The hugely successful MiniBrute has evolved into what Arturia describe as a synthesis ‘ecosystem’, but the MiniBrute 2 and 2S aren’t just updates — they’re completely new instruments.
Arturia first appeared on my radar in 2004 when they released the Minimoog V soft synth, soon following this with emulations of further classics such as the ARP 2600, Jupiter 8, CS80, Prophet 5 and VS, and more. By the time that they released their first hardware synth, the Origin, they were already well on their way to becoming part of the industry’s furniture (and I mean that as a compliment). However, I don’t think that the chaps at Arturia will mind too much when I say that neither the Origin (2009) nor the Origin Keyboard (2010) were huge sellers. Despite having poured years of effort into their development, the two products — which allowed you to mix and match digital emulations of classic synths’ oscillators, filters, amplifiers and so on — were simply too esoteric for most players. So the company adopted a different approach. The small, light, simple and affordable MiniBrute monosynth appeared in 2012 and was an immediate success, as was its smaller, lighter, simpler and even more affordable sibling, the MicroBrute, which was released the following year.
In 2016, amid a growing range of low-cost MIDI controllers, soft synths and drum machines, Arturia’s next hardware synth marked a return to a price and a degree of complexity that meant that, while it would often be admired from afar, the MatrixBrute was unlikely to sell in huge quantities. Meanwhile, in the Mini and MicroBrute world, the company had been releasing special editions and differently coloured versions of the same synths, and this kept them in the public eye but illustrated that little else had changed in five years. But today, there’s a new generation of MiniBrutes that comprises the MiniBrute 2, the MiniBrute 2S, two RackBrutes and a softcase. Arturia’s President recently told me that, “Something we are trying to do with the MiniBrute 2 family is not only deliver a set of good products, but build a small eco-system,” concluding that, “the underlying intent is to democratise Eurorack the way MiniBrute reopened analogue synthesis to many a few years ago.” It’s a grand ambition, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether the company has achieved it.
I wrote this review as the pre-production units were being completed, so the various parts of the ‘eco-system’ arrived as I progressed. The first to appear was the MiniBrute 2 itself, which is another collaboration between Arturia and Yves Usson, who contributed much to the company’s previous analogue synths. At first glance, this seemed reminiscent of the original MiniBrute but with a strong nod in the direction of the MatrixBrute, which makes it utilitarian rather than flashy. (This was also true of the original MiniBrute, although not of the stunning MiniBrute Red that I have here, which took the concept of redness to a whole new level.) But a second look revealed that the MiniBrute 2 is not an upgrade to the original, but a different synthesizer. It has lost its predecessor’s sub-oscillator and gained a second oscillator, its filter and amplifier sections are different, and the original’s dual ADSR contour generators have been replaced by a single ADSR...
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