At NAMM 2019, Arturia revealed their first ever digital hardware synthesizer with an analog filter, interesting oscillator modes, some unusual features, and a very affordable price point.
Digital Meets Analog
Combining the best of both worlds, MicroFreak is a monophonic/paraphonic synth which includes a multi-mode digital oscillator with an Oberheim SEM-inspired analog filter. 7 of the oscillator modes are ‘taken’ from the popular Mutable Instruments Plaits Eurorack module – FYI, Arturia likes to use the word ‘collaboration’ but Mutable Instruments was not involved in any way in the design or making of the instrument, Arturia simply used their synthesis code that is freely available under an open source license).
The modes include Superwave, Harmonic Oscillator, Karplus-Strong, Wavetable, Virtual Analog, Waveshaper, FM, Grain, Chords, Speech, and Modal.
Who Needs Real Keys?
A quality keybed can be one of the most expensive parts in an instrument. Microfreak was obviously conceived as a low-cost synth, and Arturia decided to go with an unusual yet capable PCB keyboard.
Despite having no moving parts, it’s pressure sensitive and fast, and also offers poly-aftertouch (when used as USB-MIDI controller).
The French Touch
On top of its oscillators, filter, and interface, MicroFreak offers some advanced features generally not found on other low-cost synths. A multi-point modulation matrix; a unique sequencer-arpeggiator with controlled randomness “Spice” and “Dice” parameters; a cycling envelope; 128 factory presets, and space for 64 user sounds; and a crystal-clear OLED screen.
FX? Nope, sorry. Being this a digital synth, I believe adding a small onboard DSP wouldn’t have added much to the cost (after all, even the tiny and cheap IK Multimedia UNO Synth includes a delay!). Oh well, get a cheap stompbox and you’re set.
More Oscillators Coming Soon
MicroFreak will contain 11 oscillator types at launch, but Arturia have made the unit capable of using new oscillators through official firmware updates in the future.
Price and Availability $349 / 299€. Microfreak is expected to arrive at retailers worldwide from April 1st, 2019. For further info and sound demos, please visit the Arturia Microfreak web page.
About The Author
Founder & main editor here at ANR, 'non-musician' and music-tinkerer. His first keyboard was a cheesy Yamaha PSS-270. He still loves it.