Novation MiniNova: Big Sound in a Tiny Keyboard

Novation has a new keyboard out, and it’s a tiny but pretty darn cool looking new addition to their Nova series of synthesizers. Sporting an UltraNova based engine, 37 minikeys, a mic for the built in vocoder, great looks and a sub $500 price tag, I could definitely see this little guy becoming a winner, and perhaps reach the heights of popularity that ultimately proved elusive for its big brother the UltraNova.

The MiniNova was designed by Chris Huggett, who I’m sure many readers will know as the man behind the legendary, rare and highly sought after OSC OSCar and EDP Wasp synths. Expectations for the MiniNova should be high, in other words. While I haven’t personally spent much time with the UltraNova, I have used the older Supernova and Nova synths, and I thought they were great – they’re easily among my favorite virtual analog synths. I find their tone to be very, very musical, and the sound emotionally engaging.

One issue I had with the UltraNova was that like Novation’s X-Station and Xio-Synth series – but unlike its revered predecessors – it was a monotimbral synth, and that is also the case with the MiniNova. While that is not going to be a show stopper most of the time, it would be nice to be able to make multis and layered sounds, especially for live use – and I’m sure a large part of the market for a highly portable 2012 hardware synth are musicians who play live.  Many studio-only musicians these days tend to use virtual instruments almost exclusively, and might not be all that interested in something like this. While I’m personally happy to use both hardware and software synths in my studio, I would have been even more excited about this new synth had it been multi-timbral, and find myself a little disappointed that it’s not.

We’ll hopefully be able to do a review of this promising little baby here on in the not too distant future.  I the meantime, let’s take a closer look at what’s on the inside and outside of this little blue gremlin:

Specs & Features:

Mono-timbral synth with up to 18 voice polyphony (dynamic voicing – basically, the more complex (or rather, CPU intensive) the patch, the less polyphony you’ll get. We’ve seen that with other virtual analog synths that allow for complex programming, like for example with the Waldorf Blofeld and Virus TI.

Synth Engine, Processing & Arpeggiator

For the three oscillators per voice you have 14 conventional analog style waveforms (square, sine, sawtooth, pulse, triangle and combinations), 36 wavetables and 20 digital waveforms. Each oscillator has density/detune for fattening up sounds, virtual sync and ‘hardness’ – which acts as an additional lowpass filter.

Filters: 2 filters per patch. Choose from the following 14 types:

  • low pass no resonance 6dB per octave
  • low pass 12dB
  • low pass 18dB
  • low pass 24dB
  • band pass 6:6
  • band pass 6:12
  • band pass 12:6
  • band pass 6:18
  • band pass 18:6
  • band pass 12:12
  • high pass no resonance 6dB per octave
  • high pass 12dB
  • high pass 18dB
  • high pass 24dB

Arpeggiator: Real time ryhthm performance editing.

Modulation Sources:

  • 20 modulation slots per patch
  • 6x envelope generators
  • 3x LFOs
  • Aftertouch
  • Velocity
  • Key scaling/track
  • Mod wheel
  • Expression pedal

… to a total of 66 destinations, including:

  • Oscillator pitch, pulse width, wavetable index, level and sync
  • Filter cutoff, resonance, envelope settings
  • Effects parameters and send levels
  • Recursive modulation (modulating modulation sources themselves)

Effects: Five effect slots per patch

  • Distortion – up to 2 instances
  • Compressor – up to 2 instances
  • Chorus/Phase – up to 4 instances
  • Delay – up to 2 instances
  • Reverb – up to 2 instances
  • Gator
  • EQ


  • VocalTune
  • 12 band vocoder
  • Arpeggiator – 33 patterns
  • Realtime Arp rhythm editing function
  • Chord function – lock up to 10 notes
  • Patch storage – up to 384 on hardware (ships with 256 factory patches)


Utility, display and patch select controls

  • 16 character custom LCD
  • 1x large detented patch select encoder
  • 1x patch sort switch
  • 1x volume dial
  • 1x detented data encoder
  • 5x navigation/utility buttons
  • 2x patch navigation buttons

Keyboard/performance controls

  • Pitch wheel (LED lit)
  • Modulation wheel (LED lit)
  • 37 note keyboard with velocity
  • 4x smooth edit/performance pots
  • 1x large smooth filter pot
  • 1x six position parameter selector switch
  • 6x parameter indicator LEDs
  • 8x three-colour, back-lit animate/arpeggiator/favourite patch-select buttons
  • 2x animate/arpeggiate LED indicators
  • 1x back-lit ‘hold’ button
  • 1x animate/arpeggiator/favourite patch toggle switch
  • 1x ‘favourite’ patch select button
  • 1x arpeggiator tempo control pot
  • 1x arpeggiator tempo indicator LED
  • 2x back-lit arpeggiator control encoders
  • 2x back-lit octave select buttons

Inputs, Outputs, rear panel

  • XLR dynamic mic input
  • 1x ¼” jack inputs
  • 2x ¼” jack outputs
  • 1x ¼” jack headphone output
  • Sustain pedal on ¼” jack input
  • MIDI in/out
  • 12 volt power input
  • USB/DC/off power switch
  • USB port (MiniNova can be powered via USB)
  • Kensington Lock port


  • Length: 560mm
  • Height: 75mm
  • Depth: 250mm
  • Length: 22.04″
  • Height: 2.95″
  • Depth: 9.84″


  • 2.52kg
  • 5.55lb