A little slice of French cool
Founded in France in 1999, Arturia began life as a collaboration between two friends who were convinced technology could take music production and performance into new realms.
Engineers by trade, the pair began looking at ways they could make the most of emerging technologies. The results speak for themselves. Without the heritage or reputation of some of the more established brands, Arturia was able to carve its own niche in the world of music production.
Its product line-up now is split into two distinct camps; it has an impressive line of fully analogue synths and sound creation devices on one hand and on the other a growing choice of MIDI controller devices for use with DAW software.
Let’s take a look at five of our favourites from the Arturia range.
Arturia Minilab MkII
I have to declare an interest with this first entry; as the proud owner of an Arturia Minilab MkII, I may be somewhat biased. After all, nobody likes to admit if they’ve bought a dud. However, I’m happy to report that this capable little MIDI controller is anything but a dud.
For anyone not aware, a USB MIDI controller, like this one, isn’t used to produce sound itself. It doesn’t have any sound engine built into it; you use it simply to control and perform music produced within a piece of software.
So, for example, if your music production software has built-in pianos, synths, drums or other instruments, you use a USB controller like this one to actually perform. Beats trying to play using a qwerty keyboard, anyway.
But the Minilab has a few neat tricks which elevate it above a basic controller. For a start, it also has eight pads along the top which are used to tap out drum rhythms. As well as that, there are 16 rotary knobs along the top of the device which can be mapped to control any number of parameters within your chosen instrument.
It’s inexpensive, for what it is, and takes our mark as the best pound-for-pound controller in its price-bracket.
In a similar vein to the Minilab is the Arturia Keystep. This slightly expanded offer brings with it a 37 key range with octave up and down controls. It also has full transport controls, which are useful to anyone working in a studio environment. These basically offer full control over play, stop, record and travel within your software. Sounds simple, but anything that reduces the number of times you have to use a mouse to control the recording is a good thing.
It follows the same trend as the Minilab in that it is not going to hurt your wallet too much, yet still delivers in terms of build quality, functionality and versatility.
Moving to the other side of the Arturia offer, we have the Arturia Microbrute. This is a different animal completely, in that it is a fully-fledged analogue synthesizer.
Analogue, as any synth fan knows, is the holy grail of tonality and sound. Using an actual electrical signal – as opposed a digital appropriation – offers users incredible tones and a lot more authenticity. Built-in filters and control over the attack, sustain, decay and release of your sound add up to a comprehensive little beast. A micro brute, you might say.
Operating along the same lines as classic analogue drum machines like the famous Roland TR-808, the Arturia DrumBrute follows the classic path of doing one thing extremely well.
Again, its fully analogue signal path ensures the sounds you’re getting are rich and full of incredible detail, while its simple to use workflow ensures you’ll be creating incredible beats in no time at all.
The final entry in the list is also arguably the single most imposing-looking item in the entire Dawsons stocklist. The Arturia MatrixBrute is the synth you’d show to aliens as if to prove we’re as technologically advanced as them. It looks like you could install it in the bridge of a Star Trek film and use it to cruise the universe.
What the MatrixBrute actually does is arguably even more exciting than its sci-fi appearance. A host of all-analogue oscillators combine to give users a plethora of available sonic weaponry. There are high-quality filters and effects, all of which can be controlled using the MatrixBrute’s comprehensive front panel.
The cherry on the cake is the matrix – hence the name – from which you will be able to programme in all manner of interesting, creative and fun sequences.
In many ways, the MatrixBrute harks back to an older time of analogue synths, yet in its execution, this monster is blazing a trail all of its own making.
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.