It's been a short but intense teaser campaign that pre-empts the ArturiaMicroBrute, 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.
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.
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.
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.