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Arturia MiniFreak Review - Polyphonic Hybrid Synthesizer

June 19, 2024

The Arturia Freak series of synthesizers has received a long-awaited development and today we review the Arturia MiniFreak synthesizer. This synthesizer was presented during the online event "Rendez-vous" held on October 18, 2022. During the broadcast, the French company also showed the MiniFuse 4 audio interface and the updated MiniLab 3 MIDI keyboard. Arturia MiniFreak expands the direction of so-called hybrid synthesizers, which are based not on analog, but on digital oscillators. Hybridity consists in the fact that analog filters are used in the circuit, which provide characteristic timbre processing.

According to the company, MiniFreak turned out to be "a little crazy, but unique", while the manufacturer itself calls the device a "spontaneous algorithmic synthesizer". The instrument is based on the previously released MicroFreak synthesizer and builds on its sound generation and shaping capabilities. Unlike previous models, the new Arturia MiniFreak synthesizer has several additional features, including a mechanical keyboard, stereo effects, and deep integration with the MiniFreak V software. So, as usual, let's start our Arturia MiniFreak review with the unit's specifications.

Best Price on Arturia MiniFreak Synthesizer

The Arturia MiniFreak synthesizer is a powerful and versatile instrument that offers a wealth of creative possibilities for musicians, producers, and sound designers.

Arturia MiniFreak Package Classic Package

Arturia MiniFreak Specifications

  • 6-voice polyphonic hybrid synthesizer
  • 2 sound Engines with 22 oscillator modes in total (Engine 2 can be used to process Engine 1)
  • 1 envelope per voice / 1 cycling envelope per voice / 2 LFOs per voice
  • Polyphonic analog filters and VCAs
  • 6-voice polyphonic, 12-voice paraphonic, unison, or mono configuration
  • 3 digital FX slots in insert or send mode, with 10 FX to choose from
  • User-customizable LFO curves
  • Mod Matrix with 7 sources and 13 potential destinations
  • Intuitive 64-step sequencer (4 pages of 16 steps)
  • 4 lanes of automated modulation
  • Performance Arpeggiator controls including Ratchet, Octave Randomize, and more
  • 256 factory presets / 256 user preset slots for MiniFreak hardware
  • 37-note velocity-sensitive Slim-key keybed with aftertouch
  • Touch strips: pitch bend and mod (use these strips to tweak your macro controls during performances, or alter your sequences on the fly with Spice & Dice)
  • OLED display for real-time visual feedback
  • MIDI in/out/thru; USB Connectivity; Sustain; Audio In; Clock in/out + Reset out
  • Balanced stereo outputs: R-L stereo outputs, 6.3mm headphone output
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 578 x 231 x 55mm (22.75 x 9.09 x 1.57 inches)
  • Net Weight: 2.94kg (6.48 lbs)
  • Set Includes: Arturia MiniFreak unit, registration card, universal PSU 12V 1A with interchangeable plugs, USB A to USB 2.0 cable.
  • Color Options | Versions: currently available 2 versions of MiniFreak synthesizer - Classic Black Arturia MiniFreak with white keys / Arturia MiniFreak Stellar - black housing like the classic MiniFreak, but has black keys and unique cosmo-space-thematic prints.
Arturia MiniFreak versions (Classic and Stellar)
The classic version - located at the top of the image / Stellar version - at the bottom

Overall Build and Features

"Overall Build and Features" is the main section in our Arturia MiniFreak review and we will start by looking at the build quality of the device and the main controls (keys). We have never had any complaints about the build quality of Arturia. Everything is assembled perfectly, without backlashes, creaks, and gaps. The design of the device is made in Arturia's trademark minimalistic and recognizable style. The body of the device is made of hard plastic, which makes the synthesizer much easier to handle, and it weighs only 2.94kg/6.48lbs (relatively light).

