About the Microfreak


Hello peeps!

There is a lot of noise on the internet regarding the Arturia Microfreak.

Let me clarify a couple of things.

First of all, Plaits’ code is open-source, which means that anybody is free to use it, as long as they credit me somewhere (it can be in a product description page, or a footnote in a downloadable manual, or an “about” dialog). This is why you can find Mutable Instruments’ DSP code in the Korg Prologue, the Axoloti, the Organelle, VCV Rack, and plenty of other bits of software or hardware. This is not stealing. Plaits’ code is a summary of everything I’ve learnt about making rich and balanced sound sources controlled by a few parameters, it’s for everyone to enjoy.

Now, regarding the Microfreak.

Arturia had been in the process of developing a hybrid synth for a while, and contacted me about using some of Plaits’ code inside. I had no objection to that.

In May, they invited me to their headquarters for a product development meeting where they showed me mockups of the Microfreak. It was fairly clear at this point that it was their product. The feature set, UX, sound engine were all already set in stone. The product obviously followed Arturia’s design language and branding. My expected contribution to the project was none: Arturia’s engineers would do their own thing with my code, the tone character and sound design was their responsibility. It was pointless for me to suggest features and ideas (*), or spill the beans about ideas I wanted to keep for upcoming Mutable Instruments products, and this awkward event felt more like a focus group.

Arturia offered to mention something like “Oscillator code from Mutable Instruments” in the product description, which is my preferred form of citation. No monetary compensation has ever been discussed – which is fair, because I provided exactly 0 hour of work and 0 original line of code. No contract has been drafted or signed.

Arturia contacted me back last week with a photo of the finished product. I never had the opportunity to playtest it. I have not been asked to approve or veto any promotional material.

As you can see, my involvement was fairly limited.

I don’t feel wronged. It’s their product.

However, I feel uneasy when people got excited, seeing it described as a collaboration between Mutable Instruments and Arturia, because none of the technical and design choices involved in this product originate from me. I have been quite disconcerted by the private messages congratulating me for this release and achievement. I know some people have been waiting for a Mutable Instruments keyboard synth, or at least non-modular product, for a while. Well, this is not it. That’s what I wanted to say to the world. I don’t want people to associate any negative experience they could have with this product with Mutable Instruments. I don’t want people to think that I endorsed or at least authorized some aesthetic decisions regarding this product or the communication surrounding it.

With its focus on local production, open-source, deliberate lack of marketing and advertising, Mutable Instruments is an unusual company. It’s stimulating and fun, but somewhat dangerous too. Turning Arturia into an enemy – those talks of boycotts and those tweets demanding justice – is only adding fuel to the fire and increasing the risks of getting me attacked in ways I don’t expect and I am not protected against.

If you care about me, move on! I need a lot of strength and energy at the moment, and it should all be focused on finishing new products.

So please let Arturia enjoy their release party, it’s hard work to ship a product. Buy their product if you think you’ll have fun and make good music with it, don’t buy otherwise. Buy Mutable Instruments products (or the Softube clones) if you want to fund me, or build your own and give the money to charities.


(*) To people thinking that this is all my fault because I was too passive at this point, I’ll take a little musical comparison: Someone has made a track using a stem you have publicly shared. They want to market their track as a “collaboration” with you, but they only give you the opportunity to provide feedback during the mastering session. Would that be a fair collaboration?


Thanks for posting this. I’m going to calm down about it and chalk this up to “Arturia made some poor choices” rather than “those evil bastards grrr argh I have to burn my Microbrute now.” :slight_smile:


Well said. I care, and I am very happy to move on.

Hope you’re well!


Well this is very elucidating. I confess I was quite excited by this news. I honestly think that plaits + SEM filter + MPE capacitive touch keyboard is a super exciting combo. I also hope that Arturia see there is the possibility of a more engaged form of collaboration if I understand this post correctly. As a side note, I’m glad to hear you didn’t necessarily approve of the neon orange knobs, chrome lettering over a grey tapestry, and other questionable design/branding choices.


Émilie, props to you for this reply. As always, deeply enjoying the modules of yours thst i have and looking forward to what ever you do next!


Now I really want to know what you would do for a Mutable Instruments keyboard synth. And how soon I will be able to buy one.


All I can think is how much better it could have been had they actually involved you in the design. On the plus side, it didn’t take away time from your own projects and personal time did that’s good :stuck_out_tongue:

Thank you for the explanation. The announcement I saw definitely made it sound more like a collaboration. I know the code is open source, but it feels a bit funny having them just plop it in and benefit from the mention of Mutable Instruments.


I have the same problem now :smile:


Well said.


How they state it at the bottom of the details tab on their product page certainly makes it sound like a collaboration. It’s baffling why they decided to market it as such instead of simple thanking MI.


Look on the bright side, it could just have easily been [insert the name of your least favourite synth company] that “collaboratively” re-used your code…

On the other hand, it is a shame that it wasn’t [insert name of your favourite or most admired synth company].


Can I answer Roland for both of those names?


I really like your spirit.

It seems though that you are entitled to kindly ask them to drop Mutable Instruments name as they are using it less as a tribute and more as a marketing mean.
It really feels wrong. Especially after reading your words.


I am not talking about lawyers war, just a polite word stating clearly the way you would prefer them to formulate this rightful appropriation of (am I wrong in saying that it is) source code written by you.


Hey, what was that Greg Egan short story describing a fucked-up time-space-consciousness glitch in which I could eat olive cake from a Gien plate, wearing a Claudie Pierlot dress and Lai earrings, a Badri Narayan watercolor hanging above, and yet my sense of aesthetics wouldn’t instantly disintegrate at the sight of a Mutable Instruments logo with an inverted palette.


That’s a way to put it :smile:




Watched the Video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT6GSgkdzf0
Sonically the first Arturia Hardware Piece i like, would make a great little Keyboard to accompany a Modular, if only it would not be as ugly aesthetically challenging.


I fully I agree.

I remember @pichenettes suggesting in a different thread that she could think of a certain synth manufacturer for a collaboration.
So after I read Arturia‘s Freak announcement I assumed that this was the supposed company.
It really did seem, according to their text, that Mutable Instruments played a bigger role in its development.

That is just wrong and Arturia should re-word their PR!


Well, I for one am truly sorry for assuming it was a collaboration after reading on the Arturia website that it was a collaboration…


Maybe it will be CC-BY as well, so you can spin your own :roll_eyes: