There hasn't been a trio of brutes this cool since the Powerpuff Girls. Arturia hit today with their third consecutive announcement of updates to the 'Brute series of synthesizers with the RackBrute. I glanced at the subject line of my email from them and thought, "Oh, so there's a rackmount or Eurorack variant on the Minibrute 2." Nope! Well, RackBrute is a Eurorack, literally. And it's the most thoughtful and full-featured one I've yet seen, especially for live performance. It's also shockingly affordable compared to many Eurorack housing solutions. (Scroll to the end if you want to read what I really think.)
RackBrute comes in 3U and 6U sizes (single- and dual-row), with each row 88HP wide. The integrated power supply provides +5, +12, and -12 voltages at up to 1,600mA (900mA for the 5V supply) so there's power enough to pack it full of diverse modules.
RackBrute also sheds light on why they kept a lid on the Arturia Link first mentioned in conjunction with the MiniBrute 2. I initially thought it might be a sync platform having something to do with smartphones, or perhaps an online sharing community. Instead, it's a physical stand and fastening system that can securely hold your RackBrute at a variety of angles, either stand-alone or attached to the sides of a MiniBrute 2 or 2S -- or to another RackBrute.
It's also a carrying system. See the rear, padded crossmember in the above image? That can serve as a carrying handle. Any two Link-equipped devices can fold face-to-face for easy carrying, since the RackBrutes themselves have these little stops that pull out of the side panels, keeping your synths' controls from bumping each other, like this:
Then, you can put that all in the custom-fitted, padded travel case for protection while moving your gear from the car to the stage, and the handle sticks out of the top. (Presumably you'd use a 6U case to carry a combination of a 3U RackBrute and MiniBrute 2/2S.) This is the single most protective, convenient, and transportable way I have ever seen to deal with Eurorack, outside of expensive custom builds. Not only that, but Arturia did the industry one better: The Link system is patent-free, so any manufacturer willing to adopt the same width (in terms of both HP and the thickness of their side panels) can make compatible racks or synths.
(Update: On a whim I emailed famed synth industrial designer Axel Hartmann, simply because those orange thumbwheels on the link system reminded me of controls on his Neuron synth. It turns out he's responsible for the ergonomics and user interface of this and the MiniBrute 2 ecosystem. Bravo!)
Here's the official Arturia teaser video:
I've saved the best for last. Pricing is just $299 for the 3U version and $399 for the 6U. I don't call something a "review" unless I or a trusted team member has gone hands-on with something and used it in the field, but I'll offer some initial opinion: I'm not what you'd call a "modular guy," though I've admired much of the brains and creativity of modular designers and users alike. Friends have loaned me pre-configured racks and I've had fun with them, but always gone back to my "slab" keyboard synths (poly and mono) as my daily drivers. That said, the Arturia RackBrute has got me thinking I want to start acquiring modules, build my first Eurorack system, and finally dive in with both feet.
If the RackBrute can do that for my cynical, stick-in-the mud, '80s-synthpop-loving arse, I reckon it can smash the barrier to entry to the rewarding world of designing and playing your own modular synth for just about anybody. Brilliant work, Arturia. See you at NAMM.