First and foremost, the MiniFreak has a full keyboard. As you may recall, the MicroFreak synthesizers use a touch surface, which requires certain skills from the user. Not to say that we are critical of experimentation, on the contrary, touch keys seem very appropriate for such an original device as the MicroFreak. However, a traditional keyboard seems to be preferable for most musicians. And considering the excellent MIDI keyboards that Arturia makes, the use of mechanical keys in the MiniFreak is a great solution.

Arturia MiniFreak pic 1

This synthesizer uses a three-octave keyboard with synth-type mechanics equipped with an aftertouch effect. Sensitivity settings include three types of velocity curves and several modes of aftertouch initiation. For ease of playing, the Arturia MiniFreak also features a scale mode that lets you play within a preset fret and a chord mode that makes it easy to play chords with a single key.

MiniFreak Oscillators

One of the most important differences between the MiniFreak synthesizer and the newer MicroFreak model is the use of two oscillators instead of one. The second oscillator can not only be used as an independent oscillator but also as a modulator for the first oscillator. This greatly expands the synthesis possibilities and makes the sound more variable.

There are 14 basic signal types available for each MiniFreak oscillator. These include traditional waveforms as well as more complex ones. You can choose from harmonic, chordal, granular, and resonant oscillators that transform familiar timbres. Arturia has borrowed some oscillator types from the modular synthesizers of Mutable Instruments and Noise Engineering, which undoubtedly adds charm and appeal to MiniFreak's sound. In addition, the first oscillator is available as a source signal for the synth's analog input. And for the second oscillator, six more configurations are available to modulate the first oscillator. These are mainly different filters, frequency/ring modulation, and a destructive form "Destroy".

As before, the oscillators are creatively controlled by the three Wave, Timbre, and Shape encoders. They are used to change the oscillator parameters and smoothly transform the timbre. These parameters vary slightly depending on the oscillator selected, but they are all available for modulation. For simplicity, the display shows these three parameters as liquid-filled vessels of various shapes. Although the value of the adjustable parameter is also shown on the display, the animation with the vessels looks original and attractive.

MiniFreak Analog Filter

The key feature of any synthesizer that determines the character of its sound is the filter. MiniFreak uses a multi-mode analog filter based on the filter of the legendary Oberheim SEM synthesizer. The 12dB/octave filter has three modes of operation: Low Pass, Band Pass, and High Pass. The available adjustments include the cutoff frequency and resonance setting. The third Env control allows you to set the modulation value of the filter envelope.

MiniFreak Digital Effects

Another interesting feature of the Arturia MiniFreak is the stereo effects. You can use up to three different effects simultaneously. There are ten different types to choose from: Chorus; Phaser; Flanger; Reverb; Delay; Distortion; Bit Crusher; 3 Band EQ; Peak EQ and Multi Comp. The effects only work in a specific order. However, reverb and delay can be used in an alternate mode as a send to the effects bus. Notably, the Effect knob is not limited to adjusting the intensity of the effect. There are two additional parameters that allow for more flexibility in processing.

MiniFreak's modulation capabilities have become even more versatile. First, new modulation sources have been added to the synthesizer, and second, the number of user-assignable parameters has been increased from three to nine.

MiniFreak Modulation Matrix

The principle of assignment remains the same and is done through the Modulation Matrix. On the left are the modulation sources, and above are the modulated parameters. The process is quite convenient and allows you to see the whole picture. When you move the cursor to the desired intersection point, pressing the slider opens a menu with the settings of the value range.

MiniFreak still has ADSR and Ring Envelope as modulation sources. Now there is no sequencer/arpeggiator and no external signal at the pressure input. But there is another LFO and the possibility to use velocity or aftertouch values when playing the keys. The Wheel Touch Strip can also be used as an additional source.

