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One thing that hasn’t changed is how you put batteries in the Microgranny. Bastl is a small company that makes instruments for weirdos, so they try to cut it short with a bit of leeway.But changing batteries with this thing is getting worse. You have to unscrew the bottom plate to remove it, which inevitably removes the sides of the instrument. Then, once he’s done shoving the 9v battery in there, he’ll have to carefully realign all the pieces so that everything stays in place while he screws it back on.
Battling batteries is only a problem if you want to take your Microgranny out of the house. Otherwise, he can use a standard 9V AC adapter like most guitar pedals use. Thankfully, I happen to have plenty of them lying around. Obviously, this negates some of the portability factor, but as I’ll explain later, it turned out to be less appealing to me than expected. Also note If you don’t like the constant low growl, make sure to stop at about 75%.
What sets the Microgranny apart in a sea of portable, affordable music gear is that it’s a fine-grained sampler. Bastl now avoids using the term “granular synthesizer” in most marketing materials. And it’s clever. If you come here expecting the lush, alien, ambient soundscapes usually associated with granular synthesis, you’ll be disappointed.
For one thing, as mentioned above, the Microgranny is monophonic. In other words, you can’t play chords unless you sample them. Then the sound engine can only play one “grain” for him at a time. For example, something like 1010music Lemondrop can run up to 16-bit audio files simultaneously to create complex and often unpredictable textures from the source material. Microgranny is like a playable CD skip. But when you embrace its unabashedly lofi nature, that’s when you can really connect with it.
You can use the front controls to change the size of the grain, but you won’t get a smooth single-cycle waveform even at the smallest edges. Instead, in 2002 he sounds broken and glitchy, like a corrupted MP3 downloaded from Kazaa. You can use the shift speed knob to control the speed and direction the playhead moves through the sample. It’s like a very rudimentary time stretch. It doesn’t change the pitch of the sample you’re playing, but it can drag you out in unnatural and artefact-ridden ways.
Then there is the sample rate, which changes both the pitch and speed of the sound, similar to old school samplers. And an absolutely merciless bitcrusher, Crash completely disintegrates Micro Granny’s already brusque character, even on lower settings. Turning the crank, crush transforms every sample into what can only be described as his Atari 2600, approaching the thunderous approach of his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
There are also knobs for controlling sample start and end points, as well as attack and release. They’re the basics you need, but they don’t give you much personality. Hold FN and press them to turn on legato, set the sample to repeat, sync grain playback to a MIDI clock signal, and randomly shift the playhead.
RNDMZR randomizes all parameters of the last played sample. This is the easiest way to complete Aural Chaos. And “attunement”, which has two different effects. One is to lock the sample rate option to semitones instead of smooth pitch shifting. Second, connecting a MIDI keyboard transposes samples for melodic playback. When this is inactive, the keyboard will play individual grains instead. The latter sounds great in theory, but I honestly struggled to find a practical use for it.
Initially, I was excited about the idea of the Microgranny as a grainy noise maker that you can take anywhere. Of course, everyone has different tastes and use cases, but I’ve found it not ideal for me in the role. For one thing, the limitations of monophonic granular engines make it difficult to create something complete and musical just from scraping samples around you.
There’s no sequencer, so you can’t save fun drum patterns you find for later use in your home studio. You have to remember what you played and rely on your decidedly dull sense of rhythm. And the mic isn’t particularly sensitive. Even if the input is cranked, the source should be very loud. I had my phone all the way up and placed the speaker less than half an inch away from his mic and it was still pretty quiet. We recommend using an input jack that is directly connected to another audio source, such as a synth or external microphone.
Granular engines are definitely fun for glitchy stuttering sounds, but I think they’re best deployed in moderation. , gives very satisfying results. There is no way to play samples chromatically in real time on the device itself, so to create something melodic without using a MIDI keyboard, you have to sample individual notes or chords. Alternatively, you can copy one sample and he pastes it into the 6 big buttons and adjust the rate of each sample to create a scale.
This is not to say that the Microgranny isn’t a fun or melodic instrument. It’s just that the studio is easier to use than the outside. I love it for creating rhythmic loops that can be imported into my DAW, or processing samples to create a nice digital patina. You can also connect a MIDI keyboard for crisp, pitched sounds. Casio SK A series of keyboards that are still popular (and very expensive) after 28 years.
It’s not easy, but you can also chop Microgranny’s sample by copying and pasting the same sound to multiple buttons and changing the starting point. Since we’re dealing with a really basic 7-segment LED display, it can be a little tricky. But it is possible. Honestly, this is one of Microgranny’s most fun solo jam sessions. Load up a disco or house track and easily turn it into a lo-fi Daft Punk-type beat. With the crash knob maxed out, it created the perfect soundtrack for an end-of-the-world rave.
I was too focused on the mobile and granular aspects, so I probably gave up on Microgranny too early in the first place. When I couldn’t create an otherworldly atmospheric cloud or sketch a song with multiple tracks, I didn’t dig deep and he went straight to PO-33. I was unable to truly explore its potential as a more studio-bound instrument.
At $246, it’s not expensive by any means, but it’s so expensive and quirky that it only appeals to a specific niche looking for the most authentic lofi sampling available. Obviously, you can change the sample and bitrate of the files on your computer. But this is my opinion, the Micro Granny just gives it more character. is the character of So if your favorite flavor of lofi grit is his ’80s digital cheaper than old tape decks, the Bastl Instruments Microgranny Monolith is worth checking out.
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