Arturia Microfreak | 130 custom sounds
(compatible with all MF models, OS ver 4.0 and higher)


FAQ / read before you buy

Via Instant Buy & Download:
Click your preferred currency: $13.90 (USD) / €13.90 (EUR) / £12.90 (GBP) – This platform works with credit & debit cards and / or PayPal. You will receive a download link to your e-mail after the purchase (check your spam folder too).

Via PayPal or Bank Card manually:
Please write to me [wcologarb at gmail.com] and let me know that you would like to get the Microfreak soundset. I will create a payment request and manually send the files to you.

How many patches?:
You will receive all the sounds from my Youtube & Soundcloud demos plus extra sounds that are not included in the demos. This is 133 patches in total. You will also get all the sequences that I play and the custom wavetables used in the sounds.

What format / import method?:
My patches come as a project file in a “mbprojz” format – a soundbank that can be imported into your Microfreak via Arturia MCC software (standard procedure from the user’s manual). The same applies to my custom wavetables (“mfwbz” format). The majority of sequences are stored within the patches, but some of my sequences come in “.mid” format and can be imported to your DAW and then fed to your Microfreak.

What genre / style?:
There is no one style, because it is you who decides what style these patches will be played in. It’s a wide variety of sounds that are meant to inspire, make you look at the synth in a different light and give you a great choice of directions. Some patches are bread & butter, some offbeat; they’re the result of me trying to find the limits of the instrument. The patches are ready-to-use in music or can serve as starting points; you can find the textures or the dynamics that you like and tweak them to suit your exact taste or purpose. I tried not to include patches that would overlap with any other soundsets out there, so 90% of my patches should be original-sounding to you.

Any external stuff?:
As you all know the Microfreak is monoaural and has no onboard FX. It sounds slightly different and more “stereo” in my demo because some of the sounds have been EQ-ed, and many of the sounds have a chorus and / or stereo delay & reverb applied (but nothing that would dramatically alter the original timbre of the synth like phasers, flangers, pitch shifters, etc). The wet / dry ratio is usually 20:80 (or 20% mix in other words), reaching 50:50 in a few patches (I used the simplest presets on a Lexicon MX). I wanted to make the sounds nice for the ear but I also wanted show the true sound of this synth without too much embellishment or experimentation. Check this comparison: SoundCloud.

Notes on grades lower than 3/3:

[modern]: lots of potential, but this is not a Korg Opsix
[vintage]: as a mono synth it may be good enough, but poly sounds become tricky
[engine]: the engine is great for some sounds but too limited for others
[low end]: low end is there, but bass patches are not really the strong point
[high end]: average, not as crystalline & bright as e.g. Novation Peak / Summit
[timbre plasticity]: impressive range of oscillators / timbres, but this is not a Hydrasynth;)
[versatility]: seems it can do everything, but this “everything” is always limited in some way
[build q]: not bad, but the body is plastic, touring is risky
[ui & ease of use]: no option for battery power, keybed sometimes tricky


MICRO INTRO

I had never seriously thought about buying the Microfreak because I’m a vehement opponent of the miniaturization trend, but you voted for it (in the “next jexus demo” poll) in such vast numbers that I thought I needed to check it out and see if I can make some sounds for ya;)

There was also one more reason that kept me disinclined to dive into the Microfreak. There were so many people all over the Internet who were so excited about the synth’s numerous oscillator types and the supposed potential for sound creation that it brought… but all the patches I heard in these demos did not live up to the hype. It does seem interesting and intriguing to have 13 oscillator types when $3000 synths have just one, and maybe it’s cool if your $400 synth can sound like a robot spelling out some nerdy word, but for me the end question has always been this: what real value does it bring after the initial excitement has worn off and the “powerfulness” of the synth has been explicitly demonstrated with flamboyant examples? So when I received my unit, I quickly learned that in order to avoid ending up with these curious-yet-crappy sounds, we have to either give the instrument some time and effort (lesson 1: shortcuts in life are rare), or run it through some outboard FX (lesson 2: that’s not the end of expenses).

