A fully featured analogue monosynth for £250. Ain’t that something?
At that price it’s difficult to resist, so I took a punt and it’s been in the studio for a few months.
Let’s take a look at the features. It’s a single oscillator (plus sub) capable of producing saw, pulse and triangle waveforms simultaneously. You can mix in varying amounts of each. There’s a multimode filter with low, band and high pass modes. A single envelope for both amplitude and filter and one LFO round off what could be a quite pedestrian synth.
But what’s interesting about the MicroBrute is all the little extras. For example, you can waveshape all of the oscillator waveforms. You might be used to pulse wave modulation (PWM) on a square wave, but the MicroBrute lets you shape it’s triangle, saw and even sub waveforms. They call these Metaliser, UltraSaw and Fifth respectively. Then there’s the “Brute Factor” feature on the filter. Essentially it’s a feedback circuit which mixes some signal back from the output of the filter to the input. It has the effect of “grunging” up the filter sound. Then there’s the sequencer. An SH-101 style step-input sequencer with a max of 64 steps, memory for 8 different sequences and tap tempo. And then on top of all that, there’s the CV in/out panel, which not only gives you gate and CV in and out, but also inputs for the filter, PWM, Metaliser, UltraSaw and outputs for the LFO and envelope. Of course, you can also control via MIDI or USB.
That’s a lot of synth for £250.
How does it sound? Judge for yourself from the above demo (there’s a bit of external delay/reverb added occasionally). Because of all the waveshaping in the oscillator, it’s easy to get a complex sound that belies it’s single oscillator status. The filter is juicy enough. I find it doesn’t have the extreme bottom-end weight and openness of say a Moog or Macbeth synth, but at this price a comparison with those giants is probably unfair. In short, it sounds great. Mine has found a lot of use for lead duties in recent songs.
Negatives? Well, there’s really not much. The keys are too small for any serious playing, but it gives you something to stab at while you program up a sound (I would have liked a tiny desktop version with no keyboard at all). Also, some settings are only accessible from a computer, like legato modes, pitchbend range, note priority and a few other thing. It’s a minor quibble though. All in all, the MicroBrute is a lot of synth in a small package. It’s killed my lust for an SH-101 (you could get two for the same price!). A cracking little synth.