Exploring Analog Synth Patching with the Minibrute 2

Intro: Learning to Synth

NOTE: If you just want to see the MB2 patch, feel free to skip this section.

In recent years I have been musically focusing on playing drums (mainly motivated by having a guitar-playing friend to jam and cover some songs with), but a few months ago I got the urge to play some keys again. Only now I wanted something else than classical piano (which I used to play for many years in my youth), something that allows me to play or write music that I also would enjoy listening to. So I came to the embarrassingly late realization that maybe I should check out synthesizers (and maybe learn some basics of jazz improv for fun).

After first buying a Keystep 37 and playing around for a while with Helm and Surge XT in Reaper to learn the basics and get a feeling for synthesis, I felt that I need a hardware synth – some instrument as physical and immediate as my TD-11KV drum set1 and my FP-30X piano. Tweaking knobs only using the mouse in the DAW is too limiting and unergonomic, while mapping them out to a MIDI controller sounds annoying and cumbersome. Also, after work I strongly prefer to get away from the computer screen, mouse and keyboard. Long story short – after lots of research2, I have acquired a little synth collection:

I might not strictly need the S-1, but it was far too tempting – even if I end up only using it as an ultra-portable toy. The Hydrasynth, however, is certainly a dream of a synthesizer. I guess technically, there is no need for anything else3, but just out of curiosity, I bought a used Minibrute 2 for a decent price, so I could also dip my feet into analog semi-modular synths.

Let’s Patch the Minibrute 2

Without further ado, here’s a fun little patch I created with the Minibrute 2, probably the most complex one so far. Mainly, because I ran out of patch cables after wiring up all of the 8 cables that came with the Minibrute.

The Minibrute 2 patch

I hope the actual patching should be clear enough based on the image, and in the following I will try to explain what is actually going on here.


By default, the AD Envelope modulates the volume, while the ADSR envelope modulates the filter cutoff of the synth. Here, the ADSR envelope is patched to modulate the volume instead, and is set to produce a rather pad-like sound. The now free AD envelope is repurposed to be a third LFO (by setting it into Loop mode). Its attack and decay are set to produce another sawtooth-like wave, and with the attack set to zero, the AD Decay effectively controls the LFO rate.

Green Areas

The third LFO (i.e. the AD envelope) is used to modulate the filter resonance. The Resonance and RM knobs are essentially defining the minimum and maximum resonance, i.e. the range in which the AD-based LFO can modulate it. This creates a layer of clicky sounds at a speed controlled by the AD Decay.

Blue Areas

LFO2 is attenuated by Att 1 and is responsible for a slow filter sweep (i.e. it controls the filter cutoff frequency). The LFO2 rate controls the modulation speed, the Att 1 knob controls the modulation strength (i.e. frequency interval around the center), while the cutoff knob defines the center of the modulation range.

Yellow Areas

The mod wheel is patched to control a tremolo effect, instead of the standard vibrato (i.e., to modulate volume instead of pitch). The output volume is modulated by LFO1, which is attenuated by Att 2. The LFO1 rate sets the tremolo frequency, the mod wheel can be used to control tremolo between none at all and the maximum strength, which is defined by the Att 2 knob.

Conclusion: Personal Impressions

I do like the straight-forward ergonomics of the Minibrute 2 – the immediacy of a knob-per-function design does have some magical appeal. Also, it is the only compact synth I own with full-sized keys and it has really nice mod and pitch bend wheels. All my other devices at most have touch strips for modulation, and I can say that I really do enjoy and prefer the feeling of a sturdy metal wheel. The full-size keys are nice to have, but I already have a digital piano with MIDI output – no compact synth keybed can beat that anyway. The sequencer and arpeggiator look to me exactly like the ones provided by the Keystep, so no surprises here.

The Arturia-specific Brute factor knob is neat, but I found no practical use for turning it up more than halfway, when it goes into heavy feedback mode that is hard to tame or control. Up until the midpoint though, I do like turning it up to add more warmth and fatness to the sound. I think that the Minibrute sounds pretty good even without any external effects, and that is (from what I’ve heard) not always a given for for synths in the entry-to-mid price range.

I can appreciate the Minibrute 2 for what it is, but after playing around with it a bunch of evenings, I got the feeling (actually, a confirmation) that I am neither an analog nor modular synth kind of person. It is well known that analog synths are much more expensive than similarly sounding and equally feature-rich digital synths, while being more clunky and heavy at the same time. Having no irrational prejudice against digital synths, the only advantage of an analog synth that I see is its suitability for a (semi-)modular setup.

Only that I noticed that I really dislike having to deal with cables (it is such a mess and PITA), and really miss the ability to save my work. I have let the Minibrute sit untouched and collect dust for weeks before writing this up, because I wanted to properly document this patch (mostly for the “tricks” I used and/or came up with) before moving on to the next experiment. And this patch is still not much at all, compared to what other people happily deal with in their modular setups, and even compared to what I can easily do with my Hydrasynth – without any limitations and inconveniences caused by cables, and with the ability to quickly save the result and restore it later. As I apparently tend to gravitate towards more complex patches and prefer powerful modulation capabilities, and at the same time despise the cable mess, analog and modular gear does not make much sense for me.

I don’t regret buying the Minibrute at all, and it taught me a thing or two about old-school analog patching and my own synth preferences, but I am not sure whether I am going to keep it. Neither do I have the desk space, nor can I see a real need for it. My Hydrasynth is hands-down better as the ultimate sound design workstation, whereas the S-1, paired with the Keystep, already fill the simple, light-weight and super portable niche in my setup.4 In any case – it was quite some fun playing with you, Minibrute 2!


I’ve been owning and using the TD-11KV for over 8 years now, and I have almost no complaints. The investment to have all drums as mesh-heads was absolutely worth it, giving me a close-to-natural drumming experience without neighbors you share a wall with starting to hate you (except, possibly, because of the bass pedal).


If all you knew before were are classical instruments, the market and available options for synthesizers and related gear is absolutely overwhelming (even more so for software instruments / VST plugins). It’s quite some effort to cut through the noise and hype, to see what actually matters in general and also for me personally.


Except maybe a Micromonsta 2, for the bi-timbrality. Sadly, it’s super difficult to get the hands on one (making me want it even more). I guess I’ve caught a mild case of GAS. To keep it in check, my rule of thumb is to only buy new gear that is not redundant in my setup and fills some real gap or has a special strength or feature.


I still consider (half jokingly) keeping it for no other reason than these nice mod and pitch wheels. In hindsight, maybe I just should have bought a Hydrasynth Deluxe. Then I could sell both my FP-30X and Minibrute 2 without second thoughts.