MICRO LIFE

Just by looking at the above “sum-up” grade table (which has the largest number of additional / explanatory notes of all my synths) we can tell the Microfreak is something out-of-the-ordinary. And since this thing comes from France, let me call it the Citroen of synths. In case you’re too young to know what early Citroens were like, I’ll say this: controversial design, crazy physics (pneumatic suspension – was it actually the first lowrider?;) Some people love Citroens, others start behaving like Hitler when they see one.

I’d say this for a start: the MF is the smallest synths I have ever held in my hands, and I really don’t want to go any smaller than that. It is obviously a design choice, but I think a certain threshold is being tested here. Korg broke that barrier with the Volcas while Behringer did the same with the Spirits / Souls. I have a headache simply looking at these “nano” synths and trying to imagine putting my fingers on those miniscule knobs & buttons. Microfreak does not give me a headache nor a fingerache – the threshold has not been crossed / overstretched. But the synth does have its quirks and it does compromise the comfort in some degree.

The “micro” synths obviously win in portability, but the micro size comes at a price. I can only wonder if Arturia did not install a second oscillator because they wanted to keep the synth simple, or they didn’t have the physical space to do so. Or they reserved it for the bigger Freaks like the incoming Minifreak? There are many things that seem to be missing from this synth’s engine or its front panel if you compare it to “normal” synths, but this does not have to be a deal-breaking downside. I don’t think the Microfreak was ever planned to have anything in common with “normal” synths. The very word “Microfreak” is the best and the most fair name that could ever be invented for this kind of instrument. And if you browse the user manual, you’ll see passages like “a tip – here’s a freaky idea”. So I guess it has all been about freakiness from the very beginning. Looks like a new generation of people has taken over the helm and they’re now steering the ship off the boring route – or routine;)

USER INTERFACE

Working with the MF brings to my mind an imaginary situation: a meeting between an elephant and a venomous ant. I’m the big & strong elephant, but it is me who has to adjust and watch my steps. There’s no point getting angry with the ant, you just have to find your way around it and accept the uniqueness of the situation. And like with every unique situation, there are upsides that would not have been possible in a “standard” situation.

Firstly let me say that MF is a “shortcut synth”. By using just the orange-colored knobs of the oscillator section you can achieve things that would require a considerable mod-matrix diving on other synths. Here the structures / textures are semi-ready from the get-go, and you can quickly adjust them to reach a goal.

On the other hand, there’s no “fine-tune” level beneath this “shortcut surface”; there’s no “Osc Tune” knob, no independent “Decay” and “Release” stages in the envelopes, or other traditional solutions that you find in your more down-to-earth synths.

Next: the keyboard. Installing touch capacitor plates was a great idea as it makes the synth more expressive and fun. It’s a big part of the instrument’s personality and its playability. It can also be used to control anything else that supports poly aftertouch but does not phisically have it.

On the downside, this type of keyboard can be sensitive, finicky, and cause undersirable triggers. I do not understand why the white keys are coated all the way up. If you let your finger sway one milimeter to the side off your black key, it will trigger both the black key and the white key.

Oh, and I have to tell ya about one more thing: my skin got too dry after 1 hour of playing and the keyboard stopped working. I guess I was not the only one experiencing this, because there’s a section in the manual that says this: “If the skin on your fingers is very dry the keyboard may not respond as expected. A simple test is to lick your fingers! If the response improves you could research more permanent solutions such as staying hydrated, buying a skin moisturizer, etc.”

Now this is really freaky. I’m not like Eddie Murphy; I don’t have germophobia and I don’t wash my hands 100 times per day, but I’d rather not lick my fingers;) I’d rather go to the bathroom and fix my finger there. Anyways, both scenarios are something I have never thought of (or done) during my sound design sessions. The MF got me wondering about the hydration level of my body and the dryness of my skin. Again, the venomous ant makes you change your ways and think outside the box.

One more word, this time from my friend: “I’m not sure how well it can stand up to the road. Ours broke a week before we had a show. My bandmate had to go out and buy another one. We’re just gonna keep two Microfreaks from now on, one as a backup. I came to realize the price of the Microfreak is actually two Microfreaks – if you really want to have a reliable machine for the road you gotta have two of them. That’s the major downside.”

