UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

A forum for discussing the pros & cons of buying a particular synth and for advice on buying synthesizers.
thefonz003
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 191
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:20 pm
Real name: Matt
Gear: Yamaha SY77
Korg DSS-1
Yamaha DJX
Novation MiniNova
Electrix Warp Factory
Akai MPK225
Various Softsynths
E-mu Mo'Phatt (wanting to sell)
Location: Ohio, U.S.
Contact:

UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by thefonz003 » Fri May 12, 2017 1:08 am

Hey, I'm considering getting a VA synth. I've really enjoyed the Novation UltraNova on the occasions I've gotten to play one, and the light-up wheels are sweet too. However, I know that the MiniNova is pretty similar and cheaper. I also know that there are plenty of others out there. What would you guys recommend? Also, how would you compare MicroKorg, GAIA, etc.?

My current setup is Yamaha SY77, Korg DSS-1, Yamaha DJX, E-mu Mo'Phatt, and Electrix Warp Factory, along with a Shure mic and a Tube MP preamp. When I record, it is on a MacBook with GarageBand; I also have the free softsynth Green Oak Crystal that I can use in GB. Thanks for any recommendations.

User avatar
crystalmsc
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 2860
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 7:15 am
Gear: uWaveXT,uQ,Pulse+;Ion;MiniBrt
Karma,Mntrb,Volcas,01R;Venom
NordModular,L2X;Evolver;JP8080
MKS70,JD990,D50,MC909,MC80ex
Microcon2;TG77,RS7k,AN200,AN1x
Band: Crystaline
Location: Synth Garden
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by crystalmsc » Wed May 17, 2017 9:26 am

UltraNova represents great value, with a quality engine, full sized keys with aftertouch, controller function with a VST editor and a reasonably good sounding audio interface with fx and vocoder. Especially if you didn't own an audio interface yet. It may not be my first choice for an analog sounding VA, but since you like hybrid synths like the SY77 and DSS-1, you may like it's modern character. It could be a great addition to your setup, as an additional vocoder as well. The included gooseneck mic is sturdy and sounds good enough for the application. It feels a bit more musical to use a vocoder with the included mic and keyboard, I always like to play it that way. As a whole package with quality/features to price ratio in mind, maybe there's no real competitor currently. I prefer it's sound compared to the microKorg XL or even the Roland System-1. It also has one of the best keyboard feel which is also sturdy and dependable for serious playing.
Kaossilatron - Voicillator
http://crystaline.bandcamp.com
Station: Ableton Live 10 Suite, Obscurium, Push 2, Ultranova, MS-20m, Wavedrums

User avatar
meatballfulton
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5757
Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:29 pm
Gear: Live 9, Logic Pro X

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by meatballfulton » Wed May 17, 2017 12:54 pm

The MiniNova has the same synthesis engine as the UltraNova. What you lose is:

-- no USB audio interface

-- no Automap controller feature

-- minikeys vs. full size, no aftertouch

-- less friendly programming interface, more menu diving

MiniNova does have a pitch correction feature (like Autotune) that the UltraNova lacks.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

thefonz003
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 191
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:20 pm
Real name: Matt
Gear: Yamaha SY77
Korg DSS-1
Yamaha DJX
Novation MiniNova
Electrix Warp Factory
Akai MPK225
Various Softsynths
E-mu Mo'Phatt (wanting to sell)
Location: Ohio, U.S.
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by thefonz003 » Thu May 18, 2017 12:17 am

meatballfulton wrote:The MiniNova has the same synthesis engine as the UltraNova. What you lose is:

-- no USB audio interface

-- no Automap controller feature

-- minikeys vs. full size, no aftertouch

-- less friendly programming interface, more menu diving

MiniNova does have a pitch correction feature (like Autotune) that the UltraNova lacks.
The only one of those that might bother me is the lack of USB audio. The MiniNova can receive aftertouch via MIDI, so if I needed aftertouch on a patch I'd just control it with the SY77. I don't know what Automap really even is, and I don't have a DAW that I'm comfortable with to use Automap in. (I have Logic but haven't really used it; I'm assuming it doesn't work with GarageBand.) Eventually my MacBook will become unreliable and I'll have to get a new laptop (looking at an HP Envy possibly), and I may need to use USB audio. Moreover, I've read that the UltraNova can't interface with OS X Mavericks, whereas the Mini can.

