Updated: Jan 25, 2019
Arturia has announced what is truly an interesting product for NAMM this year, the MicroFreak Experimental Hybrid Synthesizer. Made in collaboration with famed Eurorack manufacturer Mutable Instruments, this analog/digital instrument offers musicians something a little different in this sea of modern day synthesizers, by bringing together elements from different approaches that have been introduced before by different manufacturers, such as its touch-strip keyboard reminiscent of Buchla's Music Easel synth, or even the Stylophone, to its compact but powerful modulation matrix that internally assigns sources and destinations, as seen before on the Korg MS2000 and MicroKorg models.
Combining digital oscillators that offer 11 modes to choose from, including Wavetable and Superwave; 7 of them taken from the popular "Plaits" Mutable Instruments module, along with a 12-dB per-octave analog filter inspired by the Oberheim SEM, not to mention a Cyclic Envelope, and the above mentioned modulation matrix, and it's safe to say that the sonic palette available here is rather adventurous and full of surprises waiting at every twist of a knob.
The MicroFreak also features a dual mode Arpeggiator/Sequencer that includes two options, one called "Spice", which alters parameters without affecting pitch, and "Dice", which by moving your finger across the top touch strip above the actual keyboard, allows you to set the depth of randomization introduced to your sequences. It's also worth mentioning that the touch keyboard is also pressure and aftertouch sensitive per note, which as Arturia states: "has some exciting applications within MicroFreak itself, but also for MPE and polyphonic aftertouch-enabled virtual instruments when MicroFreak is used as a MIDI controller".
Lastly, connectivity is abundant with the MicroFreak, including not just MIDI and USB, albeit MIDI via "breakout cables", but also CV, allowing you to fully integrate this marvel of a synth not just with your modular rig, but also any DAW-based studio.
Overall a very surprising release in general, but in a sense it could be said not so much from a company like Arturia. It's obvious that these guys are in it for the love, and you can tell in every instrument and piece of software they develop! The attention to detail and the ensuring of the highest quality at truly affordable prices was virtually unheard of before they came around. From their glory days in advancing VST plug ins, to now ironically enough being the ones perhaps truly pushing the envelope in this analog hardware revival, Arturia is making a strong mark, and leading the way forward in the evolution of synthesizers as gracefully as you could hope for.
Watch the promotional video for MicroFreak: