Review: MFB Microzwerg

 

MFB’s medium sized semi-modular synthesizer

MFB MicrozwergMy experiences with the Nanozwerg were enough to warrant buying it’s slightly bigger brother. The oscillators sound good, the modular functions keep surprising you with new sounds and Manfred Fricke always squeezes a few extra functions in the machine, in this case by using a ‘shift’ button. The shift button plays a major role in this machine, as this is the button you use to change between filters 1 and 2, the 2 oscillators, and the LFO settings. The normal oscillators and low frequency oscillators feature the familiar triangle, saw and square waveforms but both OSC’s and LFO’s have an extra trick up their sleeves. OSC 1 features a ring modulator while OSC 2 offers white noise, the LFO has an added ramp in it’s waveforms while LFO 2 has sample & hold.

 

MFB Microzwerg & NanozwergThe Nanozwerg’s bigger brother brings more modularity and patch points than it smaller sibling (the smaller yellow synthesizer pictured on the left). It looks a bit cooler in dark blue with it’s many patch points above the controls, but together they offer a very cool modular combination. Both dwarfs (zwerg being the German word for dwarf) also go well together by using both machines together using the CV (control voltage) in- & outputs. The audio signals can be combined via the ‘VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) add’ and filter inputs. The downside also being the same semi-modularity, with an emphasis on ‘semi’. Not everything can be done, like the lack of being able to adjust the incoming CV value, or scaling as it’s called. This is where a full modular rack would really step-up the sound-designing game. Like the Nanozwerg the filter isn’t awe inspiring but does it’s job well with the 12dB per octave it offers. The resonance is a bit too eager to scream, but together with a distortion pedal this doesn’t have to be a problem. Since I would really would like to expand my studio with a full modular synth in rack format, I’ll probably make use of external filters pretty soon anyway. And there’s always the option to use plugin’s (within a digital audio workstation) to do the filtering. I already play my synths via MIDI inside a DAW and triggering a digital filter is as easy as using the same MIDI notes to trigger the filter’s cut-off.

Because I’ve already tested the Nanozwerg the Micorzwerg isn’t surprising me soundwise. Well, not a lot as I’ve already heard some mad things I didn’t expect when dialing in the sounds. It’s modular side however probably still holds many secrets for me that I’m more than ready and willing to find out. Yeah, it’s not a Moog, but at this price I really don’t care! A great synth to start with to try if analog synths are what you’re looking for. It’s many patch points will stay valuable even if you already expanded your modular synth set-up beyond the capabilities of the Microzwerg making it great value for money.

 

Related:
MFB Microzwerg Patch Sheet

MFB Nanozwerg Review

 

Comments

6 Comments

  • By Marchettifederico, 22/06/2012 @ 07:50

    Ehi! Cool review, I own a microzwerg too and I must say I am really really satisfied ;) I am now wandering about buying a nanozwerg too, to tie them together (I was thinking about doing the same connection which is in the picture you posted, nano audio out–> microz vca add) ! How does it sound? Is there a video on youtube showing this connection? Than you very much (and sorry for my english!) ;)

  • By JordyVision, 22/06/2012 @ 13:09

    Hello Marchettifederico! You’re English is fine, only small details, don’t worry.

    I don’t have a demo right now, but I can tell what to expect. For instance, you could make a thick ‘pop’ sound on the Nanozwerg, and use the micro for decaying noise. Now you got a serious sounding snare! I build quite an interesting string patch with both synths the other day. I kept the Micro steady while the Nano’s pitch is modulated via LFO. Or a short stab on the nano, followed by a long filter sweep on the Micro. You can also patch CV out from the Micro to CV in on the Nano, so both filters/pitches wobble on the same LFO speed, if you’d like.

    So in short, it’s like having 2 synthesizers, and using them together is what’s so great about it. It feels like a big expansion of the Micro! (3 osc, 3 filters, 3 lfo’s). SO MUCH to play with… ^_^

  • By slgmusic, 03/09/2012 @ 14:08

    hey, very nice review indeed!

    I just bought a Nanozwerg because I needed a small and simple desktop monosynth for my live setup, but despite it’s simplicity I’m really amazed how inspiring and versatile this little synth is! And it sounds good too!

    Certainly, it’s not a Moog, it doesn’t sound as hi-end, it’s more lo-fi and raw, but it sounds suprisingly good! The suboscillator is almost as powerful as my Roland SH-09 so it’s capable of really deep sub basses!! filter is not superb, but it does the job well, and the multimode feature makes it a bang for a buck! I already use it as a MIDI-triggered multimode filter to expand a sonic palette of my Polysix and Alpha Juno 2.

    I was testing a Moog Minitaur for few days, and it sounds amazing but the range of sounds you can program is rather limited, so I was a bit disappointed. And then I bought Nanozwerg and it appeared to be much more exciting than Minitaur!

    All those semi-modular features are so much fun that it instantly made we want to posess a Microzwerg and a Urzwerg sequencer too!

    So I’m also really curious hot the Microzwerg works in conjunction with Nanozwerg. You explained some examples of routing to Marchettifederico, and I’m sure all the patching experimentation will be much fun, but I wonder if it’s also possible to use Nano as a simple Expander for Micro to build a “poor man’s Minimoog” with 3osc’s etc..

  • By JordyVision, 03/09/2012 @ 15:41

    Yes, yes you can! But what you need is 2 MIDI sources or multiple CV/Gate outs to go into the respective ins on the MFB synths. I do this by simply splitting the midi with a Quadra Thru by MIDI Solutions: http://www.midisolutions.com/prodqth.htm and having them both respond to the same midi channel. I feed one voice to the other, or mix them via a mixer.

  • By slgmusic, 03/09/2012 @ 18:14

    Thanks for reply!

    I was hoping that it’s possible send MIDI notes to Microzwerg and then send CV/Gate out to Nanozwerg, and patch Nanozwerg’s audio output to Microzwerg, but I took a closer look and Microzwerg’s layout and true, it seems that there’s no CV/Gate out.
    But anyway I should be able to feed multiple midi sources or cv out’s in my existing studio setup, I’ll just have to mess around a little bit with patching so I’m tempted to get Microzwerg, and try to connect both synthesizers together to get a relatively cheap 3 osc/3lfo,3 multimode filter semi-modular system

    I just wonder if it’s easy to set up the balance between Nano’s and Micro’s oscillators when you feed Nano’s signal into Microzwerg’s output ?

  • By JordyVision, 12/09/2012 @ 11:07

    The volume is the same, but if you want full control over the balance it might be best to mix them separately in a modular rack, or just a plain ol’ audio mixer. The tuning might take you a few minutes though, let the machine warm-up for 10 minutes before you start and use a steady hand for the pitch. hope that helps.

    PS: Check out Expert Sleepers Silent Way. Turns almost any audio interface into a CV in/out patchbay.

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