The Novation Minimova is the latest hardware synth out of the Novation stables, and it looks very tasty indeed…
I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Novation – the BassStation was my first analogue synth, I’ve used their audio interfaces and controllers to kit out multiple college and workshop classes, and they tend to get the balance just right between pushing the envelope and providing the basics on most of their DJ and Production gear.
The Novation Mininova is a diminutive 37 mini key synth, a section of the market that’s had a peppering of products over the past few years but none of which have seemed to have quite the impact of Korg’s Microkorg. Looking at the specs, and importantly Novation’s heritage when it comes to synthesis, Mininova could be about to make a big splash when it hits shelves in October for £299.
Here are the most pertinent specs:
- Sound engine based on Ultranova, Novation’s powerhorse
- MIDI I/O via 5 pin DIN and USB
- 1/4″ stereo output
- 1/4″ or XLR input
- Sustain pedal input
- Separate, keyboard level pitch bend and mod wheels
- Three oscillators, noise generator, two ring modulators
- Saw, pulse, sine, triangle and square plus 20 digital waveforms and 36 wavetables
- Fifteen filter types
- Distortion, compressor, phaser/chorus, delay, reverb, gater, EQ effects
- Five effects per patch
- ‘Animate’ mode for quick momentary recall of tweaks
- 33 pattern arpeggiator
- 18 note polyphony
- Mono-timbral operation
- 256 preset patches
- Power over USB
Breaking it Down
It’s long been my experience that while some people take to MIDI and software like a duck to water, many people find it easier and more intuitive to deal with audio, recording sounds and editing and arranging them directly in their DAW. If this is the approach that you like to take, then a keyboard like the Novation Mininova could be the best purchase you ever make for your studio. It’s petite, easy to use, and thanks to the Ultranova sound engine has a massive amount of sounds that can be quickly and easily tweaked to taste, allowing you to sidestep the more complicated/tedious aspects of synth sound design.
Of course, there’s more to the Novation Mininova than just that, and the MIDI in and out combined with the 1/4″ outputs and mic/instrument input make a pretty convincing argument for a stage performance keyboard. 18 note polyphony should ensure that the extensive effects routing options never cause dropped sounds, and the arpeggiator looks powerful indeed.
If you’re in any doubt as to the sound design capabilities of a three octave wave synth, take a look at our recent ring modulation tutorial that will show you just how dramatically ring modulators can change sounds. Three oscillators and two ring modulators should be ample to pretty much cover the entire spectrum of synthesised sound… but of course, we can’t vouch for it until it’s been in the studio for a good hammering (I mean light fingering, Novation. No hammers will be brought to your synth, honest), so until then it’s over to you to speculate!
What do you think to hardware synths – do they have a place in your software studio? Do you work mainly with hardware anyway? Is the permanence of recording audio a pain you prefer to avoid with software, or does it lend a certain something to your experience? Let us know in the comments!