Speaking of USB, are there any cords or interfaces that would make it possible for me to record my old keyboards (SY77 etc.) with USB audio? Like, 1/4" to USB or something like that? I'm pretty new to this concept.

User avatar
crystalmsc
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 2860
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 7:15 am
Gear: uWaveXT,uQ,Pulse+;Ion;MiniBrt
Karma,Mntrb,Volcas,01R;Venom
NordModular,L2X;Evolver;JP8080
MKS70,JD990,D50,MC909,MC80ex
Microcon2;TG77,RS7k,AN200,AN1x
Band: Crystaline
Location: Synth Garden
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by crystalmsc » Thu May 18, 2017 4:10 am

There is a Behringer Line 2 USB on the cheapest side, but I have no experience with that. If you are willing to spend around $99 there are some much better choices, but again the price difference is getting closer to get the Ultranova.
Kaossilatron - Voicillator
http://crystaline.bandcamp.com
Station: Ableton Live 10 Suite, Obscurium, Push 2, Ultranova, MS-20m, Wavedrums

User avatar
madtheory
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 5140
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 12:45 pm
Real name: Tomas Mulcahy
Gear: Flangebeast Mk1, Plonkotron, Morovdis Arpeggiator, Maplin My First EQ, Jeff Wayne Thunderchild rack, Thermostat, Buck Owens' Moog.
Band: Minim
Location: Cork, Ireland
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by madtheory » Thu May 18, 2017 9:20 am

thefonz003 wrote:Eventually my MacBook will become unreliable and I'll have to get a new laptop
Why? What year is it? I have a 2009 MacBook and a 2009 iMac, both are still working perfectly for heavy music production. There are things you can do, to keep these machines fast and reliable for a good while.

Focusrite probably make the best USB audio interfaces.

I'm fairly sure Automap works with Garageband. It's just an easy way to have the dials on your synth control your softsynths.

thefonz003
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 191
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:20 pm
Real name: Matt
Gear: Yamaha SY77
Korg DSS-1
Yamaha DJX
Novation MiniNova
Electrix Warp Factory
Akai MPK225
Various Softsynths
E-mu Mo'Phatt (wanting to sell)
Location: Ohio, U.S.
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by thefonz003 » Thu May 18, 2017 2:00 pm

madtheory wrote:
thefonz003 wrote:Eventually my MacBook will become unreliable and I'll have to get a new laptop
Why? What year is it? I have a 2009 MacBook and a 2009 iMac, both are still working perfectly for heavy music production. There are things you can do, to keep these machines fast and reliable for a good while.

Focusrite probably make the best USB audio interfaces.

I'm fairly sure Automap works with Garageband. It's just an easy way to have the dials on your synth control your softsynths.
Mine is a mid-2009 white MacBook. It gets too hot pretty easily and can be kinda slow. If you have advice on how to improve its performance I'm very open to suggestions.

User avatar
madtheory
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 5140
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 12:45 pm
Real name: Tomas Mulcahy
Gear: Flangebeast Mk1, Plonkotron, Morovdis Arpeggiator, Maplin My First EQ, Jeff Wayne Thunderchild rack, Thermostat, Buck Owens' Moog.
Band: Minim
Location: Cork, Ireland
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by madtheory » Thu May 18, 2017 2:46 pm

Always worth backing it up and doing a clean install of music apps only. Clears out a lot of c**p.

Mine is the same age. Ya those do get hot. Apple replaced the base plate for me four years ago, the rubber warped. Fine since. But keep it in an airy place and it's fine.

Install an SSD, and check out the RAM limit- I'm pretty sure it's one of the models where the real limit is 8GB, not 4GB. So max that out. Mine is only 4GB with 250GB SSD. Did a gig with it in 2015 running Main Stage- it ran Kontakt, the backing track 2 instances of Guitar rig, a bunch of effects and 4 audio inputs with Focusrite compression and eq on each one. It's on El Capitan, rock solid, boots in seconds. Consider putting the SSD with system and apps into the optical bay (who uses that anymore) and keep the current internal for your sample libraries.

thefonz003
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 191
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:20 pm
Real name: Matt
Gear: Yamaha SY77
Korg DSS-1
Yamaha DJX
Novation MiniNova
Electrix Warp Factory
Akai MPK225
Various Softsynths
E-mu Mo'Phatt (wanting to sell)
Location: Ohio, U.S.
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by thefonz003 » Thu May 18, 2017 5:17 pm

madtheory wrote:Always worth backing it up and doing a clean install of music apps only. Clears out a lot of c**p.

Mine is the same age. Ya those do get hot. Apple replaced the base plate for me four years ago, the rubber warped. Fine since. But keep it in an airy place and it's fine.

Install an SSD, and check out the RAM limit- I'm pretty sure it's one of the models where the real limit is 8GB, not 4GB. So max that out. Mine is only 4GB with 250GB SSD. Did a gig with it in 2015 running Main Stage- it ran Kontakt, the backing track 2 instances of Guitar rig, a bunch of effects and 4 audio inputs with Focusrite compression and eq on each one. It's on El Capitan, rock solid, boots in seconds. Consider putting the SSD with system and apps into the optical bay (who uses that anymore) and keep the current internal for your sample libraries.
I don't have sample libraries. Moreover, I can't delete all my non-musical programs because I need some of them for work. I'm a teacher (well, according to the state of Ohio - I can't find a full-time teaching job and am stuck working at Jimmy John's for now) and I don't have another working laptop. Getting an SSD and extra ram sounds more expensive than getting another laptop, brand new. I'm just not sure at this point what I'm gonna do.

User avatar
madtheory
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 5140
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 12:45 pm
Real name: Tomas Mulcahy
Gear: Flangebeast Mk1, Plonkotron, Morovdis Arpeggiator, Maplin My First EQ, Jeff Wayne Thunderchild rack, Thermostat, Buck Owens' Moog.
Band: Minim
Location: Cork, Ireland
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by madtheory » Thu May 18, 2017 5:29 pm

I totally get the teaching thing, been there myself! Which is partly why I like to keep old gear going- saves money for important stuff like food and shelter. I know how hard that can be when scavenging for teaching hours. I recommend teaching music technology to teenagers, very rewarding and can easily be an extra skill on the CV to make you invaluable to the principal for school shows and help out the music teacher (who is usually afraid of tech IME).

250GB SSD is around $90 on Amazon. 8GB RAM roughly the same. A few more sheckels for the mounting bracket if you want to put one in the optical bay. New Apple laptop is upwards of $2000. ifixit.com for DIY instructions.

OK don't delete. But what I said is back-up and re-install, to give you the option of getting anything back. It's actually OK to have other stuff on there, but it's just over time if you've tried out lots of different apps, c**p builds up in the System folder.

If it's your only working laptop, that's an even more compelling reason to back it up. If it's GarageBand and Mainstage, then actually you are using sample libraries :) And you can re-install your purchase from the App Store.

thefonz003
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 191
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:20 pm
Real name: Matt
Gear: Yamaha SY77
Korg DSS-1
Yamaha DJX
Novation MiniNova
Electrix Warp Factory
Akai MPK225
Various Softsynths
E-mu Mo'Phatt (wanting to sell)
Location: Ohio, U.S.
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by thefonz003 » Sat May 20, 2017 9:17 pm

madtheory wrote:I totally get the teaching thing, been there myself! Which is partly why I like to keep old gear going- saves money for important stuff like food and shelter. I know how hard that can be when scavenging for teaching hours. I recommend teaching music technology to teenagers, very rewarding and can easily be an extra skill on the CV to make you invaluable to the principal for school shows and help out the music teacher (who is usually afraid of tech IME).

250GB SSD is around $90 on Amazon. 8GB RAM roughly the same. A few more sheckels for the mounting bracket if you want to put one in the optical bay. New Apple laptop is upwards of $2000. ifixit.com for DIY instructions.

OK don't delete. But what I said is back-up and re-install, to give you the option of getting anything back. It's actually OK to have other stuff on there, but it's just over time if you've tried out lots of different apps, c**p builds up in the System folder.

If it's your only working laptop, that's an even more compelling reason to back it up. If it's GarageBand and Mainstage, then actually you are using sample libraries :) And you can re-install your purchase from the App Store.
Thanks for the tips! I can't replace my CD-ROM drive, as I'm that rare weirdo who still uses it to rip audio CDs to iTunes. 250 gigs wouldn't be enough for a hard drive, as I have an awful lot of music files (still use an iPod Classic; it's been modded to 360 gigs).

