The Arturia MiniBrute is a monophonic, pure analog synthesizer designed and manufactured by Arturia, a French synthesizer software and hardware company. Although the MiniBrute was the first piece of hardware created by Arturia—which had previously exclusively marketed software synthesizers—it generated strong sales.
The MiniBrute takes some cues from vintage monophonic synthesizers, such as the Roland SH-101 and Minimoog. However, it also incorporates modern technology to increase its versatility and the depth of its sound. The synthesizer uses a single, highly shapeable oscillator, which can be processed through a multimode Steiner-Parker filter and multiple LFOs.
Before releasing the MiniBrute, Arturia was known for its affordable software synthesizers. These were generally faithful software emulations of classic analog synthesizers, such as the Moog 3C and Moog 55. The MiniBrute was the first piece of hardware manufactured by Arturia. Following the 2010 NAMM Show, Arturia CEO Frédéric Brun began to receive word that American customers were interested in small, low-cost analog synthesizers, which were not available at the time. In June 2010, Arturia reached out to synthesizer designer Yves Usson of YuSynth in order to gain insight into the production of analog hardware. Usson designed schematics for the circuitry of the MiniBrute and helped troubleshoot technical problems. The release of the MiniBrute was first announced at the 2012 NAMM Show.
There was some uncertainty about whether or not a monophonic synthesizer would sell well compared to contemporary digital and analog competitors, which were mostly polyphonic. New analog monosynths were not common at the time. Despite this, Arturia invested resources in the unit’s build quality and produced a fairly large first run.
The MiniBrute uses a single oscillator, which is reminiscent of synthesizers such as the ARP Axxe of the 1970s or Roland SH-101 of the 1980s. Also like the SH-101, the MiniBrute gives the option to mix pure analog waveforms to generate unique shapes. However, at the insistence of hardware designer Yves Usson, Arturia chose to depart somewhat from these vintage synthesizers by using a modern modification of a 12db/octave Steiner-Parker multimode filter—like those found in rare Steiner-Parker Synthacons—rather than emulating those used in more popular machines, which were often 24db/octave to produce a “beefier” effect. The MiniBrute’s filter also eliminates the technical limitations of more common filters, which tend to have a single mode. Usson had also considered emulating the Korg MS-20 filter and various others, but ultimately elected to use a filter that was not already widely available in other machines.
Usson is known for his DIY work with synthesizers, especially modular synthesizers. This is reflected in some design elements of the MiniBrute. For example, the MiniBrute includes an effect called Brute Factor, which is a form of overdrive. It is inspired by the technique of rerouting the voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA) output on a Moog Minimoog to be processed through the synthesizer again. However, Brute Factor does not require any patching, as it is built into the MiniBrute. Additionally, Usson has made technical diagrams for the MiniBrute’s circuitry available on his website, HackABrute, to encourage users to modify their machines. He has also included proposed modifications that have been tested. However, making modifications to the internal system, including those listed on the site, voids Arturia’s product warranty.