Arturia’s MiniBrute – A little audiomonster.

Arturia Minibrute MK I

I bought my very first synthesizer. At first I thought about a digital synthesizer or an analog one. Monophonic or poly phone? I mainly focused on other factors at the end though. Who played what and why and for which price? In the end I was left with the Korg Minilogue, the Arturia Minibrute and the Arturia Microbrute. I somewhat ended up with the Arturia Minibrute.

 

Good basic knowledge for modular synthesis.

When you’re confronted (like me) for the first time with modular synthesizers it’s quite a lot. Arturia Microbrute is a very basic analog synthesizer. It’s quite a cheap and affordable synthesizer. If you buy a new “copy”, you’d have to spend 250€. That’s about the prize of 4 iPhone X’s. And that’s the prize of a new one. I bought myself a used copy and I was quite happy and surprised. A very raw and brutal sound. You must understand this: Analog sound is in a lot of convenience-steps a huge step backwards. In a software synthesizer aka VSTi you have presets. Presets are somewhat finished settings of a synthesizer sound. With most of the analog synthesizers you have to do the tweaking yourself. You need to fully understand which knob does what. So you won’t generate a sound by default. When you plug in the audio cable into your sound system and the audio cable into your synthesizer and you connect the power cable with the synthesizer and you’ll turn on the synthesizer… you might not hear anything at all. You must tweak and experiment and learn until you know which parameter affects what. At some points you might panic and think “what did I do wrong” or “which knob messed up my sound?”, but that’s a big part of the learning curve. I also mentioned VCV rack in an older post of mine. It’s basically the Arturia Minibrute, but more complex and free and complex and completely software based instead of hardware based analog hardware. So you might want to check that one out too.

 

Some personal experiences I made so far:

I never learned the real advantages and conveniences that software synthesizers had. I took them for natural. I thought every synthesizer in the world would somehow be synchronized with each other. So when I recorded a track the other day, I played in some parts with my guitar and generated some drums with it completely digitally. After that I had to start pushing the “REC” button in my DAW. So everything was running rhythmically, EXCEPT FOR THE ARTURIA MINIBRUTE! Now there are a couple of ways fixing the arhythmicality in this track. The first option would’ve been to play stuff in real-time while recording in the rhythm. This limits the melody by your music-playing skill drastically. The horror in this method is that you have to play a part or segment for 20 – 80 times until you say “f*** it” and you take the best skit of the recording. When you have to play a lick / a loop or a piece 20 times, it gets reaaally annoying. You either use the best bit and loop it or you use various variations that you somewhat like. Sometimes you make mistakes while recording your bits and you might consider keeping that stuff. I did this here and there. It’s quite amazing what mistakes can generate. Or you use the sequencer. I used the sequencer for this track. I gotta be honest. It is not a very complex sequencer. The notes you hold-on while playing, these notes will be played. You can choose the pitch and the arpeggio and the rhythm that is playing at the moment, but other than that there’s not many options to choose from. Then again… I’ve never stumbled over THE sequencer. I somewhat know their functions and I am somewhat dependent on them, but I wanna see seriously crazy options integrated in them. So it’s a basic sequencer, but that’s not to bad. It’s definitely enough for my very first analog synthesizer and I can’t complain. I didn’t want to sell the synthesizer right after purchasing it. So this one is really a keeper. Back to the song-recording story. The record function in my DAW was running, my sequencer in the analog synthesizer was running, but both didn’t have the same rhythm. So I had to tap the “metronome function” of the synthesizer. Imagine it this way: The DAW put’s out a metronome sound. So while the metronome sound of the DAW was playing, I had to tap the speed of the running sequencer of the analog sequencer in the same rhythm as the DAW was putting out. The cool thing is that you can hear that the sequencer is sometimes faster and sometimes slower. This gives your track a unique and own-sounding touch. In this digitized era, arhythmicality is sometimes somewhat necessary. Sometimes you need chaos to appreciate order. I know that Chris Clark used this effect also on some levels on some of his songs. A rule of thumb is for me personally: You hear somewhat strange rhythms? Analog hardware is behind that kind of sound.

 

“Lemme guess. You had no idea what you were doing.”