Everything else you said sounds good. I actually wonder if it might be the motherboard though. I had my old motherboard transferred into a new body (using the new motherboard would render my third-party 1TB hard drive useless) and it's been overheating since. Didn't take long for the drive to start lagging, either, even though it was new. On the other hand, I love the idea of reinstalling and then copying what I need back over.

As far as synths go, I'm leaning toward the Mini, as I really like the tiny size and the animate/arpeg buttons, as well as the fact that it comes with Ableton Lite. I'm in no hurry to make up my mind, though. I now have another buying question, so stay tuned for my next thread...

User avatar
madtheory
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 5140
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 12:45 pm
Real name: Tomas Mulcahy
Gear: Flangebeast Mk1, Plonkotron, Morovdis Arpeggiator, Maplin My First EQ, Jeff Wayne Thunderchild rack, Thermostat, Buck Owens' Moog.
Band: Minim
Location: Cork, Ireland
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by madtheory » Sun May 21, 2017 2:28 pm

You could use an external USB DVD drive. Those are cheap, and there would be no change in speed for ripping CDs, but you'd gain speed on your Mac by keeping a HD in the optical bay, because that would be on the internal SATA bus instead of USB.

500GB SSD is not a whole lot more expensive. It's still cheaper than a new Mac. I don't understand what the issue is with a "third-party" 1TB HD? Is that your current internal drive? I've a 500GB SSD and the old 1TB internal in the optical bay of my iMac, and a 10 year old DVD burner on USB that gets used for CD rips and reading DVD backups.

thefonz003
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 191
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:20 pm
Real name: Matt
Gear: Yamaha SY77
Korg DSS-1
Yamaha DJX
Novation MiniNova
Electrix Warp Factory
Akai MPK225
Various Softsynths
E-mu Mo'Phatt (wanting to sell)
Location: Ohio, U.S.
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by thefonz003 » Sun May 21, 2017 10:21 pm

madtheory wrote:You could use an external USB DVD drive. Those are cheap, and there would be no change in speed for ripping CDs, but you'd gain speed on your Mac by keeping a HD in the optical bay, because that would be on the internal SATA bus instead of USB.

500GB SSD is not a whole lot more expensive. It's still cheaper than a new Mac. I don't understand what the issue is with a "third-party" 1TB HD? Is that your current internal drive? I've a 500GB SSD and the old 1TB internal in the optical bay of my iMac, and a 10 year old DVD burner on USB that gets used for CD rips and reading DVD backups.
With that particular model (A1181) of MacBook, motherboards that receive a certain firmware update become incompatible with third-party hard drives. It's obscure and strange.

User avatar
madtheory
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 5140
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 12:45 pm
Real name: Tomas Mulcahy
Gear: Flangebeast Mk1, Plonkotron, Morovdis Arpeggiator, Maplin My First EQ, Jeff Wayne Thunderchild rack, Thermostat, Buck Owens' Moog.
Band: Minim
Location: Cork, Ireland
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by madtheory » Mon May 22, 2017 9:17 am

I assume it's particular drives and not "all third-party" drives, because Apple doesn't make drives? What's the evidence for this anyway?

thefonz003
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 191
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:20 pm
Real name: Matt
Gear: Yamaha SY77
Korg DSS-1
Yamaha DJX
Novation MiniNova
Electrix Warp Factory
Akai MPK225
Various Softsynths
E-mu Mo'Phatt (wanting to sell)
Location: Ohio, U.S.
Contact:

Re: UltraNova vs. MiniNova vs. other similar VAs

Post by thefonz003 » Mon May 22, 2017 7:40 pm

madtheory wrote:I assume it's particular drives and not "all third-party" drives, because Apple doesn't make drives? What's the evidence for this anyway?
Yeah, I don't know the exact specs of what causes certain drives to not work...maybe "aftermarket" was the word I wanted to use.

As far as evidence goes, there's my firsthand experience - my MacBook was getting pretty rough physically so I bought another that just had the standard 160-gig hard drive, planning to put my new 1TB drive into it. It worked fine with the drive that came with it but with any other drive it would display a big question mark on the screen instead of loading the OS. I did some research and saw that other people had had issues with this relating to a specific update...long story short I had the old motherboard put into the new body and the new hard drive has worked fine in it. It solved the hard drive problem and gave me a case without all the cracks the old one had, but that's also when it began regularly overheating.

TL;DR - The specific problem is rare but can be found in forums, and I can vouch that it happened to me as well.

Post Reply