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Arturia MicroBrute Review - Small Monophonic Synthesizer

July 7, 2024

Today we are going to review the Arturia MicroBrute monophonic synthesizer from the well-known French audio equipment manufacturer Arturia. The MicroBrute analog synthesizer was developed on the basis of the more advanced MiniBrute synthesizer, the first analog synthesizer developed by Arturia. The name Brute comes from the word "brutal". The signature feature of the entire Brute series is the eponymous "Brute Factor" encoder - more on that below, but first a little history.

Before the release of the Brute analog synthesizers, Arturia only produced software analogs of iron synthesizers or hybrid synthesizers with hardware DSP. The MiniBrute and MicroBrute synthesizers represent a new direction for the company. To create them, Arturia enlisted the help of a famous engineer and enthusiast in the world of analog synthesis, Yves Usson.

Here is what the manufacturer says about the MicroBrute synthesizer:

"We created MicroBrute with the idea that many people need an easy-to-use synthesizer for live performance and in the studio. But an easy-to-use synthesizer should still have great sound quality and plenty of room to experiment with timbre. It's true that the MicroBrute is easy to use and allows anyone to tweak the sound and make music without learning synthesis in depth. But that doesn't mean that advanced users won't be impressed by the sonic capabilities of this little workstation."

Before we get to the main section of our Arturia MicroBrute review, let's familiarize ourselves with the specifications of the device, which is quite important.

Best Price on Arturia MicroBrute Synthesizer

The Arturia MicroBrute synthesizer is a compact, affordable, and powerful analog synthesizer that has garnered widespread acclaim since its release.

Arturia MicroBrute package Classic Package

Arturia MicroBrute Specifications

  • Monophonic synthesizer (100% analog audio signal path)
  • Steiner-Parker 2-pole multimode filter (Low Pass, Band Pass, High Pass)
  • Analog Voltage Controlled Oscillator
  • Oscillator Mixer (Overtone, Sawtooth, Square, Triangle, audio in [on rear panel])
  • Overtone sub-oscillator/5th generator
  • Signal Enhancers: Pulse Width Modulation / Ultrasaw generates fat sawtooth waveforms / Metalizer brings in extreme harmonics
  • Brute Factor delivers saturation and rich harmonics
  • LFO: 3 waveforms - sine, sawtooth, square (LFO can freerun or sync to arpeggiator)
  • ADSR envelope generator
  • Keyboard tracking of the VCF cutoff
  • 25-note mini-key keyboard
  • Mod Wheel (assignable to cutoff or LFO amount) & Pitch Wheel (bend range selectable via software)
  • Octave selector from -2 to +2 octaves
  • Full-functioned step sequencer: 8 memories, up to 64 steps per memory, tap tempo, rate control, step divisions (via software), trigger modes (via software)
  • External analog audio input
  • CV In/Out jacks: Input - Pitch, Filter, sub-harmonics, pulse width, Metalizer, saw animator | Output - pitch, envelope, LFO
  • MIDI In/Out: MIDI In with 5-pin DIN connector, USB MIDI In/Out
  • 1/4" audio output and 1/8" headphone output
  • MIDI sync
  • Powered by 12V DC 1A power adapter
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 325 x 221 x 60mm (12.8 x 8.7 x 2.36 inches)
  • Net Weight: 1.75kg (3.86 lbs)
  • Set Includes: Arturia MicroBrute unit, user manual, preset sheets, power supply, and 2 mini-jack patch cords.
  • Color Options | Versions: Currently available in the classic color scheme with a black body and white keys (steel bottom panel). There used to be Arturia MicroBrute Red limited edition in a red transparent housing (now this limited edition is hard to find, you can search on eBay and resellers). Arturia also released MicroBrute in SE version which differed from the original MicroBrute by having three funky color schemes and stackable patchcords (at the moment SE version is impossible to find on sale in stores, only on eBay or from resellers).
Arturia MicroBrute color schemes, versions
On top of the picture is the original MicroBrute with the version in Red housing, on the bottom of the picture are all the colors of MicroBrute SE version.

Overall Build and Features

So let's start the "overall build and features" section of our Arturia MicroBrute review by taking a look at the keys of the device. The Arturia MicroBrite Synthesizer has 25 miniature-sized keys. This unit uses synthesizer-style mechanics without aftertouch. As a reminder, the older model of the MiniBrite uses a full-size keyboard with semi-weighted action and aftertouch.

Arturia MicroBrute pic 1

The MicroBrite turned out to be very compact. Its size looks like a laptop with a 13" screen. The synthesizer fits easily into a backpack or laptop bag. The device's weight is also light, only 1.75 kg, which is not much for a synthesizer with a steel bottom panel.

In analog synthesizers, only one type of waveform is usually generated as the reference signal, which means you can only select sine, triangle, sawtooth, or meander. This oscillator synthesizer generates multiple waveforms simultaneously. At the same time, you can continuously adjust the value of each of them, which allows you to diversify the timbre of the sound significantly. You get something like an oscillator mixer.

MicroBrute Oscillator

In addition, each waveform has shape variations to enrich the timbre. For the triangle waveform, you can adjust the saturation of the harmonics - Metalizer. For the saw waveform, there is a phase-shifted waveform duplication - Ultrasaw. For a meander, there is a Pulse Width control to change the pulse width - Pulse Width. The Overtone control adds an overtone to the main tone, and the Sub>Fifth control changes its pitch relative to the main tone in the range from an octave down to a quinta up.

The filter used in the MicroBrute synthesizer is similar to the one used in the more advanced MiniBrute synthesizer. According to the manufacturer, the Steiner-Parker filter is one of the most influential filters used in the world of analog synthesis.

