When it comes to soft-synths, there are few names as highly esteemed in the world of production as Arturia’s. This is largely because of their incredibly faithful reproductions of classic synthesisers that are used daily by the biggest names in the game. In recent times, Arturia have taken the bold move of going beyond the virtual world by creating their range of hybrid Spark drum machines and the full-blown DSP monster Origin, which have proven to be extremely popular with the recording community — and for good reason too.
The MiniBrute is a further adventure into the world of hardware synthesis for Arturia, and if its siblings are anything to go by this pint-sized analogue monster is likely to be something rather special indeed.
Arturia made their name by emulating classic analogue synthesisers in the digital world, so it is strangely fitting that they take their intimate knowledge of analogue synthesis and complete the circle by releasing this old-skool hardware analogue monosynth. Aesthetically, the MiniBrute manages to capture the feel of the classic '70s synths without trying to be retro, and the result is a slick and stylish synthesiser that has been built to the highest standards.
The layout of the control surface is exactly how a monosynth should be, with physical controls for all of the parameters and not a menu or screen in sight. This totally changes the way sounds are played and tweaked when compared with using soft-synths, and inspires creativity by breaking the usual workflow cycle.
The MiniBrute is extremely portable, and despite having a keyboard with full-sized keys its physical footprint is tiny and weighs less than four kilograms. This means it is a perfect companion to take to gigs, especially as it has both USB MIDI as well as the old-skool round DIN connectors. Arturia have somehow managed to fit the plethora of faders, knobs and switches into the MiniBrute’s tiny frame without sacrificing spacing or workflow in a tour de force of design that is both easy to use and highly tweakable.
The one tiny fly in the ointment is the external power supply, but given the size of this synthesiser it hardly comes as a surprise and is a forgivable foible in the grand scheme of things.
Because that classic analogue synth sound is so notoriously difficult to emulate using digital signal processing techniques, Arturia chose to go for a completely analogue architecture when designing the MiniBrute — and the results are awesome. The MiniBrute can be used to create amazingly deep basses, screaming leads as well as sci-fi movie-style effects and has a raw, edgy sound that can also be tamed by cunning use of the filters. These are also incredibly rich and powerful thanks to the Steiner-Parker filter design borrowed from the ultra rare and revered '70s Synthacon synthesiser. It is nice to see that Arturia have gone for a more boutique approach to their filters, rather than the tried and tested Moog-style filtering that most synths use. This gives the MiniBrute a distinct character, as well as opening up sonic possibilities without adding complexity to the control panel.
Yet again Arturia have managed to get everything just right. The MiniBrute is a truly unique synthesiser that offers extremely powerful and complex control over synthesis parameters while remaining completely user-friendly and downright fun to play with. The size is perfect for life on the road, and the build quality will ensure many happy years of service.
The range of sounds that the MiniBrute is capable of producing is very impressive and the Steiner-Parker-based filter design adds to the versatility and distinct character of this pint-sized monster. Analogue aficionados would be wise to get their hands on one of these beauties as soon as they can, or risk missing out on a serious amount of fun.