Arturia’s MicroFreak is about as much sonic exploration as you can get in any single low-cost synth on the market now. And now it adds more – a new vocoder.
There are two ways to get the vocoder. There’s a limited-edition MicroFreak Vocoder Edition with different color styling and a gooseneck mic. Or you can take any existing MicroFreak and update the firmware (BYO microphone or other input, of course). Either would make a pretty decent bargain buy, because even the limited edition is just $349 / 329€. The former gray-colored MicroFreak you can get for around 250 $/€ even new.
Either way, you get the ability to process external sound signal – from another machine or a microphone – through a powerful 16-band Vocoder engine.
You select a Vocoder oscillator, and then twist the Wave knob to get saw, variable pulse width, or noise waves.
Timbre lets you dial in the frequency range you want.
Shape adjusts filter bandwidth.
They’ve packed in a lot of features, including switching on or off the vocoder “hiss” and adjusting its volume, plus a useful noise gate and automatic microphone detection. There are also 16 presets.
The manual has been updated with a useful appendix that explains what a vocoder is, where it came from historically, and how to properly calibrate things like gain settings when you sing into your MicroFreak.
But in case it wasn’t obvious, this isn’t just for singing into a MicroFreak – it should be a powerful way of processing drum machines and whatnot, too.
A limited edition ‘Freak
The MicroFreak is just a lot of fun – tons of sonic range, a clever keyboard, all in an inexpensive little package. (And if you get into it, you should also check out Mutable Instruments’ modules, which included some open source oscillator types that Arturia adapted for their design.)
Basically what the Vocoder Edition adds is a gooseneck mic, and a limited-edition color scheme – swan graphic, white design instead of gray.
You can plug in anything you like on the original (or in place of the gooseneck on the limited edition) using the 3.5mm headphone jack as a TRRS input. Updated: the gooseneck mic will also be a $29 add-on, so the original is cheaper if you can find the mic. But the gooseneck mic – or any other input – connect the same way on both the original MicroFreak and the Vocoder Edition. Both use that headphone jack.