Novation is a brand every producer, from bedroom to mastering studio, has heard of or used equipment from. They make absolute outstanding synthesizers, both as hardware or software solutions. Recently they released a few new hardware machines, like the Bass station II, which we reviewed earlier. Novation also released the Mininova synthesizer. A synth that grabbed our interest and we were happy to take a closer look at. Novation Mininova, is it mini or is it big?
The Novation Mininova has an overal decent feel. Every knob, button and switch just feel right. The knobs have a sturdy resistance so you get much more control over the sound you want. The pads require a bit more pressure, which I like, and the switches are real hardware, and give you a real ‘click’. This whole thing just screams ‘oldskool’ to me.
The keys feel solid, and give a nice response to them. The only thing what I have to say is that they are a bit small. Even for people with small hands, like me, there is a chance of misplacing your fingers while playing blind. But, after a while you’ll get used to it.
The display on the Mininova gives you a minimal feedback on chosen sound, tempo, connection, input level and the percentage of your filter levels. The display isn’t that big but it gives you the info you need.
Here we get to my favorite part of the Mininova. I love filters and use them quit a lot. The filter section on the synth here is just absolutely great. The big knob with just the right feel to it and lets you control the amount of color you want or add to the synth.
The sound of the filter is very good, and stays clear even in the lower deep frequencies. The beauty of the filter is that you get more control over your sound via the perform option given to you next to the filter in a six by four matrix. Here you get six options to tweak your sound. From FX, to filter, amp and oscillator. Each option is a combination of these four. Per chosen bank you can then tweak each option in four way’s via knobs beneath the matrix. A few of the options here are: resonance, attack, decay, sustain and release.
When using these you can tweak every pre-programmed sound in your own manner. Creating your very own sound. And isn’t this a thing that we all want?
The mininova has a colorful palette of sounds. You can select these via the big preset knob in a variety of genres and also the classic options to choose your sounds from. With the genre option, Novation tries to give you a bunch of preset sounds which they think are the best option within that genre. The genre given are rock/pop, r&b/hip hop, dubstep, house/techno and DnB/breaks. Yes, they are quite characteristic, but I don’t know if many of you will take this route. I myself prefer the more traditional way of choosing my sound via, either the given classic synth option, or the settings on the left side of the knob where you get the options for: arp, pad/strings, keyboard/lead and bass.
The overall sound a the Mininova is very pleasing. Personally I really liked the pads and the bass section. Both sounded very good to me, especially the bass in combination with the filter. You just get such a nice sound from this unit, astonishing.
The Mininova is a pretty much straight forward synthesizer that lets you control it without the use of a manual or such to get it working. The synth quickly gives you the sounds you need. It’s just all very user friendly, even for users that are new to hardware synthesizers.
The whole layout of the unit is just as you would expect. With the volume controls, menu buttons and screen on the left, the sound settings in the middle and the filter and sound controls on the right.
The screen has a nice backlit LED, which gives you a clear feedback, even on an angle. Also the pads for the Arp, Octaves and the pads for the animate and arpeggiate, even the pitch and mod wheel are all backlit so you can operate them even in the most dark environments.
I also like the fact that the unit both can work, via the accompanied adapter or directly from your computer as it is buss powered. Very handy for the travelling artist amongst us. Being a small synth and handy for ‘on the road’ maybe the option to be battery powerd would be nice. However that’s more of a suggestion then a critique.
Within the arpeggiator you get three options, an on and off button, the tempo, which you can control via a knob and a latch option, which lets your sound repeat itself until you manually press it off again.
You can edit the arpeggiator settings with eight sequence buttons, with these little pads you can program the arp mode to your own settings by switching them on or off. You can just keep re-programming the way you want and even store them as your own for future reference.
Here you get to same eight pads/buttons you have with the arpeggiate option. The only difference is that here you get on color chains in your sound when pressing one of them. Each one of the pads gives you a unique variation to your sound. And the one you like, you can hold so it keeps tweaking the way it does.
The last option on the Mininova, to discuss, is the vocoder, or as novation calls it, VocalTune. With this option you can manipulate your own voice with the Mininova’s own microphone for easy use. The beauty of this option is that you can even pitch adjust your voice, so it will match the key of the song your playing/recording.
Dare I say Daft punk?
The Novation Mininova is a little gem of a synthesizer which gives it’s own unique approach on sound manipulation. It’s a small unit, which I like, for easy traveling or small studios. The whole unit feels very good and the overall sound is amazing. With the filter/perform option as an outstanding feature of the Mininova. Personally I wouldn’t mind to own one!