The cutoff filter has three modes of operation: high, mid, and low. The slope of the cutoff filter is 12 dB/octave, and the slope of the bandpass filter is 6 dB/octave. The full range from 20Hz to 18kHz is adjustable.

MicroBrute Filter

A curious feature of the Arturia Brute synthesizers is the proprietary Brute Factor parameter. Here's what the manufacturer says about this unusual control:

The Brute Factor mimics a trick that users of some synthesizers used to "pull it off". They would connect the headphone output to the line input of the synthesizer. We've refined this method and turned it into a more controllable device that saturates the bass at low control settings and rips your speakers apart at higher settings! We warned you!

Using the Brute Factor resembles the self-excitation of an amp, with characteristic distortion in the sound. Judging by the name of the synthesizer, you might think that this is the most important feature of the sound. However, you can argue with that, because the Brute Factor mode makes the sound very specific and applicable in rare cases.

MicroBrute LFO

The LFO uses three waveforms to choose from: meander, sawtooth, and triangle. The oscillation frequency is adjustable between 1Hz and 200Hz. You can also choose to synchronize the oscillations based on the length of the arpeggiator phrase, and then change the rate from a whole period to 1/8 of a period in a fixed manner.

The ADSR envelope is controlled by faders rather than encoders, making it easy to adjust. Attack and decay are adjustable from 2.5 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds. Attenuation is adjustable between 5ms and 5s.

MicroBrute Envelope

A nearby ENV Amt encoder controls the MOD Matrix section.

MicroBrute Modulation Matrix

To expand the possibilities and add additional variation to the sound, it is possible to assign some parameters to the LFO and ENV Amt. Two short cables with mini-jack plugs are included. These can be used to connect the appropriate connectors in the style of old analog synthesizers and thus change the oscillator and clipping filter parameters with the LFO low-pass oscillator and ENV Amt control. Once you get the idea, the possibilities are huge - you can adjust many parameters at the same time as the melody is played, making the timbre of the sound much more interesting.

Another interesting feature of the Arturia MicroBrute is the built-in arpeggiator sequencer.

MicroBrute Sequencer

It plays your recorded melody in a loop like an arpeggiator. It is possible to store up to eight different melody patterns. The melodies are stored in the synthesizer's memory even after the power is turned off. "There are preset patterns available out of the box.

The melody playback speed is adjustable from 30 to 260 beats per minute. For convenience, there is an LED that blinks synchronously with the preset tempo. When external synchronization via MIDI is used, the controller switches the playback speed to a fixed value.

Of course, in our Arturia MicroBrute review we couldn't avoid one rather primitive yet unique feature of this device (we love Arturia for such nice little things). To save your favorite tuning configuration as a preset, special paper overlays with knob cutouts are included. Successful sounds can be saved by marking the position of each synthesizer parameter on the paper. These are like analog presets!

MicroBrute analog presets

In order to prevent the beginner from getting discouraged during the first steps with the unit, the kit comes with many stencils with already existing labels and sound names. These timbres have a lot of variety and will definitely be applicable in real life!

Arturia MicroBrute pic 2

All connections are on the outside of the unit. The synthesizer is powered exclusively by the mains, a 12V power supply is included.

The USB connector is used to connect to a computer to update the unit's firmware, as well as to change some advanced parameters. For example, you can select the MIDI channel to which the synthesizer will respond, or select the desired velocity curve.

To control the synthesizer with other devices, a MIDI interface is provided. For example, you can connect a familiar MIDI keyboard with full-size keys for easy performance.

The analog input can be used to connect various sources for processing the incoming signal with synthesizer tools or for additional envelope control. Note, however, that this is a line input, so you'll need a preamplifier to connect a guitar or microphone.

The synthesizer's line output is a full-size TRS jack. The headphone output is a mini-jack. The output is controlled by a single volume knob, which changes the volume of the headphone and line outputs simultaneously.

Final Verdict on Arturia MicroBrute

Here we come to the end of our Arturia MicroBrute review. In our opinion, the MicroBrute is a very interesting synthesizer. The manufacturer has succeeded in creating a compact and easy-to-use instrument with a bright and memorable sound. Its rich analog sound, extensive waveform modifications, and intuitive interface make it a standout choice for both beginners and experienced musicians. While it has some limitations, such as monophonic polyphony and a small keyboard, the MicroBrute excels in delivering expressive and dynamic sounds. Its compact design and robust build quality ensure it is suitable for both studio and live use. Overall, the MicroBrute is a highly recommended synthesizer for anyone seeking a portable, affordable, and powerful analog instrument. At the same time, the price of the MicroBrute is quite low and the device has an excellent price/quality ratio!

We would also like to add that the Arturia MicroBrute is not a new synthesizer, it was released in 2014 and is now more than 10 years old (despite this, MicroBrute is still relevant). We hope that Arturia will release a second upgraded version of this synthesizer like they did with the MiniBrute model.

We hope you enjoyed our Arturia MicroBrute review. Feel free to leave your comments, questions, and suggestions in the section below. We'll be happy to answer them all.

  • Nice Price/Quality Ratio
  • Rich Analog Sound: True analog synthesis provides warm, fat, and expressive tones.
  • Compact and Portable: Small size and lightweight design make it easy to transport.
  • Versatile Sound Shaping: Extensive waveform modifications and a powerful filter allow for a wide range of sounds.
  • Unique Features: The Brute Factor and Metalizer add distinctive character and edge to the sound.
  • Built-in Sequencer: Intuitive step sequencer for creating complex patterns and rhythms.
  • Comprehensive Connectivity: MIDI, USB, CV/gate, and audio input/output for integration with other gear.
  • Limited Polyphony: Monophonic design limits it to playing one note at a time.
  • Basic Modulation Options: While versatile, the modulation capabilities are limited compared to more complex synthesizers.
Our Score

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