Arturia MicroFreak by FelixFactory
This is a quick idiosyncratic review of the new microfreak.
The music I make across different acts includes experimental, dream pop, lo fi instrumental hip hop, ambient synth music.
This synth is fun to play. The modulation matrix is useful. The keyboard is unusual but playable. The wide range of synth engines gives you plenty to explore.
My main issue was with the sound. The sound quality is ok, it’s just not particularly impressive. I found it lacking something for me and the styles of music I make.
I decided to put the audio through a moogerfooger with the effect disengaged, ie it was getting some of that moog drive saturation. This instantly took the sound to a place where i was really liking what I was hearing.
So my conclusion is that it’s sound isn’t quite there but it’s not too far off and a bit of external processing may go a long way.
I played around sending the sound through my ms20mini and using the gate output to trigger envelopes. This all sounded fantastic.
I’ve played with it quite a bit now and I’m enjoying exploring the different synth engines. There’s a lot of variety and it’s fun to explore. But I do feel it’s sound needs a bit of something.
Still I’m not complaining. At this price point it’s a great piece of gear and I would replace it immediately if anything happened to it.
Last little gripe. For a synth that’s designed to be used experimentally an extra lfo or envelope would have gone a long way. The cycling envelope is interesting but I feel the synth is asking for another modulation source.
I’m not bothered by the lack of onboard effects as I feel it’s designed to be a part of a bigger setup and you’ll have your favourite effects on hand.
Pros - 1 knob 1 value. Easy (& fun) to use sequencer. Easy to use modulation matrix. Cv out is useful. Very different sounds across the different synth engines. Paraphony is welcome.
Cons - sound quality “not remarkable”, bang average presets, only 1 lfo & envelope (plus cycling envelope), no onboard effects might bother some.
Final point. I don’t think this makes a great first synth. There are some things that might suggest it does, but I see it as a niche sort of synth that will play best with other gear and give a seasoned music maker another set of tools.
A few things would make it far more newby friendly. I think visual representation of the waves would be very useful. And better presets would be the other things. Maybe this can be added in the future.
Last little thing.. some chord shapes are particularly hard for me to play on this keyboard but my wife doesn’t have the same issue. It doesn’t bother me because I’m not trying to play it like a piano. Still, I really struggle with a Bb major 7th chord with my thumb on a black key and the rest on the white keys. Ymmv