Arturia MicroFreak An Inexpensive, Experimental Synth With Polyphonic Aftertouch

At the 2019 NAMM Show, Arturia is introducing the MicroFreak – described as ‘a peculiar, exceptional instrument that rewards the curious musician’.

The MicroFreak is a hybrid digital + analog synth that is built around a unique, expressive touch keyboard:

Here’s a hands-on demo, from the 2019 NAMM Show:

Here’s what they have to say about it:

Whether you’re looking for your first, affordable hardware synth or are collector looking for original sounds and unique interface, MicroFreak is the synth you need.

This out-there little music machine features a versatile digital oscillator so you can create rare and interesting sounds with ease. Modes like Texturer, KarplusStrong, Harmonic OSC, and Superwave give adventurous musicians the chance to explore totally new, unheard possibilities. Like having dozens of synths in just one instrument, both wild-eyed newcomers and seasoned professionals will fall in love with MicroFreak’s flexible, powerful synth engine.

MicroFreak packs so much in to such a compact instrument, you’ll wonder how we did it. We’d love to say it was magic, but it was pure skill and passion.

Features:

  • Synthesizer with 192 preset slots and 128 factory presets
  • 11 Digital oscillator with variable mode, including oscillators based on Mutable Instruments’ Plaits module
  • Analog State Variable Filter, 12dB/octave, resonant, Low Pass, Band Pass, High Pass
  • ADSR envelope
  • Cycling Envelope offering two modes
  • Envelope
  • LFO
  • LFO with Sync: Sine, Tri, Saw, Square, Random, Slew Random
  • Modulation matrix with 5 sources and 7 destinations (3 custom destinations)
  • Monophonic or Paraphonic modes – Up to 4 voices
  • 25-key capacitive keybed with polyphonic aftertouch
  • Capacitive touch strip
  • Crisp OLED display for editing and parameter values
  • Powerful arpeggiator
  • Up, Order, Random, Pattern modes
  • Spice & Dice Gate randomizers
  • 64-step sequencer
  • 2 patterns per preset
  • 4 automation tracks per preset
  • CV / Gate / Mod outputs
  • USB, Clock and MIDI in and out
  • 6.35mm master and 3.5mm headphone output

Pricing and Availability

The Arturia MicroFreak is expected to be available Spring 2019, priced at US $349.

75 thoughts on “Arturia MicroFreak An Inexpensive, Experimental Synth With Polyphonic Aftertouch

  1. 😮 US349 Speechless-
    A winner for sure.

    It doesn’t seem that long ago that Arturia were the whipping boys on KVR etc now I would say they are on eof the premier developers of both music hardware and software (NI have become dull and just repeat every year)

    1. Yet another cheap synth? Really? What’s not to expect? Korg’s Volca FM is 1/5 of a Yamaha DX7.

      The MicroFreak is a four voice _paraphonic_ synth, so all the voices from the digital side share the same filter and ADSR for each key press. There is only one filter and one ADSR in the synth. Yes, the demos sound absolutely great. This looks like a really great little machine, more advanced than the Volca series, but not what I view as a leap ahead of the Behringer Neutron. I can patch the Neutron like mad, but I can’t do that with the MicroFreak.

      I’m sure all of the sounds on the demos came from the MicroFreak, but not concurrently.

      1. There are two envelopes. One standard ADSR and one that also loops. That’s two assignable envelopes. It’s a monosynth, as you would expect at the price, paraphonic by definition is all oscillators using the same filter. The Arturia has a mod matrix, not as extensive as the Behringer but it has memories and a keyboard. Plus 3 user slots in the matrix. This will cover a fair number of options

        What you are forgetting are the oscillator engines- all modulatable. That’s the leap forward. I’ve got a Korg Prophecy and that now looks under nourished engine wise. Then add in the performance control options and you get a lot of potential in a very different direction from the Neutron.

        If you’re worried about modulation options for the price, get a s/h Kurzweil K2500 or k2000 for the same price. You’ll also get a free workstation, 5/6 octave keyboard and sampling thrown in. These are coming in at the same price as the Neutron……..

      2. Regarding volca fm, not even 1/5 – latest firmware still has bad bugs. What really makes me sad in this microfreak is lack of real keys. Less and less people are willing to learn to play physical instruments and the current state of music shows this in spades. If anything, I hope this brings about a clearance sale on microbrutes.

