Razzmatazz Review: A Delightful (Cheerful Pink) Drum Machine | Engadget

Earlier this year, 1010music released Lemondrop and Fireball, two amazing full-featured synths in incredibly small packages. The company’s Nanobox lineup covers quite a bit of space between these two tools, but neither was particularly suited to handling drums. So the company took the same basic hardware, put an FM beat-focused engine along with a sampler, gave the whole thing a fun pink paint job, and called it Razzmatazz.

The newest member of the 1010 Music family is a rich-sounding drum machine with a simple 64-step sequencer. While it may lack some of the modern conveniences you’d expect from a $399 gadget, it makes up for it with a solid set of sound design features. And yes, even 10 months later, the nanoboxes are still amazingly small.

hardware

Terrence O’Brien/Engadget

I won’t spend a lot of time reworking the hardware since I’ve already covered it in my review of Lemondrop and Fireball, but here’s a quick recap. The entire device measures 3.75 inches wide, 3 inches long, and 1.5 inches thick—small enough to fit in even the smallest bag or large pocket. There’s a two-inch touchscreen up front, as well as four navigation buttons and a pair of encoders. On the back, you get ¼” MIDI in and out, ¼” audio in/out, a USB-C port for power and a microSD slot (pre-packaged with a 32GB card) for storing samples and presets.

The only noticeable external change from previous Nanobox entries is the color. There is no functional advantage to Razzmatazz being hot pink, but I love it. As I mentioned in my review of Cre8Audio’s East Beast and West Pest, the synths should be joking. I have nothing against the Korgs, Elektrons, and Moogs of the world. But their machines often take themselves too seriously. And I, for one, think a composite world could use a splash of color every now and then.

sound engine

1010 Razzmatazz Music

Terrence O’Brien/Engadget

At the heart of Razzmatazz is an eight-voice engine that combines FM synthesis and sample playback. Each pillow can be either or both, which is somewhat unique. I can’t think of another reasonably priced drum machine that allows you to combine FM beats and samples in quite the same way. You can simply layer the two, but you can also, for example, use a sample of an actual timpani to attack, and then let the syncopation fade away afterwards.

It’s a really fun effect and similar to what you’d find in late 80’s Roland as the D-50. The only problem is that knowing how to achieve this isn’t immediately obvious. Since the wrappers here are simple continuity/rot affairs, you can’t just lighten the attack and be done with it. Instead, you have to set the envelope to control the volume of the digital oscillators, but set the modulation depth to negative 100 percent, at which point the decay works like an attack.

Another major difference is that Razzmatazz cannot be played chromatically. So you can’t make a room vibrating sound line to accompany your drum pattern. You also can’t use the trick of using a sequencer to control pitch, like in Lemondrop and Fireball. In fact, there is no mod sequencer, just two LFOs and two wrappers. The tone is not the point of modification. You can change the tuning of individual pads and create something melodic this way, but that’s about it.

However, the sounds themselves are excellent. The collection of 120 presets leans towards the flashy, electric side of things. Since there is a sampler, in addition to the FM engine, you can get convincing real drum sounds as well. Most of the included samples don’t tend to the vocal range, but you can easily upload or record your own if you like. The only thing to note is that there is no way to slice samples on Razzmatazz. So if you want to split the beat you need to do that before you import them as separate files. Same for the rings.

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