THE SOUND

Trying to describe the nature of the MF sound is either a challenge or a fool’s game. The basic, unprocessed tone brings to mind the mid-rangey “Arturia sound” catchphrase (for the lack of a better word), but here this sound is noticeably different than the sound of the Matrixbrute. The big brother is equipped with FX and two serial / parallel filters and sounds more organic, while the little sister sounds pretty tight & abrasive. Some people will even call it “flat” and simply “bad”. But the good news is that it can shape-shift like a chameleon, Jeff Bezos or other reptilians.

At the beginning it’s easy to dial in and jump back & forth between a “cheesy toy organ” type of sound and a “pro” wavetable-synth type of sound. Then, with some work you can make the MF catch a vibe of the DSI Evolver, the Oberheim Matrix-6, the Ensoniq ESQ-1 or any old 12-bit sampler. Getting Prophet-6 or Moogy or other juicy / traditionally analogue sounds is much harder, if not impossible. Still, the timbre plasticity department is the strongest asset of this machine, and if there is a synth that could be described as “having a sound of its own yet sounding like something else each time you change the patch” – that’s the Microfreak.

There’s quite a lot of stuff inside that lets us tweak the texture and the dynamics of a sound: adjustable unison, mod matrix with assignable slots, syncable LFO, and animation lanes to name a few. The possibility of importing custom wavetables opens a new world – it almost turns the Microfreak into a new synth. It won’t beat the aforementioned Hydrasynth or the Opsix in their breadth or expressiveness, but if we take the dimensions as a factor, the sound design potential is several times the physical size. It boosts the synth’s price-to-features ratio into the stratosphere.

On the downside, all the little quirks and limitations rear their head quite often. Mono (monoaural) output, four voices of paraphony, glitchy envelopes, one filter and no effects keeps all those versatile patches in one camp, so to speak. I do realize all the things I’ve said so far may sound contradictory, but it’s the best description I can come up with. I don’t know what to call the MF sound, but I do know what I would never call it – I would never call it “soft” (as in Prophet-6 or the UDO Super-6) or “hi-fi” (as in Novation Peak / Summit or other FPGA synths).

I’m going to give you one more analogy: the MF is like an SUV that is equipped with all the vacation gear you can possibly load into it, but the headlights are broken so half of the world’s police won’t let you in to their country. If you want to pass the checkpoint, an external FX unit will serve as bribe…

OUTRO

So let me collect all the freaky thoughts that have germinated in my head since my purchase of the Microfreak. It seems like this is the kind of synth that is best understood and used most successfuly while in the hands of the experiment-oriented people who don’t like to stay in one place for too long. This point becomes even more valid if you add to it the aforementioned idea (or the necessity) of processing your Microfreak’s output with an external pedal or FX unit. This synth pushes you out of your comfort zone – you must experiment or otherwise perish. Without any more or less clever mod matrix tricks and without any chorus / delay / reverb the synth sounds kind of obtuse. With the cheapest TC / Lexicon out there it sounds practically indistinguishable from any “pro” synth (in a mix), and this is where the “MF has no effects” argument may actually turn into a benefit, an upside. Arturia gives you the freedom of choice as to what kind of effect you want to pair the MF with. The Sequential TAKE-5 proudly comes with internal FX, but it got me thinking: what sounds better and / or more interesting? The $400 Microfreak plus a $300 processor, or the $1500 Take-5 with built-in effects? I dare say it’s the first option. If you counter me by saying the TAKE-5 is a “completely different synth”, we can exchange it for the Modal Cobalt-8 (v1) – but my thoughts will remain the same: Cobalt can sound super smooth & lush or raw & brutal, but at the end of the day the MF + FX combo is a more powerful chameleon and more fun. Just don’t let the initial “infantile” aura of this 1-oscillator sound turn you against the MF. Oftentimes it does sound like a toy, but it’s only the question of your will to take it out of the kindergarten and into the world of grown-ups. Everybody should hear it in a mix (or context), not by itself. It has a very special & interesting “tonal charisma”, and it sounds great & exciting as often as it sounds bad & obnoxious.