            1. JMT has a point in my opinion. There’s always midi in if you need a more traditional keyboard. This after touch thing is powerful from what I understand.

  2. Man, the massive interest in clones really got me thinking that we’ve reached “peak synth.” I thought that major synth makers wouldn’t put out anything beyond repackaged versions of classics. Between this and the new module from Make Noise, though, I couldn’t be more wrong. What a weird, unexpected, and genuinely interesting instrument. Arturia is really on point.

      1. Have you even bothered to read the free open source license? It’s really easy, the code is on github. Here, I help you:

        // Copyright 2012 Olivier Gillet.
        //
        // Author: Olivier Gillet ([email protected])
        //
        // Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
        // of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal
        // in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
        // to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
        // copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
        // furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:
        //
        // The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
        // all copies or substantial portions of the Software.
        //
        // THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
        // IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
        // FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
        // AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
        // LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
        // OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
        // THE SOFTWARE.
        //
        // See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/MIT/ for more information.
        //

        Have you even bothered to read Olivier’s previous posts in annoyance about people claiming theft?

            1. sure when quoting legal documents keeping the O. is still correct / required. but when giving credit to the person, while respecting their intellectual property, we might as well respect their preferred name.

    1. Sadly it appears the term “collaboration” in regards to MI’s involvement is being used somewhat loosely by Arturia marketing….

      1. You might be right. I heard a clip using the voice synth from Plaits. I wonder how many of the 11 modes are MI. Maybe only half. Nice collab though.
        Edit: “8 modes from our partners Mutable…”

  3. What kind of parameters can one manipulate in real time (polyphonic aftertouch) in a paraphonyc synth? As I understand paraphony, the oscilators share the same filter and envelope right?

      1. This *is* a subtractive synth, unless someone’s come up with another name for taking harmonically rich waveforms and running them through a filter. It’s a subtractive synth with an interesting digital oscillator, but it’s still a subtractive synth. It also has paraphonic 4 voice polyphony, since all 4 voices are going through a single VCF/VCA.

    1. In paraphonic mode, each voice has it’s own oscillator, an LFO, two envelopes and a modulation matrix. The aftertouch can modulate 7 parameters per voice, 3 of which are freely assignable. That’s a whole lot more than what is traditionally associated with paraphonic.

  4. A very interesting machine with a price that makes this a direct competitor to the Monologue. Somehow I’ve got a feeling that there won’t be a PolyBrute, but a bigger, maybe a bit smoother version of this in a couple of years, with 4-8 voices of polyphony. They’re exploring the polyphonic aftertouch capabilities to make an expressive polysynth.

      1. I can see why you think that but I’m thinking in terms of price and accessibility. If I had around 300 euros to spend and was looking for a synth with a small footprint, an integrated sequencer and a hands-on oriented interface, both MiniFreak and Monologue would instantly catch my attention in a store. Then I would start comparing them on the technical level: variety of sounds, sequencer capabilities, connectivity etc. Do I need integrated microtuning or poly aftertouch? VCOs or a digital oscillator? Korg’s motion sequencing or Arturia’s randomizers? Do I need paraphony, a looping envelope and a multimode filter? Am I comfortable with the touch keys or do I want regular ones?

        They do compete because of the price and it requires the buyer to analyze their current needs, provided they have enough knowledge of synths to do it. Unless they are collectors or going around buying new gear just for fun. Or beginners looking for their first synth, in which case it probably boils down to the immediate sounds and ease of use.

  5. I want to copy this guy’s moves. Seriously though, this thing looks funl enough to make even me dance around! Can’t wait to try it.

  6. This is brilliant. Kudos to Arturia for keeping it fresh.

    I’m assuming, but want to make sure, the sequencer can be sent to cv pitch and gate. If so, I’m selling my Keystep.

  7. Wow. Anyone wanna buy my Monologue?

    Kinda wish they’d just forgone the analog filter and let this thing be a freaky little polyphonic beast.

    1. You’ll pay extra. I’ve been happy with my old monosynths and octave switching. Use the “limitation “ creatively and had back you 303 as it can’t be any good with only a one octave keyboard!

      1. I wish I would have been given the chance of paying the extra.

        The creativity potential drop dramatically, when you go one octave down from 3, and octave shift doesn’t help here.

