1010 Music has a history of producing forward-thinking devices that pack a lot of functionality behind a surprisingly intuitive user interface. Leveraging the use of touch screens for programming and interaction, it is always easy to navigate their instruments. Moreover, their creation of product "platforms" means that the same hardware (or at least, the same basic layout of hardware) can support multiple firmwares—so while many of their products might look quite similar, much of their focus goes into developing new firmware and continuously updating their products. This means that, despite being a relatively young instrument company, they've already been able to produce many distinct and powerful instruments, from their first release (the Eurorack-format Bitbox) all the way to the current-day standalone Blackbox workstation and Bluebox mixer.
Today, we're happy to witness the announcement of 1010's newest device form factor: the Nanobox. A literally pocket-sized enclosure, the Nanobox is 1010's most portable form factor to date—but it doesn't sacrifice the flexibility and intuitive workflow we've come to love. It still features a touch screen for intuitive interactive control and a full complement of connectivity options, from TRS MIDI to audio I/O. The first two products in the Nanobox series are the Fireball (a wavetable synthesizer) and Lemondrop (a granular synthesizer/audio processor). And while these each explore very different avenues of synthesis, they do have a lot in common: built-in sequencing, an option for a using the touch screen as a playing interface, integrated effects, an assignable X/Y control mode, and an all-in-all excellent sound and deep programming potential. Let's take a look at each to get a better sense of what they can do!
Lemondrop: Granular Synthesizer + Processor
1010 Music's Lemondrop is a bright yellow granular powerhouse that can deftly mangle any sample you throw at. Truly the size of your palm, this device is outrageously portable, leading one to consider just how far technology has advanced. A matching USB-C power cable is included—and given this PSU input format, Lemondrop is easily powered from a USB battery pack, letting you bring it anywhere you'd like. Connections abound with audio and MIDI I/O plus a dedicated Clock Input for a total of five 3.5mm connections. Add the aforementioned USB-C jack and an SD Card slot, and you have a back panel that is replete with anything you could desire.
The core of the sound engine is based around two granular generators that work independently to create dense soundscapes or complex timbres. You can adjust the size and rate of generation for each grain along with a host of other parameters. You can even set the granular engine to affect live sound and give the grains a movement where they randomly pitch up or down in octaves and/or fifths. Built-in effects let you further customize and sculpt your sound with a phaser, flanger, and chorus in one effects bank, and reverb and delay in another. Load in your own samples, or get lost in the 120+ presents that already exist.
Interaction with the Lemondrop can be accomplished with an external controller, however, using the two incredibly sturdy encoders and responsive touchscreen works just as well. An X/Y modulation pad adds excellent expressivity to your playing letting you assign any parameter and any number of parameters to the axes. A grid keyboard is also available and can be quantized to any scale with selectable root note and features a hold function. For playable atmospheres, engage the hold and set the notes, then use the X/Y pad to adjust specific parameters for a deep, heady session. Besure to try this with loads of reverb or delay and with the live input engaged.
For an in-depth look at granular synthesis, check out this Signal article.
Fireball: Pocket-Sized Wavetable Synthesizer
The Nanobox Fireball brings the fantastic morphing sounds of wavetable synthesis to the palm of your hand. Featuring all the same hardware found in the Lemondrop, the Fireball's unique sound sourcing and sculpting comes from its two wavetable oscillators with an additional digital oscillator providing basic wave shapes and noise. The rich harmonic content comes from dozens of wavetables to select from per oscillator, be it a gnarly FM table, a gurgly formant table, or even some sweeping harmonics. Each oscillator page gives you access to changing the pitch, level, wavetable/shape, and wavetable position/duty cycle of said oscillator.
From there, the fireball features two filters for routing each oscillator through, providing several filter types including low, high, and band pass as well as a notch filter. Each filter has individual control over cutoff frequency and resonance, and even offers both series and parallel routing for tons of versatility in the sonic sculpting department—allowing for highly-tuned, multi-layered sounds. The final sound is passed through an amplitude stage tied to the first envelope, but it should be known that both envelopes, both LFOs, the onboard sequencer, and any MIDI CC can be used to modulate and control any parameter with no strict ties to anything. Parameters with a blocky ellipses to the right of them can apply up to three of the previously mentioned modulation sources, making for a quite flexible and lively patch-building experience and performance.
Additional processing is found in the effects section, offering you two sends for applying a number of different time and frequency shaping tools. The first send offers tons of tonal shaping selectable from typical modulation effects such as flanger, chorus, phaser, as well as a distortion effect for beefing up and crushing your sounds, while the second send offers either a delay or reverb for stretching and spatializing your sound for dreamy, dark, or generally extended textures. Utilizing the fireball with an external MIDI device is easy enough with tons of MIDI learn functionality, but the fireball works just as well on its own with a full onboard keyboard, a performative XY pad, and a highly functional modulation sequencer. With eight voices to use for creating creamy pads and keys or mono-ing out for heavy basses, the 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball is a feature-filled wavetable synthesizer that can fit in your pocket.
All in all, the Nanobox series presents a compelling value proposition: affordable, portable synthesizers that each deeply explore an esoteric form of synthesis while maintaining an easy, intuitive user experience. Combine that with their extensibility—feauting tons of connectivity options—and you'll be surprised that you can do so much with such small devices.
The launch of this new format of device from 1010 is quite promising—and we hope that Lemondrop and Fireball will be just the first of many amazing instruments to come.