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TECH REVIEW: NOVATION MINI NOVA

Sounds of the Underground

Newcomers to the music production scene could be forgiven for thinking that Novation only make controllers and MIDI keyboards due to their huge presence in this market. However Novation started out making synths like their Bass Station, Drum Station and SuperNova synthesisers, the latter being a huge smash with dance producers worldwide, but in recent times they have turned their attention to making various ranges of keyboards and MIDI controllers with much success.

2010 saw Novation revisit their synthesiser heritage and resurrect the Nova range in the form of the UltraNova which was extremely well received by the music industry and now the latest in this line of legendary synthesizers is born in the form of the MiniNova.

Given the diminutive size of the MiniNova and the microphone that sticks out of the control surface on a flexible gooseneck it is clear that this synthesiser is in direct competition with the microKorg and microKorgXL. However despite the very small size of this synthesiser and the fact that it weighs in at 2.5 kg the MiniNova this is actually a heavyweight synth when it comes to sounds and features due to the fact that is has the same powerful sound engine as the UltraNova as well as most of the features from its big brother and sound patches can be shared between the two synthesisers.

While the microphone that sticks out of the MiniNova manages to make the synthesiser look completely awesome in an old-skool way it is clearly not there for decoration, this pint-sized monster has a built in Vocoder and VocalTuner. Most modern synths with vocoder capabilities have been a bit of a letdown in terms of fatness and coolness of the sounds they produce especially when it comes to the presets, however the MiniNova breaks this trend in a big way. The vocoder is absolutely awesome with a good range of very nice presets for instant Daft Punk style gratification.

The VocalTune mode recreates classic hip-hop and urban vocal tuning effects with serious aplomb and Vocoded/VocalTuned output can also have onboard effect such as reverb and distortion added on top. The MiniNova also has a jack input at the back to allow external soundsources to be conntected to it such as keyboards, samplers or any other instruments and then be vocoded or have effects added via the MiniNova, and another sweet touch is that the onboard microphone can be detached to allow connection of other microphones.

Despite being a compact synthesiser the three octave keyboard on the MiniNova is perfectly playable and has managed to strike a good balance between portability and functionality, while the key action isn’t quite as nice as the ones found on the microKorg range it certainly isn’t terrible. The keyboard is complemented nicely by two large wheel controllers for pitch and modulation that look and feel fantastic thanks to the blue LED backlighting and rubberised tops. The rest of the control panel is nicely spaced with large buttons and old-skool style large knobs giving an uncluttered and well laid out control surface that is perfect for quick tweaking in the studio or on-stage antics.

The deeper levels of programming and tweaking functions are unlocked via the free editing software provided by Novation that can also be used to save sounds or load new sounds into the MiniNova quickly and easily.

The MiniNova ships with 256 onboard presets with space for an additional 128 user created presets, there is also the option to download more sound banks created by names such as Daniel Fisher and Chuckie from Novation’s website for free. The preset sounds are excellent with a decent range to be found even before customising the sound banks to individual preferences and the SuperNova heritage can be heard both in the sounds and the effects that the MiniNova produces. Loading up the controller software onto a computer will pay big dividends as the synthesiser engine running the MiniNova is incredibly powerful and can produce some seriously amazing sounds if the time is taken to program them.

Adding to the overall slickness of the package are the fourteen onboard filters to choose from which sound brilliant and provide hours of fun (or productive work as we like to call it) tweaking away in the studio or on stage.

The overall build quality of the MiniNova manages to find a good balance between ruggedness and lightweight portability with the layout and design being very well thought out and executed. The MiniNova is packed with nice touches like the huge filter cutoff knob and the brilliant performance matrix which makes tweaking sounds feel like second nature.

This synthesiser offers instant gratification for creating music in the studio as well as performing out in the wild not to mention ticking all of the boxes as far as size and weight are concerned. This is a great value synthesiser that punches well above its weight and price point.

 

VERDICT

Build quality7.5
Ease of use8.0
Features8.5
Value for money8.5
Sound Quality8.0

HYPE

Onboard vocoder, voice tuner and arpeggiator plus the power of the UltraNova sound engine packed into a small and lightweight package.

GRIPE

The only gripe to be found is that the action of the keys isn’t quite as nice as the ones found on the microKorg range.

Continuing their rich tradition of creating top class synthesisers with this the latest incarnation of their Nova synthesisers Novation have packed an awful lot of synthesiser into a very small package.

9.0/10 










 

 

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