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Arturia MiniBrute

Analog Mono-Synth

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Best Budget Analog Mono-Synth

Arturia MiniBrute

  • Don Makoviney
  • Last Updated: March 22, 2016

If I had to get a new monophonic synth for recording and live performance on a budget, I'd definitely get the Arturia MiniBrute. The sounds you can get from this thing are simply amazing, and there are so many subtle touches that make it one of the most creative tools you'll own. The MiniBrute has been on the market for several years now, and we have the luxury of so many great reviews and positive user experience feedback. It makes the choice quite simple: If you need a great monophonic synth on a budget, the MiniBrute from Arturia is the one to get.


Caveat: These analog keyboard synths are so much fun!

What Makes A Great ‘Budget’ Analog Synth?

Like many of our guides – especially so with the analog synth crowd – there are many passionate opinions about what the “best” is. It is easy to get caught up in the near-religious opinions and rhetoric on blogs, forums and message boards.

If you are already heavy into the analog synth world, it’s likely you already know what you like. This guide is not for you.

But if you know you want the pure analog synth experience for the first time, and wish to deep dive into waveform and circuitry, this is the criteria for a great budget analog synth:

  • Pure Analog Sound: There are many “analog synths” that are merely digital emulators of pure analog synths. They don’t suck at all — in fact, they actually sound really good. But we’ll save those for a future guide. This guide is for those who want the pure analog experience.
  • Reliability: Via hands-on feedback from users and professional reviews.
  • Budget Price: $500 or less.

Monophonic vs Polyphonic

Polyphonic synthesizers are generally more expensive because more circuitry is needed create multiple voices. Monophonic synthesizers are limited to playing lead lines, bass lines, melodies, and effects, so don’t expect to play harmonies with one, unless you plan to multitrack record it.

We’ll cover polyphonic synths in a future guide.

Monophonic is similar to playing notes on a trumpet – you can only play one at a time. Polyphonic is like playing a piano – you can play multiple notes at the same time.

What are you going to do with your analog synth?

Most people in this category simply want something that gets them close to the analog sounds of their favorite bands, which is totally fine.

For instance, are you looking to control virtual instruments on your computer? If so, then you want an actual midi controller. Not a monophonic analog synth.

Are you looking to make cool electronic bleeps and bloops? Bass lines? Sound effects? Melodies? Then a mono-synth might be right up your alley.

If you are looking for analog sounds but don’t know where to start, or what you really like – the budget analog synth category is great because you can spend a relatively small amount to found out. These synths below all hold their value well. So if it’s not quite to your liking, you can always turn around and sell it and then try another.

We’ll briefly touch on each one of these below, in addition to our main pick.

Our Pick

If I had to buy a budget analog synth tomorrow, the Minibrute from Arturia (shown below) is what I would get.

Best Budget Analog Synth Arturia MiniBrute

Best Budget Analog Synth MiniBrute Back View

Inputs & Outputs

And for the circuit benders out there, the MiniBrute offers a ton of I/O options. Just take a look at the back of it (see the picture above). There’s a bunch of digital stuff: MIDI In and Out on five-pin DIN, plus the USB port that allows you to use the MiniBrute software. Moving left, there’s the gate source switch and then three audio sockets: audio in, audio out, and headphones, all on unbalanced quarter-inch sockets. Then, all the way to the left are four control inputs (Gate In, pitch CV, filter cutoff frequency CV and VCA gain CV) and two control outputs (pitch CV and gate out) all on 3.5mm sockets.

You might not be using (much less understand) all of this stuff right out of the gate, and that’s just fine. The important thing is you’ll be up and running quickly, and as you progress the additional features will be there as you learn the ins-and-outs of MIDI and analog synthesis.

Published Reviews

Sound on Sound’s final analysis of the MiniBrute is very similar to my experience:

In truth, if I were considering buying a second-hand SH101, Axxe or MS10 (legendary synths. Editor’s note.) for the same price as a MiniBrute then, after agonising about the width of its keyboard, I would choose the MiniBrute. It has a much wider sonic palette, it offers far greater performance capabilities, and it has greater connectivity. So, to conclude, I can now answer my own questions: yes, you should be excited, and yes, this is a mature synthesizer.

User reviews on Gearslutz are universally positive:

Reviewer cdog says:

“Its probably my favorite monosynth ever. Not having owned every single one mind you, but I just get so much tonal variety of out it and the play between the metallizer, the brute factor, and the filter resonance takes this synth into territory Ive never heard before.”

From Stevism:

“There’s been a ton of hype surrounding the Arturia MiniBrute since it’s announcement, and for good reason. The oscillators sound amazing, the filter is EXTREMELY capable, and the hands on factor make it incredibly addicting.”

