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Experimental instruments and versatile interfaces from Arturia

Hardware synth, virtual instrument upgrade & new interfaces on their way

Arturia's experimental Microfreak hardware synth, a hybrid featuring a digital multimode oscillator and an analogue filter.Arturia's experimental Microfreak hardware synth, a hybrid featuring a digital multimode oscillator and an analogue filter.

French manufacturer Arturia advanced on all fronts at NAMM, announcing another new hardware synth, a free v1.1 upgrade (already?) to their not-long-released Pigments wavetable/virtual analogue synth software, and two new fully-featured additions to their Audiofuse range of audio interfaces.

The Microfreak is an experimental digital monosynth, a collaboration with Mutable Instruments that combines a firmware-upgradable multimode digital oscillator (offering 11 types at launch; more are in development) with an analogue filter based on the one in Oberheim’s classic SEM. When you press the ‘keys’ on the keyboard, you’re actually ‘playing’ the PCB directly, an interface that is both pressure-sensitive and transmits polyphonic aftertouch — which makes it interesting as a potential controller as well as a sound source. There’s also a multi-point modulation matrix and a built-in unique sequencer/arpeggiator with some interesting ‘controlled randomness’ parameters. Due to arrive in April, Microfreak will cost a very reasonable $349£279. SOS Features Editor Sam Inglis was introduced to the Microfreak on the Arturia booth at NAMM, as you can see in the video below.

The Audiofuse 8Pre (below) is a wordclockable 1U rackmount USB-C audio interface with eight built-in mic/line analogue inputs (each featuring switchable 48V phantom power and Arturia's Discrete Pro preamps). The 8Pre is thoughtfully laid out with the front panel featuring discrete controls and LED metering for each analogue input channel, along with stereo eighth- and quarter-inch headphone jacks and an independent front-panel headphone level control.

Arturia's new Audiofuse 8Pre interface.Arturia's new Audiofuse 8Pre interface.

Of the analogue input channels, the first two can be used for instrument-level signals from bass or guitars and have also been made handily accessible from the front panel on combined quarter-inch/XLR connectors. Insert points are also available via quarter-inch jacks on the rear panel for these first two channels, so other processing or pedals can be patched in pre-conversion. Last but not least, as well as the eight analogue ins, there are an additional eight channels of digital I/O on ADAT optical connectors.

Going from the digital to the analogue domain, eight channels are available on discrete line-level quarter-inch jacks, and there's a further dedicated pair of quarter-inch jacks to connect to monitors. Of course, another eight outputs can be sent via the ADAT optical out, raising the possibility of daisy-chaining two 8Pres together via the ADAT optical ports to create a 16-channel system. The 8Pre looks pretty versatile and, at $799£659, seems good value for the flexibility it offers.

The new Audiofuse Studio interface.The new Audiofuse Studio interface.

The other new interface, the Audiofuse Studio (above), is also a wordclockable USB-C audio interface with ADAT interfacing, but is a console/desktop unit with  with a rather different set of features to the 8Pre, including some handy monitor switching/controller capabilities. There are four mic/line analogue inputs with independent Gain controls, neatly accessible via the front edge of the unit, again with phantom power and Discrete Pro preamps; this time all four feature (rear-panel) insert points and are capable of accepting instrument inputs from electric guitars and basses.

There are also a further four line-level-only inputs on rear-panel jacks, two of which are optionally accessible via phonos (so this is where you could connect, for example, a set of decks). Output signals can be routed to monitors via two independent balanced jack pairs; users can then select which output pair is driven from handy buttons on the top panel, and set the respective output level of each pair using the large, friendly top-panel output level encoder. Headphone monitoring is more flexible than on the 8Pre, with two independent headphone outs, each one with its own level control and set of eighth- and quarter-inch connectors.

Other extras on the Studio interface compared to the 8Pre include a further pair of instrument-level outputs on quarter-inch jacks (designed with re-amping in mind), S/PDIF I/O, and, interestingly, a Bluetooth audio receiver, so that audio captured on smartphones can be played into the interface directly. As on the 8Pre, the optical ADAT I/O means that units can be daisy-chained together to give users more simultaneously accessible input channels if required. The Audiofuse Studio is expected to ship in Summer, and will retail for $999£839.

Both new AudioFuse interfaces will ship with the AudioFuse Creative Suite, a collection of modelled hardware in plug-in form, including classic vintage preamps, filters and instruments.
Once again, Sam Inglis was on the Arturia booth at NAMM to receive a detailed rundown on both new interfaces — see the video below.

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