Earlier this year Arturia released a revamp of their MiniBrute analog synthesizer. They didn’t just deliver the Minibrute 2, which is the classic keyboard version enhanced with a patchbay and some other new features. They also released an alternative version, the Minibrute 2S, which is almost identical, but instead of the keyboard you get a classic step sequencer to work with.
Alongside these two synths Arturia also announced the Rackbrute, which is a Eurorack Case that attaches securely to your Minibrute and fuses the powerful sound of this analog synth, with the expandability of a Eurorack system.
For me it was the perfect time to jump back into Eurorack, after I gave up a few years ago and had regretted selling my setup. If you are also thinking about getting into Eurorack, then a semimodular synth like the Minibrute 2 is perfect, because you don’t have to collect a bunch of rack units to be able to make some noise. The Minibrute is ready from the get go and you can build out your system at a leisurely pace.
The Minibrute Sound
The sound section of the Minibrute 2 is made of 2 VCOs (Voltage Controlled Oscillatros), a mixer, a Steiner Parker Multimode Filter to shape the sound, an amplifier with the mysterious Brute Factor knob, 2 envelopes and 2 LFOs.
The first Oscillator lets you mix a Pulse, a Sawtooth and a Triangle Waveform for a unique starting point. You also have seperate volume faders for noise and an external audio source. The setup makes it super easy to create complex waveforms by mixing all these sources together. Aside from the waveform mixer you also have direct access to pulse width modulation, a detune for the sawwave to create an ultrasaw with much bigger sound and a Metalizer which can be applied to the Triangle Waveform.
The second oscilator is simpler. Pick from Sine, Saw or Square Wave and the synth gives you access to the range of the tune knob, which also lets you turn the oscilator into an LFO for extra modulation.
The infamous Steiner Parker filter was already used on the original MiniBrute and adds to this machine unique character. While Moog is known for its creamy sound, this thing – with the right settings – sounds very aggressive – in a good way! The multi-mode filter offers lowpass, highpass, bandpass and notch functions.
The Brute Factor
The VCA (amplifier) contains the unique Brute Factor knob, the function that gave the synth its name. While you have to hear it in action to appreciate it, it basically creates a feedback loop, by routing the post-amplifier signal back through the filter. Depending on your settings, this can really emphasize the smoothness or aggressivenes of your patch. It’s a bit like sprinkling fairy dust on the sound, because it brings out more of what you have already dialed in.
Sidenote: The last knob is an attentuator which lets sound through, even if you dont play anything. It’s a bit like opening the water at the sink. You just let the beautiful synth sounds out into the wild. In practical terms, this is great when you want to create and work with drone type sounds.
Now that we’ve designed and shaped our sound, what’s missing? The modifiers a.k.a. LFOs and Envelopes. The ADSR envelope is straight forward and controls the attack, decay, sustain and release of the sound. The second envelope is attack and decay only. This is a bit unusual, but lots of fun, because it behaves differently depending on how you position the switches (loop, gate, etc) to its right. The two LFOs are identical. They both offer 6 different waveforms and control over the rate (free or synced to arp).
The Keyboard Version
I have the Minibrute 2 keyboard version, which features 25 velocity sensitive and aftertouch capable keys, alongside a transpose button, a modwheel and configurable pitchbend. One cool thing I discovered, is that – thanks to the patchbay – you can route the velocity to anything you want! Endless possibilities and fun!
With the built-in sequencer the sky is the limit. Pick one of the 8 sequences (up, down to random, etc) then enter notes via the keyboard and the Minibrute will bleep and blop happily through your speakers. You can easily overdub what you have played by simply playing other notes while the sequence is playing. And if the sequence is too busy, hit the tap button – it acts as silent note. Once you got the notes and sequence down its fun to play with the time signature to explore new possibilities. Also the decay (shift and first octave keys) or swing time (shift and second octave keys) prove to be great for discovering you new sound creations.
Enter Modular territory with the new Patchbay…
And then there’s the endless possibilities of modular synthesis. Unfortunately I sold my modest Eurorack setup a couple years ago… And the MiniBrute has kept me busy for some time now, so I can’t comment on the patchbay much. I tried out some recipes from the MiniBrute Cookbook that comes with the machine and its really fun to rewire the synth with patch cables, but in terms of modules I would really need to pick up a few more before I can get into it again.
I love the Rackbrute Eurorack case concept which Arturia released alongside the Minibrute. My Rackbrute 3U securely attaches 88 HP of Eurorack space to my synth and folds up to a suitcase, which you can easily carry to gigs or recording sessions.
If you’re curious, the three blurry modules in the background are a Disting MK4 Multitool and a Make Noise Function for extra modulation options as well as a Make Noise Phonogene to add organic textures to layer with the synthesized ones. When I find time to get back into modular, then the first thing I would add is a nice tape delay, like the Strymon Magneto. I’ll keep you updated once that happens 🙂