User TheOMegaShadow states:

“The Minibrute is the entry point for anyone looking to experiment with synthesizers from a newbie learing experience but is also quite a unique and satisfying additions to any synth afficionado’s studio.”

Arturia Minibrute Review

Arturia MiniBrute Negatives

There aren’t a lot of negative things to say.

As I scoured user reviews, it appear the first run of MiniBrutes back in 2012 had some issues with the keys on the keyboard popping off. They quickly fixed this, and honored warranties for those who had the issue. This is a great testament to their warranty program.

Other than that, I didn’t notice much from the occasional synth damaged in shipping, or small one-off issues.

Notable Alternatives

When looking for other synths of this ilk, I noticed that with comparison shoppers asked questions online, they had often narrowed down the choices to the MiniBrute and the Novation Bass Station II.

Novation Bass Station II

best cheap monophonic synthesizer

It has 2 oscillators and a sub oscillator, an arpegiattor and step sequencer, two distinct filter types, memory and USB/MIDI connectivity, and a keyboard.

It’s the exact same price as the MiniBrute.

What does it do better than the MiniBrute? Well, for starters it allows you to save the settings of sounds you create. For those who wish to have their carefully crafted sounds ready on a whim for live performance, this may be the synth for you.

What does the MiniBrute do better? It has the tap tempo arpeggio feature. For me that’s more important than saving patches.

Check out this discussion over at Gearslutz for more insight.

What Else Will I Need?

You’ll need a good bass or keyboard amp. If that’s out of your price range in the short term, some headphones will suffice.

Wrapping Up

As one user review noted, “That’s going to come down to personal preference. I would pick the Bass Station since it has patch memories and I imagine a smoother sound. Some are going to want the total opposite and will go for the Minibrute. Most are going to get both. :-)”

It’s true! Think about what will fit your needs, and then move up or down the scale from there. Either of these fine synths will give you the otherworldly sounds you need, and serve you reliably for years and years.

If you want to learn the fundamentals of analog synthesis and how to create the sounds you hear on records (or in your head), sequencer.de is a great place to start.

 

Happy playing!


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Best Budget Analog Mono-Synth

Arturia MiniBrute

Best Budget Analog Mono-Synth

Important Specs

Dimensions 12.79" x 15.35" x 2.76"
Weight 8.8lb
Synth Type Monophonic
# Keys 25
Outputs 1/4" Audio Out; 1/4" Headphone Out
Arpeggiator? Yes
USB MIDI In/Out? Yes
Tap Tempo Yes
more specs

Synopsis:

You'll create the most bad-ass lead lines, bass lines, melodies, and bleep and bloops with this thing. It's reliable (other than some issues with the first run, years ago), and the price is on point. If I had to get a new monophonic synth for recording and live performance on a budget, I'd definitely get the Arturia MiniBrute.

Novation Bass Station II

Also Great ...

Novation Bass Station II

The same price as the MiniBrute. However you don't get the tap tempo arpeggio feature (which is important to some, me included). You do get something the MiniBrute doesn't offer - the ability to save the sound patches you create. For someone primarily working in a live setting this might be important for you. Quality is great and the reviews are unanimously phenomenal.

- M

Sources

  1. Various, Gearslutz, 20120730
    Arturia Minibrute Reviews
    “I think Arturia hit an absolute upper deck grand slam with this synth at this price. The keys and knobs and sliders all feel great and the case is sturdy; for what these sell for new its an absolute steal and if anything I think they priced it too low because now how could Korg ever possibly compete with this product? Also, I hope they are making enough $ per unit to continue to manufacture them and earn a nice profit on the design. Arturia may have set the bar so high with its initial offering as to scare other manufacturers away from entering the analog market. ... for anyone looking to experiment with synthesizers from a newbie learing experience but is also quite a unique and satisfying additions to any synth afficionado's studio.”
  2. Gordon Reid, Sound On Sound, 20120301
    Arturia MiniBrute Analogue Monosynth
    “In truth, if I were considering buying a second-hand SH101, Axxe or MS10 for the same price as a MiniBrute then, after agonising about the width of its keyboard, I would choose the MiniBrute. It has a much wider sonic palette, it offers far greater performance capabilities, and it has greater connectivity. ”
Originally published: September 9th, 2015

Important Specs

Dimensions 12.79" x 15.35" x 2.76"
Weight 8.8lb
Synth Type Monophonic
# Keys 25
Outputs 1/4" Audio Out; 1/4" Headphone Out
Arpeggiator? Yes
USB MIDI In/Out? Yes
Tap Tempo Yes
more specs



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