Sonic LAB: 1010Music Nanobox New Micro Synthesizers
Lemondrop granular, Fireball wavetable 28/01/22
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1010music have been on a roll in recent times. Their Bluebox mixer/recorder (see our review) and the Blackbox - sampler clip launcher seem to have caught the zeitgeist and have meant they have had plenty of sales.We met head honcho Aaron at Superbooth 21 had a great chat, they are good people.
Today they launch a new format: The Nanobox - a tiny USB-C powered OLED touchscreen enabled instrument with high quality D/A and A/D (stereo in and out on mini-jacks), microSD card - for audio files and patch storage, MIDI i/o- on mini Jack adapters plus a clock input. The touchscreen we should add is tasty, with good sensitivity and a fast refresh rate, it doesn't feel cheap.
Devices also feature a two FX engine with Chorus, Flanger,/Distortion, Phaser, and Reverb/Delay. Both also share very similar structure with 3 oscillators per voice, two DSP multi-mode filters, two envelopes, 2 LFOs and a parameter sequencer. In addition, the screen can be put in X/Y pad mode for additional control.
Also common is the Modulation mapping matrix, with many parameters having three assignable sources - as well as internal mod sources, MIDI controllers too.
The Lemondrop is a 4-voice granular synth engine - bright yellow in fact - and features 2 granular oscillators from SD card audio files, plus a third standard VA synth wave oscillator.
The Fireball is identical but bright orange and offers an 8-voice Wavetable synth with two Wavetable oscillators and the same VA synth oscillator with Wavetables user or included loaded via the microSD.
First up, these are very small, and while very cute, can be moved around with heavier cables or adapters - which you will need due to everything being on mini jacks. Secondly, they sound beefy! The quality of the D/A shows (Texas Instruments 24-bit 48kHz) we were impressed by the depth and quality of the output.
In terms of usability, yes, they can be a little fiddly initially but after a session exploring, you do find that you can get about pretty quickly, though sometimes the scrolling to the parameters can get a tad tedious - an editor would make sense, but nothing on the cards yet and there's no MIDI over USB implemented right now.
But the depth of synthesis is pretty impressive for something so small. The Lemondrop also has the ability to route the live input into either (or both) granular oscillators for some live processing. You can also just route the signal through the effects which in the case of the reverb and delay is pretty nice.
Gaz was looking at the Fireball and editor Nick at the Lemondrop, we both were impressed with the capabilities. However they are pretty small, and we were struggling to figure out what the use scenario would be for these in a general sense. Given that you require an external power source, their size is dependent on that so you do need other stuff to be able to use them. The second issue is price - they are $399 each.
Which seems like a lot. Though we have to recognize that parts price hikes( due to scarcity) in addition to general inflation has really hit the smaller manufacturers - as they can't absorb those increases as effectively as larger scale operations. These were originally designed to cost less, but sadly it wasn't to be.
We had a few recommendations - one would be to make them operate as USB audio and MIDI interfaces to add some additional utility to them. Second was to allow you load whichever firmware you want onto either, there's no solid reason why that shouldn't be possible and we hear they may do this.
Fireball and Lemondrop are available shortly via your local 1010music stockist priced at $399