oscillator and decide on whether you want it Square or Sine Wave. There is also an octave switch ranging between minus 1 or minus 2 octaves. The main Oscillator has three waveforms; Pulse, Sawtooth and Triangle and these are controlled by six knobs. You can enhance and modify your sound further with the use of signal enhancers. These are Metalizer, Ultrasaw, Modulation and Pulse Width.

arturia_minibrute_row_one_controls

My favourite Section in Row 1 is the Filter Section. Everyone loves filters and Arturia give you five knobs, allowing you to have some of that tweaking fun with resonance, cutoff, mode, envelope mode and keyboard tracking. You can even add in some Fast or Slow Envelope Speed (with use of its switch) to alter the oscillators’ timbre and select from High Pass, Band Pass, Low Pass or Notch. I like the Low Pass the best, there again I just love Filter sections probably because it is here you can the most fun. Interestingly, rather than make their own, Arturia decided to employ a Steiner-Parker design for their filter. I think this what really makes this synth different from the rest. It is an unusual choice but you can’t help but like it and you soon appreciate just how versatile it is.

The last part of Row 1 gives you some Global controls. Although the Filter section is not Arturia’s, they wanted to have something to call their own to manipulate the sound further and in this section the first knob dial adds further nastiness in something they call the “Brute Factor”. Next to this are the headphone, master volume and fine tune controls.

Row 2 has the Oscillator Mixer section directly under the Oscillator control knobs in Row 1. Here you can mix in the three waves, add noise, introduce the level of the Sub Oscillator and if you want control the level of the audio in. These mixed signals then feed the Filter and the Amplifier sections with dedicated ADSR envelope sliders.

arturia_minibrute_row_two_controls

Row 3 has four sections called Controls, Vibrato, LFO and Arpeggiator. The Controls section is quite small but is divided into four. Firstly there is the MOD Wheel three-way switch which controls the Modulation wheel assignment. I love this because you can quickly and easily make your selection for it to control either the filter cutoff frequency, the vibrato or the amount of the current LFO signal that goes to the Pulse Width Modulator, Metalizer, Pitch, Filter and Amp – excellent.

arturia_minibrute_row_three_controls

Next are the aftertouch assignments which are just as good as the Modulation Wheel. You can select from three options as to how expressive your aftertouch works – the filter cutoff frequency, Vibrato or be disabled which is the ‘Off’ selection. Below the Mode Wheel and Aftertouch assignments are knobs for Bend Range and Glide.

The next section is even smaller with just two controls relating to Vibrato. It has a tree-way switch from which you can select either a positive square wave to give you a trill-up effect, a sine wave for the classical vibrato effect or a negative square wave for trill-down effect. There is also a Rate knob that controls the Vibrato’s modulation rate ranging from 3 to 30 Hz.

The LFO section gives you several modulation waveforms and you can select from sine, triangle, sawtooth, square, random stepped and random gliding. The other controls in this section are Rate, Clock, Pitch, Filter, Amp, Pulse Width Modulator and Metalizer. I found there is quite a bit of modulation available on the MiniBrute. To be honest it is awesome, as you not only have the main programmable LFO but a dedicated Ultrasaw LFO and an LFO dedicated to vibrato effects.

The last section is the Arpeggiator which has a good selection of controls. It starts with a simple switch for Hold, On or Off. You can then decide on the tempo subdivisions that you want to use. The selection dial has options for:- quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, quarter note triplets, eighth note triplet and sixteenth note triplets. Other controls allow you to add Swing, choose from one to four octaves, change the tempo or use the Tap button or use the mode knob to change the playing order of the notes by selecting either:- Up, Down, Up and Down or Random. You can also transmit your arpeggio lines via the CV/gate.

MAKING YOUR CONNECTION WITH AN ARTURIA MINIBRUTE

arturia_minibrute_connections

You cannot complain about the amount of connections on such a small Brute of a synth. On the MIDI side of things, I expected a the five-pin Din MIDI In, but I was very surprised to see the inclusion of a MIDI Out which means you could use your Minibrute as Polyphonic MIDI Controller. The USB port will allow you to connect to the Software. Next up you have balanced quarter-inch audio IN, OUT and Headphones, a Gate Source switch and six 3.5 mm CV Control sockets for Pitch Out, Gate Out, Gate In, Amp, Filter and Pitch.

DESIGNING SOUNDS, FX AND SOUND CREATION

I think the only way to describe the MiniBrute is that it is aggressive. You need to tame the beast to get it to produce softer sounds. It seems to love rich and sometimes metallic distortion and demands that this is what it is going to give you. There are no presets, no LCD and therefore no menus to go through. There are some very excellent preset templates that lay over the controls which can provide you with a start to sound design and there are also some blanks so that you can make your own.

I quite like the raw sounds that it produces from its rich oscillator waveforms and excellent filter. By the time you add the Brute Factor the aggression really kicks in. It is difficult to explain just what the MiniBrute actually sounds like – you really should try one out. It is great for creating lead and bass sounds and the use of the arpeggiator gives the obvious feeling that a lot more is going on.

You can also create some fantastic effects and you can even play just the Resonance by itself. As you use the MiniBrute, you get to realise that the Mixer section is directly related to the Filter Section. If you want to create some different sounds, you don’t need to have the mixer controls up high. If you do it will overdrive the filters, which may be OK for certain aggressive sounds but I would start with the mixer controls quite low and bring them up gradually experimenting with what you like the sound of and then adjust the Filter resonance controls etc. Keeping the controls low gives you a cleaner sound and you can slowly introduce some harmonics; you could then bring in the Sub Oscillator to give some depth to the sound. Also you may want to try again with the mixer controls down and start to bring up the Brute Factor and then adjust the Filter controls. This is not to say that you should ignore the other controls like the LFO, Vibrato, Metalizer etc., this is just a starting point for your experimentation – it is all great fun and educational.

I did my experimenting and produced some great speaker-shaking bass sounds as well as some hard-edge effects. My results were not instant and you really do have to spend some time getting used to its capabilities. Occasionally, you can be very lucky and something awesome hits you quite quickly. You have to be very careful if you are using headphones when doing this – so be warned. I also did like the use of the Ultrasaw as this adds two additional out-of-phase sawtooth waveforms and gives it a type of Chorus-thickening. If you push it you can get some of those great wobble effects.

THE MINIBRUTE SOFTWARE

arturia_minibrute_software_editor

I did not get the opportunity to test the software but I understand that there are just simply two pages to it. The first page is for configuration of the MiniBrute and provides you with options to select MIDI channel. Although I was very happy with my keyboard action, the software gives you access to three velocity and three aftertouch curves. It will also allow you to adjust LFO key-retriggering on/off, the audio gate threshold, the key trigger mode, legato on/off, and the arpeggiator hold type. The second page is for firmware updates.

CONCLUSION

Well the Arturia MiniBrute gets the thumbs up from me and is great value for the money. I would say I found it to be just a little bit more than the sum of its parts and very well made. It is a lot of fun, very versatile, flexible and it sounds powerful. It has its own unique punchy sound and it seems to want to stand out but sometimes you will love it and other times you may find it too much. If you consider that this small unit has a multimode arpeggiator, a wealth of connections, a great keyboard action, aftertouch, it is velocity-sensitive and has a multimode Steiner-Parker filter as well as so many other features, it certainly worries the competition.

I would not say that the MiniBrute is for everyone, but if you have other Analogue equipment it is perfect for you. If you are just thinking about getting going with Analogue, then at this price, it is just the start you need with sufficient extras that should keep your interest going for quite some time.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.