Sonic LAB: Dreadbox NYX - Analogue Desktop Synth

More from Greece's finest synthesizer manufacturers      20/05/17

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Buying Choices

Sonic LAB viewers will know that we're fans of the Dreadbox synths, the Erebus is a real gem so we were keen to see how their next desktop format synth shaped up.

NYX is also an analog 2 Oscillator semi modular desktop, but with several key differences to the Erebus.

NYX is the Greek goddess of the night, a dark theme for an ambient machine - as this synth features a dense reverb circuit from Crazy Tube Circuits.

The two oscillators offer the same solid sound source, with Osc 1 offering SAW and SQUARE over 32/16/8 octaves, but with the addition of a dedicated Pulse Width slider. Osc 2, gives us SAW and TRIANGLE over 16/8/4. Both oscillators have independent glide control, with Osc also having a +/- 8 semitones - which is a wider range than the Erebus and most welcome. Osc 1-2 sync is also available for those rich sync tones.

The filter is where things start to get more complex, NYX has a dual filter - 2 2-pole filter which can be split and routed in various configurations. In the basic mode they run in series to give you that classic Dreadbox 4-pole resonant form. Lovely low harmonics make the bottom end monstrous as with the Erebus. The master Freq controls both VCFs and a secondary Post parameter offsets the second filter. In practice this can give you two distinct peaks when resonance is added. All kinds of harmonic variations right there.

Alternative routings offer Hi-pass mode,  2x 2-pole filters in parallel (osc1-VCF1, Osc2-VCF2), VCF1 LP 2 pole, VCF2, HP 2 pole. Oscillators can similarly be routed - both Osc to both VCFs, Osc1 to VCF1 + Osc2 to VCF3 and OSC1+2 to VCF2,  finally both Osc directly to the VCA bypassing the filters.

I can't pretend that it's not complex, but it does allow for complex routings.

Modulators

There are three of these, two assignable and one fixed to the VCA. In envelope mode, there's an Attack (rise) and Decay (fall) portion, with a switchable hold which moves the Decay into Release mode. In LFO mode, the Rise and Fall parameters create waves between ramp up, triangle and ramp down. LFO speeds are quite limited, neither all that fast nor all the slow. I would have liked to have seen a range switch on both or at least one to fix that.

Reverb

This is capable of a pretty epic, long,  dense, rich sounds, but at it's shortest settings, it's not all that short. It adds a lot of character and ambient tones to the whole thing. With high filter resonance the low end is frankly massive. With a decent set of speakers, there will be small items falling from shelves. Settings include Time (predelay), Decay (length) Mix (wet/dry).

Patchbay

As with the Erebus, the MIDI input is hardwired to the inbuilt MIDI to CV interface. GATE, CV and MOD (CV from MIDI modulation messages). Modulator 1 and 2 both have outputs, with M2 having a dedicated depth control pot. Additionally, Osc 2 has an output for audio rate mod routings.

Inputs: CV 1 (Osc1) CV 2 (Osc2), VCF mod, Post (second VCF), CV (both Osc), Rev (time mod), PW mod, Gate, VCA.

Rear Panel

MIDI input, MIDI Thru, Audio input (to filter) - also doubles as a dry (no FX) audio output, Audio output (mono), 15v 1A power input.

I'll start by saying, I do really like the NYX, as with other Dreadbox synths it has something about it, a charisma like Erebus, but different. NYX offers a dreamy ambient quality. The beefy oscillators and filter resonance generate absolutely massive bottom end. The downside is that the modulators just aren't slow enough to match the languid waves of reverb with equally slow filter or sync sweeps. The routings do offer a lot of possibilities, but the sweet spots are in some cases quite hard to find, but rewards can be found.

As a result, given the cost £529, it does feel a little on the pricey side. However I can't think of many other synths that do what this does. A lot of fun. If the Bladerunner 2049 soundtrack hadn't already been written, this would be just the thing.

 

z

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