Novation is not really a synthesizer brand I mention when talking about the top synths. Obviously, they are some big players in a growing industry, yet they don’t yet compete with Yamaha, Korg, and Moog. However, in my recent reviews and while making the list of ‘best beginner synths‘ I had come across the Novation MiniNova analog synthesizer. At first I thought It would be a disappointment, and most affordable synthesizers are just that when comparing them to the best synthesizers of 2018, but the MiniNova was a pleasant surprise. Not only was it a decent sounding synth all around, but it can do more than you might think as far as features go. To be fair, you can’t compare this synthesizer keyboard to an 88-key synth, rather we should take a look at other synths in its ‘weight class’ like the Roland JD-Xi and the OP-1, even though the OP-1 is more of a premium product.Check Price On Amazon
Upon getting my hands on this keyboard, I was actually taken back a bit by how clean the button layout was. This particular synthesizer even comes with a vocoder (which I’m not always a fan of aesthetically but it looks nice on this keyboard). If you take a look at my review of the JD-Xi, you’ll see that while it’s a great board, I along with a few others had some complaints in regards to the buttons feeling crammed and the layout just feeling off in a way. Looking at the Novation MiniNova, we can see that it has far fewer buttons and knobs which brings some clarity to the UI of the keyboard. While it comes with far fewer features than a big, expensive keyboard like the TYROS 5 by Yamaha, the smaller size along with the cleaner interface makes it a superior product when you need portability, such as when traveling and doing shows in remote areas.
Style and whether something looks good or not is generally always based on personal preference; after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find that this synthesizer looks kind of old school when you take into account the boxy feel of the layout, and I’m not a huge fan of this synthesizer only coming in one color (blue). Overall, the style is better than some but it could be way better. I guess you could say it is pretty average.
I can’t say that I was totally thrilled when I first heard the sound of the Novation MiniNova. For the price you can’t get much better than that, but it is still a generic sounding synthesizer in the grand scheme of things. Personally, I would probably shell out a little bit extra to go with something like the Roland JD-Xi, or maybe a slightly weaker 61-key synthesizer such as the Korg Kross. I care a lot about sound quality, though you might be different. If you prioritize simplicity, ease of use, and basic functionality with great fundamentals, then I see why you might want to choose this option over another. It is versatile and the vocoder is quite great so it has that going for it. There is quite a bit of sound variety with Novation’s MiniNova analog synthesizer, and I would compare it to the MicroKorg in regards to the list.
The variety of features of the Novation MiniNova are not bad at all. With so many filter types, envelopes, lfos, effects, and modulation slots, you can honestly make pretty much any sound you can think of. We are not yet able to throw it in there with the big dogs but as far as smaller synths under $600 go, you can’t go wrong if you choose to get this keyboard. Features and functions are surely a strength for the Novation MiniNova; here are some of the things it brings to the table:
- Hugely powerful mini-synth with Nova sound engine
- Vocoder with unique VocalTune, pitch correcting effect
- Tweak and warp your sounds in real-time
- 256 awesome onboard sounds; additional free soundpacks downloadable on registration, including the 30 Giorgio Moroder-inspired patches
- Layer up to 5 effects per voice; 2-year limited warranty on manufacturing defects
As you can see, this synthesizer can do a lot. The sound might not be the best, but when you take into consideration what else this synthesizer can do and how elite it is in terms of design and mobility, you have to admit that it is one of the best value synthesizers you can get this year, period.
Upon re-evaluation, I might want to say that this is the best synthesizer for beginners. A lot of other products can somewhat match the MiniNova in the categories of features and sound quality, but few can match up with its simplicity and basic functionality. This makes it a great instrument for first-timers, and even an awesome tool to use on the side when travelling for those more experienced with synthesizers. Again, if completely premium sound quality is your forte then you might want to look at something different such as Moog Sub Phatty or perhaps a Roland JUNO-DS61 which I personally consider to have some of the best sound quality on any synthesizer in its weight class. The MiniNova is sort of a mini powerhouse because it can do so much in such a small package. It is one of the cheapest synths I’ve had the chance of reviewing, but it doesn’t feel cheap at all. It’s just a good overall synth which could sound a little better, but is generally a great value product.