Yes I know, the MiniBrute 2S has been out for almost 2 years now, but who says things have to be reviewed as soon as they come out? I just got one (finally) and I’m compelled to share my thoughts. My perspective is probably a little different to most reviews, because I bought this synth to compliment my evolving Eurorack modular synth (read more on that adventure here).
The Arturia MiniBrute 2S is a dual oscillator analogue synth with a powerful on board sequencer and semi-modular architecture. The MiniBrute line have a fairly recognizable sound thanks to their main oscillator having Arturia’s ‘Ultrasaw’ and ‘Metallizer’ waveshapers, as well as a distinctive Steiner-Filter multi-mode filter and ‘Brute Factor’ distortion.
The Brute Filter
Arturia are the only main manufacturer to utilize this classic filter circuit, it’s character is quite different to a Moog-style ladder filter or Korg MS-20 style OTA filter — to me it sounds crunchy, fuzzy and very-definitely analogue. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you and your ears, but the beauty of a semi modular synth is; if you don’t like the filter, just patch a cable from the output of the oscillators in the patch bay and patch in another filter or synth or eurorack module and use that instead. No dramas mate.
Arturia’s Brute Factor filter overdrive is of course featured, and adds a tonal character ranging from a tasteful drive and weight on bass sounds, to outright squealing madness for the glitch and industrial fans out there.
That Sequencer Though
For me personally, the sequencer and the patch bay is the star of the show on this unit. There’s four tracks of sequencing with 2 tracks devoted to Pitch and Gate, and two bonus tracks that are more flexible but default to Velocity and Pressure (aftertouch). I call them bonus tracks for good reason, hidden in their settings are modes to change them into modulation tracks. Modulation options on those tracks include per-step LFO wave sequencing, envelope sequencing with variable speeds/lengths on each step, or melodic 1 volt-per-octave steps. These two tracks can also playback with lengths and clock divisions that are different to the pitch and gate track. This is freakin’ awesome for endlessly evolving sequences (my fav’) and something that’s not seen on any other semi-modular synth I’m aware of.
I’m going to shout out one particular thoughtful feature on the sequencer too — when modifying the pitch via the knobs above each step, the first rotation doesn’t modify the pitch, it just causes the existing value to be shown on screen. This is SO handy if, say, you want play along on another instrument and want to check what notes are in your sequence.
The patchbay features inputs and outputs for just about every parameter, with some additional utilities and bonus surprises for good measure. There is an extra VCA with two inputs for mixing and modulating audio or CV, there’s also an inverter — useful for flipping envelopes. There is also an input supplied for the Metalizer wave shaper, so you’re not limited to running the triangle wave through it as it’s hardwired.
Not Quite Perfect
There’s some parameters that are surprising omissions on the patchbay – FM mix CV and LFO speed CV inputs are nowhere to be found. A Glide CV input (or even a Slew utility) would have been nice too. Not the end of the world though, oscillator 2 can be set to LFO or Full Range, and it has a pitch CV input for full control over it’s speed. Plus, you’ve got the aforementioned bonus sequencer tracks that can be turned into LFOs.
Overall, there’s a lot of fun and flexibility to be had here and sound wise there’s some very nice sweet spots. It’s a synth that absolutely rewards tinkering and experimenting — if you’re that way inclined, and enjoy the process of building sounds as much as building songs, then look no further. The build quality is extremely sturdy and it’s nice and big, in fact, calling it a MiniBrute seems like a stretch.
Hot tip: Osc 1: square wave with pulse width modulation, Osc 2: sawtooth wave, now crank the FM on Osc 1 up to about 12 noon. Brute Factor up a little. Filter and envelope to taste. Now enjoy that thick, gooey analogue goodness.
- Incredibly powerful sequencer
- Flexible architecture with a killer patchbay
- Very sturdy build with nicely designed layout for hands-on control
- Distinctive character
- Easy to get started, comes with extensive patch ‘cook book’ for ideas
- Arturia’s RackBrute Eurorack modular cases attach to sides for an aesthetically cohesive system
- No CV control over Glide or FM mix
Here’s a weird little ambient patch I made with it the other day.