  8. Wahaha this guy and that one from the Korg minilogue xd promo should do a jam together
    TURN DOWN FOR WHAT!!!

    Interesting cheap synth this.

  9. This does win NAMM, but I’m not buying it until I learn more about the collaboration controversy between Arturia and Mutable Instruments and the fact that the SEM filter does not morph through it’s states.

    1. it doesn’t look like it is anything big “Yes, I was aware they were working on this. I’ve been invited to a focus-groupish meeting at Arturia, at that point the hardware was more or less frozen and it was pointless to make suggestions. Never had an opportunity to listen to the actual thing and give feedback about the way the code could be used (eg remapping parameters or tuning things differently given their filter).

      They did not do anything stealth or sneaky, but I had nothing to say about the product. #notacollab for me.”

  10. whoa in the BPB video the arturia guy says it is the first in the new line of freak instruments – I want to know what else is coming in the line too…..

  11. I would like to try this unit for myself before I comment on the machine itself… But the video? This video tells me nothing except they are still marketing synths the same way they have tried to since the Roland MC303… It’s for making cool “up to date” dance music! That sounds exactly the same as always! Some guy bouncing around twisting the knobs like his fingers are being burned by the hotness of the hipness radiating from his sounds.

    The Sonic Labs review will tell the truth and give us a better idea of how it can be used. BTW I love my original Mini-Brute.

    1. My first thought of the vid was “You can make anyone look dumb by putting a reverse cap on his head. To make him look extra dumb make him jump pointless like an electric frog and show his finger tattoo”…..
      Nothing in that vid would make me want to buy this synth. But there are other demo vids already that do make we want it as a supplement to analogue modules.

  12. I’ve been a Big Fan of Arturia since the Minibrute n their Win/iOS software synths. Love this new Arturia Microfreak. Watched all the videos n read what I can find on it. I’m sold. Order went in for one. I’ve had a lot of good interaction/support from Arturia via tech support n product information. Love Mutable Instruments as well, n have a number of them in my modular setup. Can’t wait till this awesome Microfreak is released this Spring.

  13. To me this interesting little unexpected (by me anyway) synth seems like quite a direct competitor for the Modal Skuplt – which is itself an interesting synth and quite desirable.

    It appears to go beyond the Skuplt feature-set though in terms of types of oscillators and with it being said that even more could be added later as they left space. The sequencer is also more comprehensive and novel, plus it has CV out and so could control a Korg modular 🙂
    It lacks Skuplt’s effect/s though and battery-power option and it will be interesting to see how they stack up sound-wise.
    I do find this quite appealing though and would love to try it but not having the money to take a punt or buy without selling other kit, I would want to hear more sounds and read a review or two before I would say that it was something I definitely 100% wanted.

    I think it is positive that someone like Arturia (like Modal also) is looking to make a digital hands-on synth without it just being VA – we seem to always be going to back to future in some respects.

    Price-wise it seems okay considering the midi out and CV out maybe more ‘okay’ than the Skuplt in that respect.
    As for the keyboard? I’m no Pro or even that fussy especially but I would have to try it before knowing if it kills the synth or absolutely nails it!

    Someone earlier (obviously not a fan of this synth) only had the hope that it would cause a mass discount of Microbrutes and others have mentioned selling Monologues. I can’t see why as the Freak and Brute/’logue seem very unalike other than manufacturer in the case of the Brute and having ‘Micro’ in front of their names.
    No, in my mind this is a Skulpt competitor though others may yet join this digital readmission to the party.

    One to keep an eye and ear on.

    1. I have a skulpt and they are totally different. this looks to be more of a desktop keyboard (keybed) synth focused on live performance whereas the sculpt profiles more like a desktop module with a keybed that can be used but is ultimately not for performance – also this works more on a knob per function and has a display whereas the skulpt is function menu driven and uses led indicators for values. Personally I am looking to get this when it comes out, it looks great but yeah – not really comparable between the two other than what looks like a morph-able oscillator

  14. Arturia website has been updated to acknowledge open-source Plaits integration instead of claiming a collaboration. Probably a PR person got over-excited but shame to have not crossed the ‘i’s’ etc. beforehand.

    1. cool thanks for the update

      be sure to post a note here the next time you take a shit as well… that info is also vital to our discussion!!

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