Yes, yes and yes. That is completely right. Sometimes you make song after song after song and get comfy with what you’re doing. That is a very dangerous head space, since it gives you a routine and your newer songs will sound more and more like your older ones. At some point you might have a professional sound achieved and a routine for making tracks. That’s where I personally intervene myself. Music shouldn’t be about routine. My personal definition of good music is either:”Wow! What is that? That is new! I never heard something like that” or “This is a nice blend of instruments, patterns and lyrics and they fit each other”. I mean yeah, 99% of music fits perfectly for your setting that you were looking for, but also feel like 95% of music is the same ol’ same ol’. Nothing new on the table and still following the rules of 50 years old pop songs. The Minibrute forced me into new territories that I wouldn’t have left otherwise.

 

What will the future bring?

I need to build in the Arturia Minibrute into more tracks to know its advantages and disadvantages. I will keep you informed about positive stuff and negative stuff that will happen to me when I tweak its beautiful knobs.

 

Would I suggest it?

A definite “yes” is needed at the end of my “storytelling”. Are there better beginner synths out there? Analog or digital? Probably. I take music lessons for playing the keyboard. My keyboard teacher knows quite a lot about these synths. He himself said that it’s a very minimalist attempt of an analog synthesizer. It sounded quite bad when he said it, but I am nevertheless happy with it. I hope this will never change and that I’ll always be able to enjoy and play it.

Official page:

https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/minibrute

Wikipedia entry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arturia_MiniBrute

NI Absynth 5 Intoxication w/ soundscapes

Introduction:

Brian Clevinger created the software at the end of 2000 for Mac-Os. One year later NATIVE INSTRUMENTS  and Clevinger cooperated and he’s the chef developer since this day.

The general UI look of Absynth 5

So what’s under the hood?

You got 3 channels, 14 filters, a lot of rare oscillators. You can use it with your MASCHINE sampler or as a sampler itself. It works as a FM synthesis and granular synthesis basis. You can use it as an effect. External audio runs through Absynth and goes into your DAW, MASCHINE, audio recording software. Whatever you want basically. In Version 5.3.1 (newest version from 2015, and yet still freshly updated) you got also a cloud filter and comb filter. You have basic elements of a modular synthesizer, which is basically a training for big and complex modular synthesizers. You got hundrets of presets and you can even combine 2 presents and decide which parts of each preset shine through your sound. It is of course MIDI-compatible. Do I need to mention that you can use it in your regular DAW like Ableton Live, Cubase, Logic or even Sonar. It runs on Mac-OS and Windows, but sadly not on Linux. Sadly there isn’t enough software out there that runs directly on Linux.

 

My old green friend:

Absynth 4 and now Absynth 5 are my old solid companions from the old days. Alone the UI is a big plus for me. I have a serious fetish for green coloured software and interfaces. It’s even somewhat turquish and got a relaxin’ vibe, but don’t be fooled by the UI. It got some radical, gnarly, crazy distortion effects and like every software it’s recomendable to try it out. There comes another minus: No demo available. So watch some YouTube videos, read reviews from magazines and ask your music teacher or some buddy if they were properly introduced into Absynth and how it works. I am mainly a sucker for presets. Kinda awkward to say stuff like that. A lot of purists out there prefer to create their own unique sound, even if it sounds worse than a preset. You want your own stamp on the sound you created and you wanna tell everyone:”HEY MAN! I MADE THAT PRESET! CAN YOU HEAR THAT? I KNOW IT SOUNDS AWFUL, BUT AT LEAST IT’S 100% ORIGINAL!”. I also use Massive, Kontakt, Battery and the full NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KOMPLETE EDITION ULTIMATE package. It’s nice to browse around the presets in every VSTi you get your hands on, but to be honest: The most experiments I did, I did them in Absynth 5. Why should I convince you to get it? This article right here is mainly about writing down my experiences I made over these years. I just wanna write down memories and stuff that I would recommend me to myself. If I read this article in a couple of years and I’ll find out that Absynth 6 will suck like Cubase 9.5 does… that will be quite hurtful. Nowadays you got a some pros and cons with software. Everyone mentions mainly the pros, like mostly free updates and somewhat more support and you don’t have to carry around heavy hardware. If you got hardware you won’t get a software update that will destroy the whole hardware. Except when it’s some kind of hybrid thing like the Virus TI 2…? That’s at least what I read about it. A strange mixture of software and hardware. You basically need to be ready to roll down to Absynth 5.

 

The browser in the VSTi

90% of every NI VSTi got the same explorer. Why? Because it’s usefull and logical. You either search for moods, tags or especially instrument sounds. Moods / tags would be stuff like “happy” or “eerie”. Instrument sounds would be stuff like “guitar” or “sequenced” or “piano”, stuff like that, yo. Most of the time I double click on a preset and play around on my MIDI keyboard with my left hand and then I cllick on the next preset and play around with the left hand. Sometimes you get stuck to a preset or you modify it to your desire. I remember some years back ahead recording with Audacity and playing with Absynth in realtime. A horrible experience to be fair, but it was fun. At the end of the day that is what really counts. I don’t get the hate that VSTis get, just for being digital. I grew up digital luckily. Be happy that you don’t have to program and save every preset and you don’t need to tune and warum up the synth and make notes on how the preset was before that. You sit in front of your extremly small laptop cuddled in your blanked on your bed and just toy around with the VSTi the way you feel like it.

 

I need to learn more…

I haven’t checked this little nifty tool enough, haven’t tried everything that I want. Kinda curious to see that the newest update is 3 years ago. I seriously hope to see support on Windows 11 or Windows 12 for Absynth 5 or finally the #6. Don’t neglect this piece of software dear developers and Mr. Clevinger. While writing about it I get kinda accoustically hungry to try out new stuff. I bet you could even form a band that ONLY focuses on using Absynth 5. Imagine that. Their main trademark is that the perform live and in studio only via Absynth 5. I think I should write that idea somewhere down…

 

Yes or no?

Yes, yes and yes. Luckily I bought the software in my youth and used it some years before cracked. Nowadays I’m to stingy for software. I seriously wanna invest more in hardware to get the vibe and the feeling that hardware gives you. A lot of people got famous and made a living by using hardware. Maybe I’ll make a lot of debts by buying always new hardware instead of learning and investing in software. That should be the point that would pull me down to the ground to show me that stuff like Absynth 5 should be enough. I say goodby at this point and wish all you guys a good night or day or whatever… see you around. =))))

 

You can purchase Absynth from the official Native Instruments site for 150€ approximately. You might be able to upgrade you Absynth 1 – 4 to Absynth 5 for 60€, but if you mean serious business, you have to spend a little more to get the biggest and fullest package for the “smallest” prize.

Let’s do the maths:

Say you want to buy 6 instruments solely. Say each of them cost 150€. All in all they cost together 900€.  If you bought more and more separately, you’d end up spending 5,000,00,-$ USD or so. You can buy the full package for 1,600,00,-$. This is a big one time investment and it lasts for years. To be honest. I bought my upgrade from my NATIVE INSTRUMENTS – ULTIMATE EDITION 11 today  for 600€.

Here’s the official site for comparison.

 

As you can see, only KOMPLETE 12 SELECT hasn’t got Absynth 5

 

In the next days or weeks or so I will test and try out and produce with the newest upgraded version some songs and audio concepts that I have in mind.

I will tell you guys how it went. I know that I won’t sleep very good today, since I’m to excited to try out these patches, presets and new plug-ins and sound banks and loops.

The upgrade that I got myself, because I already had KOMPLETE 11 ULTIMATE EDITION:

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If you haven’t got a previous version, this might be more interesting for you. It’s from a German shop that got quite famous and popular over the years and has a beautiful customer support. I am also a quite customer in regards of their products. Sorted from cheap to expensive:

 

If your completly new and you want to get the whole package as a new customer:

 

Those link to Thomann. Which has generally cheaper prices.

Komplete 12 Select for $179.99 

Komplete 12 for $529.99

Komplete 12 Ultimate for $1,019.99

Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector’s Edition for $1,5019.99

 

If you still prefer Amazon though:

Komplete 12 Select for $199.99  

Komplete 12 for $599.99 

Komplete 12 Ultimate for $1,199.99 

Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector’s Edition for $1,599.99 

 

Wikipedia:

(Sadly this well developed VSTi plugin has only a German Wikipedia entry. Which makes partially sense, since it was developed in Germany. On the other hand: You’ve heard Absynth one way or another if you listened to a lot of electronic music. Believe me.)

Comparison: Cubase, FL Studio, Ableton and some others.

In this section I will review 3 DAWs that I used over the years. Cubase, FL Studio and Ableton.

Cubase

Cubase has the most common UI out there. Many other DAWs use familiar designs. I put the most work hours in Cubase. A very solid DAW that never disappointed me. While in the newer version are some more bugs that I don’t enjoy, I suppose they’ll fix ’em in the future. Otherwise I will change up to FL Studio, which I will mention in the next section. I wanna stick with this DAW forever if possible. The problem with every kind of software are updates and downgrades. Sometimes an old version of a DAW is better than a new version. You have to change the facts if the upgrade is better or worse. At the moment I am really dissatisfied with Cubase 9.5. Cubase 5 – 9 were highly addictive for me and helped me enormously with my workflow. Let us pray that Cubase 10 works properly again so I don’t have to compare all those DAWs out there.

