It’s tough to choose between the Micro and its big brother, the MiniBrute. If we were doing eleven of the best we’d probably include both, but rules are rules and we only have space for ten, so it’s the smaller of the two which makes the cut.
The original MiniBrute was a game changer in more ways than one. Firstly, it was a rare case of a software manufacturer making the leap into hardware rather than the other way around. Secondly, Arturia came up with a unique-sounding synth, thanks to the unusual Steiner-Parker filter implemented with the help of synth DIY guru Yves Usson.
The MicroBrute is the spirit of the MiniBrute distilled down even further into its raw essence. We retain the Steiner-Parker filter but lose an oscillator. The arpeggiator is replaced by a sequencer and there’s only one envelope, but we gain a semi-modular patch bay for modulation routing.
OK, the two-octave mini keyboard is a little on the budget side and the plastic case might not live up to the standards of some of the more expensive models on our list, but everything has to be taken in context. What we have here is an incredibly capable synth at a very affordable price. The built-in step sequencer is a retro throwback which is actually surprisingly useful, while the mini patch bay proves handy for interfacing with modular gear and coming up with interesting patches by modulating parameters.
A few years ago, the idea that you’d be able to pick up an analogue synth this good for such a bargain price would have been unthinkable. The MicroBrute should be on any shortlist of a first ‘proper’ synth, but it’s good enough that it’ll also pull its weight alongside much less humble keyboards.