The other half (or part) of your success lies within the synth’s interface and its freaky features – you have to take advantage of them to make it shine. Sitting in front of it and tweaking it like you tweak your Peak, your Prophet or your Deepmind just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not your traditional “sound design synth”. The touch capacitor keyboard with poly aftertouch plus the spice & dice randomization of sequences turn this micro box into a performance-oriented tool where a large portion of the job is done by the more or less conscious movements of your hands, as opposed to the standardized thought-processes of your head. It’s a synth that has brought creative randomization as close to your fingertips as possible, literally and figuratively. So don’t stand there like a lazy elephant, move it! And if you’re too big, get yourself the MINI-Freak!


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This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Falk

    “I do not understand why the white keys are coated all the way up. If you let your finger sway one milimeter to the side off your black key, it will trigger both the black key and the white key.”

    Yes, yes, and yes! While i like the non-clanky expressiveness, thats my pet peeve. Well, got it for ~230€ or so; not much space needed for that novelty factor Due to the compactness, it is being delegated to the office in a toys-for-breaks function, soon-ish. The Minifreak is too large for me, so no poly-Plaits soon…

    1. Jexus WCOG

      Minifreak too large? Wait until you see the SuperFreak;)

  2. Anonymous

    Seems the microFreak just got out of kindergarten…

    And is addressing most of the shortcomings you mentioned: two oscs per voice, 6 voices polyphony, 6 filters, FX, stereo outs…
    even adds lots more modulation sources/targets, second user definable LFO, assignable macros…

    Are you planning to update your review/patches?

    1. Jexus WCOG

      Hi there! You are talking about the new “Minifreak” model, aren’t you? This is a completely different synth and I will have to create a separate video & review for it:) I don’t think there will be patch compatibility between the Micro & the Mini. Different engines.

    1. Jexus WCOG

      Well, that’s why your mama gave you the name Jimmy Fingers!

  3. Cruz

    Excellent review and sounds like a good outboard FX unit is the way to go. I dont own one and not sure if I will but Im super curious thank to your review.

  4. Martin

    I own microfreak and for me the Zoom G1 four is an excellent unit to go with MF. It serves mono input and output like MF and has tons of great effects which you can chain in series,plus some drum patterns and a looper. Not to mention its low price..

    1. RPLKTR

      Nothing wrong with a G1 but if you use an effects unit with stereo output like the MS-50G or MS-70CDR you can get much more high fidelity results. This is why even back in the day the cheap Juno 6 had stereo chorus: it’s just much more engaging.

      Stereo delay allows for much more wetness without sounding muddy. Stereo reverb allows for more realistic sounding spaces. And so on, and so on.

  5. George Papageorgiou

    Will you give me permission to stalk the comment sections of all your synth reviews and start begging for a Prophet12 review?

    I am asking nicely, I don’t want to be “that” guy…

    1. Jexus WCOG

      I have the Prophet-6 up next, but I guess that won’t satisfy you;)

      1. RjP

        On the 13 th of October post, just noticed- “I have the Prophet-6 up next”. Do you confirm it? Really looking forward to Your take on the – Modern/ Original and Vintage/Organic Vs Timbre/ Variety and Patch/ Versatility regarding the P6. The you tube demos out there don´t seem to help much( tend to focus too much on the P6 vs P5).
        Thanks, man

        1. Jexus WCOG

          Yes, I can confirm a Prophet-6 demo is coming:)

  6. Adam Baldwin

    Great review. You have a way of painting a picture when describing what it’s like to work with a synth. It’s both informative and entertaining in a way unlike anyone else.

  7. Rob

    Thanks for the very informative and great review!
    Now I have only one question, where is the video with your patches?

    1. Jexus WCOG

      Thanks! Well, this is an early review for my supporters at my Patreon site, how did you find the link?;) I’m working on the patches and the video, should be ready first week of October 2022.

  8. Cole

    You could get yourself a damp sponge like they have at the Post Office for wetting stamps. I like your comment about the lack of effects being a benefit in disguise. Which effect processors are your favorites?

    1. Jexus WCOG

      I don’t have to get a sponge as it’s enough to make a short break once in a while and the skin will get back to normal;) I don’t really use external FX much. But I do like stuff from PSP audioware.

    2. Voltcontrol

      Damp Sponge should have been one of the patch names. Nice re-take on the MF. The Bezos line generated a chuckle too. Top work Mr. Jexus!

      1. Jexus WCOG

        Ha! I still have part 2 in the editing suite. I’ll see if “damp sponge” fits any of the patches;)

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