Arturia MiniFreak: 5 things you need to know

Arturia has announced the MiniFreak, the larger sibling to 2019's MicroFreak and if you feel somewhat bewildered by the sheer amount of info coming at you from all angles about it, permit us to break it down with these five (actually six) things you need to know about the new digital hybrid synth.

1. It’s not so Mini…

Despite its name, this isn’t exactly what we’d call a ‘mini synth’. The ‘mini’ aspect is more of a quirk of Arturia nomenclature – reflecting Arturia’s MiniBrute and MicroBrute.

In fact, although it’s fairly compact, MiniFreak is Arturia’s biggest digital hardware synth yet, and a significant step up from its sibling the MicroFreak.

The extra size makes room for a 37-note keyboard. These are Slim Keys, but they’re sensitive to velocity and aftertouch, with a springy synth action. These are joined by a pair of touchstrips for pitch and modulation.

2. It’s polyphonic!

MicroFreak was paraphonic – meaning it could play separate notes from its two oscillators – but MiniFreak has a full six voices of polyphony. 

MiniFreak offers four voice modes: monophonic, polyphonic, paraphonic and a unison mode, where voices can be stacked and detuned to create thick synth tones.

As well as functioning in a two-oscillator format, the second digital engine can also be used to apply processing to the first for some cool distortion and waveshaping effects.

A Chord mode allows users to set and retrigger chord shapes, and a Scale function lets users jam around a set scale without fear of playing a wrong note.

3. It blends digital and analogue

Like MicroFreak, MiniFreak’s two oscillators make use of a multitude of modern digital synthesis approaches. 

These include two-operator FM, formant, speech and Karplus-Strong synthesis, stacked ‘super’ waves, and several oscillator modes developed by modular brand Noise Engineering.

The sound of each oscillator mode can be honed using Wave, Timbre and Shape functions.

Alongside the digital oscillators, MiniFreak packs an analogue multimode filter. This is a resonant 12db filter with low-, high- and band-pass modes.

MiniFreak also adds three digital effect engines. Each can make use of a range of effect types including reverbs, delays, modulation effects, EQs, distortion and compression,

MiniFreak’s output is stereo, and the effects can be used to add stereo width and movement to your synth sounds.

4. There’s a ton of sequencing and modulation…

MiniFreak has an arpeggiator and 64-step polyphonic sequencer. It can also sequencer for lanes of automation from any of the front panel controls.

Like the MicroFreak, the sequencer and arp feature some fun tools for mixing up patterns, including the ‘Spice’ and ‘Dice’ randomisation tools.

There’s plenty of modulation available too. MiniFreak packs an ADSR envelope per-voice, plus a modular-style Cycling Envelope and multi-mode LFO.

Modulation can be easily routed from the front panel mod matrix, which has seven mod sources and seven destinations, three of which are user-assignable.

5. It comes with a VST version of itself!

Users of the hardware MiniFreak can also download Arturia’s MiniFreak V plugin for free. This is an identical digital version of the synth, that means users can incorporate sounds into a DAW, even without the hardware synth itself.

Bonus fact: It will say hi to you by name!

Input your name in the setting and MiniFreak will give you a personal greeting when you turn it on, and automatically credit any patches you make.

Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.

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