Arturia’s MicroFreak gets sample playback, granular synthesis and gorgeous Stellar edition #GeekLeap

I routinely state that the Arturia MicroFreak is considered one of my favourite price range synths. However actually, I’m doing it a disservice. I believe the MicroFreak is likely one of the greatest synths on the market at any value. That has as a lot to do with the flexibility of its sound engine because it does with Arturia’s relentless updates. Since being launched in 2019 this little synth has seen numerous updates, most of them including pretty vital new options.

The forthcoming replace to firmware model 5.0 is arguably one of many greatest. It provides a pattern playback engine and three totally different granular engines. That brings the whole variety of synth engines on the MicroFreak to a frankly absurd 22. Positive, not all the engines are as usable because the others, and a few are comparatively comparable to one another. However nonetheless, it’s plenty of versatility in a small $350 bundle.

When the brand new firmware drops round Could thirtieth (sadly there are nonetheless some kinks being ironed out) there may also be an replace to MIDI Management Heart that may allow customers to add their very own samples (as much as 24 seconds in size) for playback by the 4 new engines. The overall variety of preset slots on the MicroFreak will broaden to 512, and there shall be two new modulation choices added to the utility menu – random per-key and snap.

For the reason that MicroFreak had a wavetable engine to begin, and in 2021 Arturia added assist for customized person wavetables, pattern playback needs to be easy sufficient because the wavetables are simply .wav information. And if there’s pattern playback and wavetable assist, then granular isn’t an excessive amount of of a stretch since that’s simply chopping up a .wav file and taking part in it again in little rearranged bits. Nonetheless, granular synthesis is fairly exhausting to return by in a {hardware} instrument so it’s value celebrating right here. (Aspect word: I might count on to see extra within the close to future as granular appears to be gaining recognition and processors are highly effective sufficient now to make constructing them trivial.)

New Sample engine in Arturia MicroFreak V5

Picture by Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The pattern engine is comparatively rudimentary. You may change the beginning and finish level and set a loop level, however that’s it. There’s no time stretching or something (that I’m conscious of), pitch adjustments are achieved just by rushing up and slowing down playback. However there’s one thing about the best way that’s dealt with on the MicroFreak that sounds unbelievable. It’s bought an virtually late ‘70s, early ‘80s digital vibe that speaks to my love of grit. And lots of the included samples no less than stay usable over a large variety of octaves. In actual fact, I’d say that on the decrease excessive’s they’re not simply usable, however implausible sounding – particularly that PGTS Keys pattern. After which, clearly, you’ve bought the remainder of the synth at your disposal so as to add filtering and modulation.

One trick I shortly fell in love with was utilizing the brand new per-key random setting to barely alter the pitch. Combining that with the lo-fi piano pattern will get you one thing that’s by no means fairly in tune, however by no means to date out that it sounds dangerous. It does require some minor menu diving, but it surely’s value it. After which the important thing/arp row within the mod matrix turns into one other supply of randomization. And actually, I didn’t actually assume I wanted extra randomization on a synth that has each sample-and-hold and random choices for the LFO, plus the Spice and Cube parameters for injecting chaos into your arps and sequences, however right here we’re.

I assume that as an alternative of 1 granular engine, it’s damaged down into three separate engines partially due to the restricted controls on the entrance. Scan performs a pattern from begin to end (principally), but it surely means that you can management the pace at which the grain strikes by the file so you may get actually lo-fi time stretching results. However when you modulate the pace at which it scans and set the density (variety of grains) fairly low and the chaos fairly excessive, you get this kind of warped vinyl tremolo sound. I particularly love the best way it sounds on the Braam brass pattern. The largest con right here is that samples gained’t loop within the scan engine, so you possibly can’t get good drones out of it.

Slow Amen patch on Arturia MicroFreak V5

Picture by Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Cloud, alternatively, is constructed for drones. It performs again a number of overlapping grains, looping across the file to create alien textures good for scoring a retro sci-fi level and click on journey. That is the kind of factor that individuals instantly affiliate with granular synthesis. It has an odd character that may’t be mistaken for the rest.

Lastly, the Hit engine is all about percussion. That is the place you go to create clicky sound results and stuttering glitchy rhythm tracks, even when the supply materials isn’t a drum pattern. In actual fact, I’d say the outcomes are sometimes extra fascinating when working with what was initially a melodic pattern. Although, I gained’t fake it’s not a great deal of enjoyable to pop an 808 kick in there and simply let it create relentless, skull-crushing avalanches of bass.

Cloud Grains engine in Arturia MicroFreak V5

Picture by Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

It’s uncommon to see an organization proceed so as to add this many options to a product years after its launch. Whether or not we’re speaking a couple of synth, a cellphone or a digicam. However Arturia deserves credit score (Novation too, only for the file) for persevering with to dedicate time and sources to even its entry degree merchandise. Maybe probably the most stunning factor in regards to the MicroFreak 5.0 replace is that we haven’t seen its massive brother, the MiniFreak, obtain a single vital replace. Regardless of costing practically twice the worth, it now has six fewer synth engine choices, no less than by my depend.

Whilst you anticipate the free replace to drop on Could thirtieth, take just a few moments to ogle the brand new MicroFreak Stellar restricted version pictured on the prime of this publish. It swaps the unique’s birds and floral prospers for an area themed design and swaps out the white keys for a monochromatic all black deck. The MicroFreak Stellar is out there now for $399.

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