What the f#¢% is the MicroFreak?
This spring, Arturia is set to release it's newest synthesizer, the MicroFreak, which they are marketing as an "algorithmic synthesizer." In contrast to the "Brute" family of products–Minibrute, Microbrute, Matrixbrute, Drumbrute, and Rackbrute–the MicroFreak eschews most of the all-analog circuitry, mod and pitch wheels, and the black-and-white key-beds of its predecessors, and opts for something new and different.
MicroFreak replaces the MicroBrute's analog oscillator with several digital voice modes using the open-source DSP code from Mutable Instruments' Plaits module (which has also been ported to the recently-announced Korg Minilogue XD, Critter & Guitarri's Organelle, and the VCV Rack virtual modular synthesizer, among others), in addition to some digitally-controlled oscillator voices of Arturia's own design. Presets can be saved and recalled without needing the plastic overlays needed for "patch recall" on their analog keyboards. Of course, it wouldn't be an Arturia synth without some analog in the mix, so the MicroFreak includes an analog filter inspired by the 12-dB Oberheim SEM filter.
The standard key-bed has been replaced by a flat, PCB-based touch-keyboard, in a manner reminiscent of the likes of the Buchla Music Easel's keyboard, Serge's TKB Touch-Activated Keyboard Sequencer, and more recently, Make Noise's Pressure Points and René's touch control modules and Verbos Electronics' Mini Horse. MicroFreak's flat keyboard is pressure sensitive, and capable of polyphony and poly-aftertouch, which is able to be used within the unit itself as well as concurrently with software instruments or a modular rig via USB, MIDI, and CV outputs.
The MicroBrute's semi-modular Modulation Matrix patch-bay has also been moved and redesigned to reflect the MicroFreak's mostly-digital design, and its sequencing possibilities seem to take a cue from Arturia's own success with the Keystep controller. The ARP/SEQ section contains a variety of controls, including the ability to switch between arpeggiator and sequencer, record up to four automations, and create ever-chaning variations of sequences using its unique "Spice" and "Dice" controls.
It'll be interesting to see if Arturia announces future additions to what we imagine could be a powerful line of affordable, digital synthesizers to compliment their growing line of analog gear and digital controllers. We can already imagine a hypothetical DrumFreak sitting nicely alongside the MicroFreak.
The Arturia MicroFreak is currently available for pre-order here.