The MiniFreak V is every bit as good as its hardware counterpart.
The V series instruments have, until now, modelled classic synths and keys from decades past. Now Arturia have hit a kind of synth singularity, with their new instrument arriving in both hardware and software versions simultaneously. Initially MiniFreak V came bundled with the hardware synth, but it’s now available separately. There’s no word on whether it will get folded into a future version of the V Collection.
I reviewed the MiniFreak in December 2022 and loved it. Most of what I said there applies to the plug‑in as it’s essentially the same synth, with the exception that the analogue filter on the hardware is recreated digitally. MiniFreak takes the sound engine (or more accurately, engines) and main topology of their MicroFreak monosynth and expands on them to make a much more versatile poly. It’s not simply a multi‑voice Micro: it’s got dual oscillator sections, and all the other sections and modulators have also been expanded and polyphonised.
The joy of the Freaks is the multi‑algorithm digital oscillators. Much like Mutable Instruments’ Plaits module, you can dial between various different sound engines, including basic waves and virtual analogue, Karplus Strong, Formant, Waveshaper, and lots more. In fact some of the algorithms are open‑sourced from Plaits, and three are derived from Noise Engineering’s Virt Iter Legio module. For each oscillator module, there’s a set of three core parameters that appear on the orange‑rimmed knobs below the waveform displays. As well as the default layering of two sound engines with 6‑voice polyphony, there are modes where one oscillator feeds the other for FM and sound‑shaping. Alternatively you can gang both oscillators to the same engine in a 12‑voice paraphonic mode.
The range of sounds you can make with the MiniFreak plug‑in is impressive, from all kinds of classic polys and keys, beautiful crystalline plucks and shifting pads, to plenty of filthy basses and rave hoovers.
The MicroFreak’s useful Wavetable and Vocoder modes are missing here, but Arturia say that they will return in new and better forms later. Even without them, the range of sounds you can make with the MiniFreak plug‑in is impressive, from all kinds of classic polys and keys, beautiful crystalline plucks and shifting pads, to plenty of filthy basses and rave hoovers. Three multi‑mode stereo effects stages contribute to the more lush and polished sound of the Mini compared to its Micro sibling. Sequencing and arpeggiation are also at the heart of the Freak’s offerings, with multiple modes, momentary effects and the Spice and Dice feature, which injects varying degrees of randomness.
Arturia’s V instruments usually recreate the front panels of the original hardware, but the MiniFreak’s interface has been rethought to suit screen and mouse. For the most part this works really well, for example bringing real‑time waveforms, dynamic control labelling and drop‑down menus to the oscillator sections. It also makes modulation assignment in the Matrix a piece of cake. The graphics representing the effects are great, although I miss the quirky wireframe visuals used on the hardware.
Some elements that are highly tactile on the hardware feel a little disconnected on the plug‑in, in particular the Macro controls and the sequencer. The Macros are a pair of performance sliders that can modulate up to four different parameters each, and are a key contributor in many patches. On the keyboard you can keep the Macros to hand, in place of the Pitch and Mod strips. You might miss their significance if coming to the plug‑in version using a regular MIDI controller, and you’ll definitely want to map them. And if you happen to have the hardware MiniFreak lying around, you can take direct control of the plug‑in from there.
MiniFreak V has all the sonic versatility and goodness of the hardware instrument. What it loses in terms of hands‑on control, it makes up for with the extra simplicity when programming and designing sounds. Highly recommended.
MiniFreak is brilliant and has become my go‑to synth in both V and IRL incarnations.