MiniFreak Touch Strips

The Touch Strips have several modes of operation and, for ease of use, have a display that shows the current value of the active mode. In normal mode, they act as pitch and modulation wheels. In Macro mode, you can assign up to four different parameters to the Touch Strips and use them simultaneously. Ready-made presets already assign them to the most interesting settings, changing the timbre in a very effective way. The alternative mode allows you to create your own macros. In sequencer mode, the strips are useful for changing the duration of sequencer notes or introducing pattern randomization.

As for the sequencer and arpeggiator, MiniFreak has added new interesting modes to them. The arpeggiator now has 8 basic playback options and four advanced modes that allow you to get more creative with the arpeggiator's repetitive melody.

The sequencer now features a multi-color display, making it easier to create and edit sequences. The maximum length of a sequence is 64 beats. In addition to note pitch, duration, and velocity, the sequencer lets you record four additional parameters, greatly expanding the potential of the built-in sequencer. You can synchronize playback to both internal and external clocks. Only one sequence, with all its detailed settings, can be stored in the synthesizer's memory for each preset.

One of the advantages of digital synthesizers is the availability of presets. Arturia MiniFreak allows you to store 512 presets in its memory. Half of them are already created by the manufacturer and ready to use. The other half is left for the user's needs. Presets are conveniently grouped into categories, making navigation through the library much easier.

Arturia MiniFreak pic 2

The synthesizer's connectivity is quite extensive. We should mention the full-featured MIDI inputs and outputs, CV/Gate connection, balanced line output on TRS jacks, headphone output with a large TRS jack, and an additional line input. The USB port allows connection to a computer and synchronization with the software version of the MiniFreak V synthesizer. So about the MiniFreak V, we will talk further in our Arturia Minifreak review.

MiniFreak V

We would like to note that the MiniFreak V software synthesizer comes free of charge with the MiniFreak hardware synthesizer. If you want to buy MiniFreak V separately, it will cost you about 200 euros.

MiniFreak V virtual synthesizer

The MiniFreak V software synthesizer is an exact copy of the MiniFreak hardware synthesizer and allows you to use all of its features in your DAW projects. In addition, thanks to the synchronization of all controls, many things can be done more conveniently from your computer.

MiniFreak V software virtual synthesizer

The graphical shell of the MiniFreak V software synthesizer allows you to see all changes clearly. Modulation assignments, arpeggiator and sequencer operations are especially convenient. This kind of interaction takes the convenience of synthesizer control to a whole new level.

Final Verdict on Arturia MiniFreak

Here we come to the end of our brief Arturia MiniFreak review. As we can see, the new Arturia MiniFreak synthesizer is excellent! We can see the direction in which the Freak series of synthesizers is developing, and we are happy to see it. MiniFreak looks like a full-fledged instrument, with a bright, distinctive sound and flexible control. Its rich features and deep integration with the software version significantly expand the creative potential of the synthesizer, allowing you to use MiniFreak in a wide variety of projects and professional activities. You can learn more about the device on the official Arturia website.

Our editorial team hopes you enjoyed our Arturia MiniFreak review. Feel free to leave your comments, questions, and suggestions in the section below. We will be happy to answer them all.

  • Nice Price/Quality Ratio
  • With the purchase of a synthesizer, MiniFreak V software synth (plug‑in) is free!
  • Versatile Hybrid Engine: Combines digital oscillators with an analog filter for a wide range of sounds.
  • High-Quality Effects: Built-in effects enhance sound shaping and creativity.
  • Powerful Modulation Matrix: Enables deep and complex sound design.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Intuitive controls and clear OLED display.
  • Increased Polyphony: Up to six voices for richer, more complex sounds.
  • Comprehensive Connectivity: MIDI, USB, CV/gate, and audio inputs/outputs.
  • Learning Curve: The extensive features and capabilities might have a learning curve for beginners.This is not a big problem as there are many tutorials available on the Internet and on the official Arturia website.
  • Higher price point compared to simpler synthesizers may be a consideration for budget-conscious musicians.
  • No wavetable or vocoder modes (looking forward to future updates).
Our Score

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