bark and bite

After watching several demos, reading more reviews and thinking more about how I make music — and then seeing someone selling a MiniBrute 2S for considerably less than average — I wound up going for that.

It’s bigger than I was expecting, pretty much like the Microbrute was smaller than I expected when I got it. In the 2010s slang size scale, it’s not quite an absolute unit, but it is thicc. It feels really solid and good, though in appearance it’s a weird anachronistic smear of decades — faux wood sides like an 80s home appliance, but the big numeric LCD is blue rather than red, and there are 2010s style colorful light-up rubber buttons.

The sound is great, defaulting more to “beefy” than other things but there’s so much versatility there, it refuses to be pinned down. The patch bay is an extremely powerful tool compared to the extreme limitations of the Microbrute’s few patch points, and I haven’t even patched it to my Eurorack gear yet. Maybe I just haven’t used the right oscillators before, but its main VCO will do dynamic expo FM combined with sync without sounding gross, and that’s pretty notable. It also does linear FM, AM patching is possible, and this time you can feed any signal through the metalizer.

The patch bay does have some limits, and there are a few design choices that seem odd (but mostly reveal their purpose with a little experimentation). I’d gladly give up the Inverter for direct filter input and output — great for using the filter as an oscillator, patching the metalizer post-filter, filtering the square but not the triangle, etc. The two onboard attenuators have other inputs normalled to their outputs, so sometimes you need an extra dummy cable to rein things in. And for some reason pad velocity doesn’t affect volume unless you patch it through the extra VCA; it could have defaulted that way. But overall, it is hot stuff indeed.

The patch I have set up right now is pretty reminiscent of one of Isao Tomita’s “baritone singing voice” patches, and is quite beefy. It’s using expo FM, the metalized triangle, and lowpass filter with a lot of resonance and fair amount of “Brute Factor” (a sort of drive/feedback patch), with pad pressure controlling the filter cutoff. Just a particularly great sweet spot I stumbled into.

With its nifty sequencer, it’d make a fantastic friend to a groovebox, with mad 303-esque bass/melody lines (but a better sound than the 303 which I’m honestly pretty tired of). I’m unlikely to use that style in my own music, but it’s fun to jam with, especially given that the arpeggiator can interrupt the sequencer and keep playing in time with the rhythm, and you can also temporarily hold loops in the sequence, and tweak it live. It’s very performable, which is great.

The plan is to replace the Medusa. Now… there are things I like about the Medusa that I will probably miss:

  • Medusa’s synth engine may be a lot more plain overall compared to MB2S, but that does kind of highlight its expo FM and filter FM possibilities. Which simply means that I need to show restraint sometimes with my synthesis techniques.
  • Medusa is paraphonic with up to 6 voices, where MB2S is monophonic (or duophoonic if the oscs are separately controlled/sequenced, which is possible even internally). That being said, I still have the Microfreak and software synths, Just Friends can be paraphonic and many of my digital oscillators will produce chords or clusters or swarms.
  • Medusa’s grid controller is very clever, with 8×8 pads that support X/Y movement and pressure, and selectable scales and adjustable layout. MB2S has just one chromatic octave of note pads, so it’s not something for solos with big leaps. I do like those leaps sometimes…
  • Medusa’s sequencer is also cool, with its parameter locks. But they are also a little unfriendly to edit, and I wasn’t really using the parameter lock that stuff much in my music. MB2S’s more groovebox-like sequencer does offer a couple of extra CV channels that will give me a decent amount of variety though.

I appreciate that the synth engine on this is 100% analog, totally knob-per-function. The sequencer is digital of course, but its output is four signals available in the patch bay — pitch and gate, plus two more CVs that can be velocity and pressure (synced to pitch/gate) or generic unipolar CV, additional pitch and/or gate, AD envelopes (with adjustable attack/decay per step) or LFOs of various shapes (with adjustable speed and amplitude per step).

I’m going to ponder controller possibilities while I get to know this instrument both on its own and integrated with my modular.

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