Every producer will frequently work with software synths to generate certain sounds. Working with physical equipment is on a different level entirely, which comes with its own unique experiences. Modular synthesizers and synths are very popular, there are a lot of artists who only perform live with their own setup of different synthesizers, like Colin Benders for example.
This motivates companies to produce an accessible hardware variant and put it on the market as IK Multimedia did with the Uno Synth and Arturia with the MicroFreak, which we’ll be exploring today!
The Arturia MicroFreak
The Arturia MicroFreak is without a doubt a descendant of the Arturia Brute family. Without going into too much detail, the layout of the MicroFreak doesn’t conform to a regular synth layout. It is a ‘paraphonic’ synth with polyphonic modulation options, digital audio generation and an analogue filter.
The French company put the phrase ‘Un Grain de Folie’ on their online MicroFreak page, which translates to ‘A touch of Madness’.
The oscillator section offers the user a variety of ways to interact with and edit audio. Arturia uses a PCB-Touch keyboard to facilitate user interaction with the keyboard section.
Because the MicroFreak features a paraphonic hybrid synth, you have up to 4 oscillators you can manipulate independently. Keep in mind that these 4 oscillators share the same filter. Besides the features already mentioned it also features looping, arpeggiator, sequencer, VCA possibilities and much more!
The 128 presets that come with the MicroFreak will give you a lot of inspiration for creating your own music. They are good presets that you can start using immediately! It’s a very pleasant synth to experiment with it won’t limit you due to the unending possibility of combinations. The PCB-keyboard is touch-sensitive and has an after-touch.
Adding a wavetable and a digital oscillator with analogue filters will yield interesting results. There are 192 preset slots that allow you to save your configuration easily. The built-in sequencer, Dice and Spice will give musicians new insight about what is possible and options for experimentation. Arturia most definitely got it right by adding all the basic functions, but also added unique features at a reasonable price, which sets it apart from the rest. MicroFreak shatters the notion of expensive and elaborate synthesisers by making it readily available to all!
This synth is compatible with your DAW by the use of a USB port, if that is not an option there are also CV and MIDI ports.
It weighs about a kilo and has a width of 300mm, which makes the MicroFreak suited for on-the-go usage. The buttons of the synth feel very sturdy and thanks to the simple color scheme you won’t lose track of what is what. It features a small built-in display that visualises what you’re doing in a neat way, like with different wavetables.
Besides that, it has all the connections you need, like USB, headphones, jack output, MIDI in/ out, Clock in/ out and VC possibilities.
The casing is made out of plastic, but that is to be expected for an accessible synth at its price point. The display seems to be a very valuable addition to use because it gives you useful visual feedback about the changes you make.
The presets are well made and immediately gives you a good idea about the possibilities open to you. The sound is very pleasant, and the response of each function is fine. By pressing preset mode three times you’ll enter MicroFreak’s initialise mode, where you’ll start from scratch and can start building up the sound. It’s not easy to describe how it sounds exactly so the name MicroFreak really fits in this aspect!
When is it a good option?
If you’re looking to experiment further with synthesizers and like to produce a unique sound. Pricewise, it’s a good choice thanks to its ease of use and low price point. The analogue filter produces a pleasant sound. For hardened synthesizer fanatics, it could also be an interesting addition when used in combination with other synths.
Want to know more about? Check out Arturia’s page over at the MicroBrute!