Edit:

I got myself Cubase 10 and some more RAM. I am really excited to try out everything new.

Cubase 9.5


FL Studio

My personal second choice. A lot of installments and projects mend and bend together for me in Cubase in FL Studio. Very basic design that you can expand and modify how you like it. Image Line made only positive changes over these years. Keep in mind that you will not find small updates on this DAW and it has a solid fan base. The variety of plugins you get is also quite astonishing. The stuff you get inside from FL Studio is enough to work and experiment around for over 2 years in a row if you keep on doin’ tracks. You’re quickly working step from step and in no time got yourselves a finished song. If you’re an avid music listener as I am, you might even discover one or two samples that are in FL Studio that you can also hear in other professional productions. Now in regards in plug’n play you also got some advantages to some other DAWs since there is a big canvas of samplers and keyboards and mixers and what-not that you just can select in the settings and you don’t need to set it up.

FL Studio 20


Ableton

The one I got the least experience with. A solid and fundamental base for live performances. Many artists swear that Ableton is essential for live performances. Only a few tries to avoid and undergo it by buying expensive hardware and software just so that they can perform live without the aid. If you want to go live you definitely have to spent time with this tool. It allows you to play finished sets, improvise on the spot (if you got the skills of course 😉 ). You can DJ with it and produce, mix, compose, write down your score and just toy around with it. I seriously had problems cutting and editing single samples in it. But maybe I just did something wrong at the time. Here’s a fun bit for you if you’re interested: Ableton put out Max. Max is somewhat related to VCV Rack. While Max is very expensive VCV Rack is for free. Maybe there is a reason behind that prize, but I prefer to go with cheaper versions, as I am limited to a budget.

Ableton


Bitwig Studio, LSDJ, VCV Rack, Nanoloop, others:

Bitwig Studio had some nice options in regard to production. LSDJ is an 8-bit tracker for Game Boy that you could also run with your emulator on a PC, Mac or Android if you want, but you get the real raw sound from an original Game Boy of course. VCV Rack: Modular synthesizer sound that you have to build up from the ground yourselves. Very hardcore stuff. You can learn your whole life about this area and never finish it, it’s a vast universe of soundscape and it’s an advantage if you know how everything is connected and how others synthesizers or drum computers / samplers / effect pedals, etc. are build. This is a big deal when you consider that everything is basically circuitry. So VCV rack should be a basic for you, the stuff that follows afterwards isn’t “that important” afterwards. So focus on getting a lot of input from this program and afterwards you just do what you want. I seriously regret not getting into that stuff earlier. This is music at it’s core. At the cost of 0,00,-€. That should be somewhat in everyone’s budget. Let’s hop on to Nanoloop. Nanoloop is insane. Very minimalist design. You can do twisted stuff like turning up the BPM to 300k. Insane sound collagés and more. Only one reach away from your hands. There is a Game Boy version out there that is logically limited because of its retro and old-schooly-vibed hardware. The version you get from the Google Play store costs you a bit but it’s worth it. On the other hand it costs a lot of power for your smartphone to put out a beat on 300.000 BPM. I think it’s possible to overheat some older smartphones maybe with Nanoloop. Imagine that for a moment. Get yourselves an old smartphone buy the app from the store and run that app till the accumulator of the smartphone is burning through. What a beautiful thought. You got an optical component when the smartphone goes up in flames and an acoustical component when the audio chip is melting.

BitWig Studio

LSDJ

Nanoloop


Conclusions, conclusion, conclusions…

So where are we at at this point? What can you take home or consider for yourselves at this point? I know that I am a voice of many. I know a lot of people write, blog, record themselves about what software they use and what hardware and what not. In the end you need to decide yourselves what you want to do. As a kid that grew up in a digital age it is kinda hard for me to get a grip at hardware. Software is getting cheaper, you can try out programs and you’re always mobile if you wanna. The programs I mention here should basically cover in regards in what you want to do. Who knows. Maybe you find your own DAW that you don’t want to miss or you made the experience that I talked trash and other software is better. I seriously hope I could help you out with this post and you somewhat know now where you are standing. See you soon. =)