Jan 262012

I was fortunate to attend the recent Winter NAMM Show where the Arturia MiniBrute made its debut. For any of you synthfiends who have been frozen in carbonite, trapped in a well, or without a computer or smartphone for the last couple of weeks, the MiniBrute is Arturia’s first analog synth (and arguably one of the most talked-about new products of The NAMM Show). About the size of a Roland SH-101 (but built in a far sturdier aluminum case), the MiniBrute is an analog monosynth–one whose unique and clever features sets it apart from the crowd. As I dug into the details of the MiniBrute, I came across the name of one of the MiniBrute’s designers: Yves Usson–a name I wasn’t familiar with.

Turns out Usson has a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology (!!) who works as a Senior Researcher at France’s T.I.M.C. scientific research center located in the enviable location of Grenoble in the French Alps. Impressive!! Fortunately for analog synth fans everywhere, Usson heard and was fascinated by both Gershon Kinsley’s “Popcorn” and Wendy Carlos’ soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange during his impressionable youth back in the 1970s. From there, his playlist was a familiar mix of prog rock and early mainstream electronic acts. Usson was already dabbling in DIY electronics (for ham radios) and, inspired by his new fascination with electronic music, he decided to build his own modular synthesizer.

After a short 25-year diversion into computer programming, Usson returned to synth DIY in 2000 and has been an active part of the SDIY community ever since, where he’s known as Yusynth, sharing an impressive wealth of knowledge of electrical components, circuit designs, and troubleshooting of SDIY projects. Usson tells the story himself here.

That’s only part of the MiniBrute story, but I’ll save discussion of the Steiner-Parker filter for another time. Congratulations, Arturia and Yves – the MiniBrute is a home-run.

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