New gear is great, but how about new life from your existing gear? Arturia’s pint-sized wundersynth just got a huge update: load your own custom user samples, and work with a sampling or one of three different granular engines and random per-key modulation. It’s really about the most fun little synth around.

If you don’t already have a MicroFreak, there’s also the pretty new limited edition Stellar Edition pictured here. Good for variety, but I’m happy with my OG model.

The V5 is a free update; it’s announced today but while they put some last finishing touches on it, it’ll be a few more days before it’s available. (I’m using a prerelease firmware, though, and I’m really happy with it.)

I mean, come on – it’s a 4-voice granular synth for 349€ on top of everything else it does. The MicroFreak is almost a no-brainer alongside a modular, even, since it packs a ton of additional sonic power and a keyboard in a small space. With the ability to use the new sample and granular engines and your own sounds, it’s also a wide-open canvas sonically.

This is really a creative sample-based engine, not a full-fledged sampler/ROMpler – it’s more about making imaginative use of short samples, even in the “sample” engine. But of course, that’s a lot of fun, and a perfect fit for the MicroFreak.

You can also modulate all those features, which allows some out-there possibilities on all the engines.

In short, the new features:

Custom user samples. Via MIDI Control Center, you can import up to 24 seconds of your own sample content. Note that this does replace the factory content, so it’s worth giving the factory sounds a try first. Once you have that sound content, you can work with it using all the engines – sample + 3x granular. (Factory patches do depend on that content, so it’s up to you when you’re ready to toss those presets and start from scratch.)

Sample engine. Wave (start), Timbre (length), Shape (loop length) – so think short samples and lots of adventurous looping. Timbre is bipolar – a negative value gives you reverse playback (so you need a positive start value).

Cloud engine. Overlapping textures with Wave (grain start), Timbre (density + size), Shape (randomization of start and length).

Scan. Cloud, but with Wave controlling scan speed. This also gives you vintage / early digital time-stretching, with all the beautiful artifacts.

Hit. Percussive and clicky granular patches. Wave, and instead of a consolidated Timbre control, separate Density and Size controls.

Random per-key modulation. The Matrix Key/Arp row now can generate a new random value for each key pressed: Utility > Preset > Modulations > Key/Arp Mode -> Set it to Random. So that can be obviously subtle/analog-ish or Aphex Twinny.

The other way to describe that is that the keyboard itself is an S&H modulation source. (Arturia described it both ways – sort of looking at the glass or looking at the water.)

Per-key modulation also pairs well with the new sample engines.

Snappier envelopes. New option for envelopes. Recursive modulation of the envelope with itself via the PolyBrute.

512 preset slots. Expanded preset availability, now over 300 factory presets.

I really love this one, so give me some time and I’ll do some more detailed hands-on videos. Let me know if you have questions about this or anything else MicroFreak.

You’ll be able to get your hands on it on May 30th, so I can prep you by then.

Before someone asks – while there was some use of Mutable Instruments oscillator types for the initial release of MicroFreak, as far as I know, this is an entirely new engine. (Granular synthesis at this point of course has some established ways of working.)

And oh yeah, this is all in addition to packing all the great Noise Engineering stuff into MicroFreak: