Bluebox - 1010 Music

Bluebox - 1010 Music

by Sam Chittenden

The Bluebox, a compact digital touchscreen mixer, is the latest offering from 1010 Music. Following in the form factor footsteps of their popular Blackbox sampler/groovebox, users familiar with that unit will feel immediately at home with the Bluebox interface.
The Bluebox is a compact mixer whose small size belies its suite of powerful features. On the rear of the unit are six stereo inputs and three stereo outputs [two labeled “MAiN” and one for headphones, although these labels are somewhat arbitrary as the internal signals are flexibly routed] all on 3.5mm TRS connections. When the jacks are used with splitter cables, the six stereo inputs can be split internally to offer a total of 12 mono channels [or any combination of stereo and mono]. Each channel then has complete and independent control. The Bluebox also has the ability to independently record and playback each of its tracks as well as the master out, simultaneously. Add to this a full-featured four-band EQ per track, high-quality delay and reverb effects [with track independent sends] and a global compressor, and the Bluebox's 5.5 inch square case starts bursting at the seams with functionality.
Setting up the Bluebox is a breeze, just make your connections on the rear [ok, ok, this part can be a bit fiddly, owing to the tightly spaced input jacks, but not a big deal, unless you have particularly wide cable ends] and then map your inputs to their respective tracks. Bluebox can route any single input to any single track but only one input per track. You can't map a single input to multiple tracks or merge the signals from more than one input to the same track, however you can mix and match stereo and mono signals as you'd like and, as mentioned before, split the left and right inputs from a stereo signal to two separate mono tracks. The mixer display can be configured to show from 4 to 12 track meters [in 2 track increments] in either a single or double row. Additionally each track can be labeled quickly using the touch screen. The visibility of each track's label is dependent on how many tracks you have and how you choose to display the metering, with more information being visible with a lower track count.
In the Mixer view, track volume, input gain, solo and mute controls, record arming, panning, effects sends, and the cue and output two levels are done in two groups of tracks—depending on how many tracks you have visible—with the controls spread along the bottom over two screens. Select which parameter you would like to adjust and either touch and drag with a finger within the corresponding track's meter, or utilize a track's related encoder. The same parameter can be adjusted on multiple tracks simultaneously so, for example you can grab and slide up volume on three tracks using your fingers on the touch screen while adjusting a fourth with an encoder.
There is also a Track view which allows all of the control parameters to be adjusted on one screen for an individual track, and you select which track you are adjusting by touching its meter display. The track parameters are grouped in fours with each individual within the group controlled by one of the four encoders. Each group is highlighted pink when active, and the position of each control corresponds to a knob, i.e. top-left parameter to top-left encoder, top-right to top-right, and so on. You can also touch and drag the virtual controls to make adjustments although those with larger than child-sized fingers may find this approach less accurate. Bluebox employs a very intuitive control scheme and one that easily adapts to your preferred way of making adjustments.
The EQ mode is arranged similarly to the Track mode with the meter displays in the top half of the screen and the currently selected track's 4-band EQ displayed along the bottom. The encoders control each of the four mode's gain, Q, and frequency, with the fourth encoder selecting between several EQ modes. A second press of the EQ button will expand the frequency graph to the full screen for a bit more precision in the parameter adjustments.
The Bluebox also features two built-in effects; reverb and delay. Both have a wide variety of parameters that are adjustable between four different FX display screens; one for delay parameters, two for the reverb [one with quick access to all 10 reverb parameters as well as a freeze button], and one screen with an XY pad for each effect.
In addition to the per track effects, there is also a nice compressor that is applied globally. Adjusting its parameters takes place from within a sub-screen in the Main section and offers a nice amount of adjustability. There are also parameters for switching between pre and post fader sends for the effects and the secondary outputs.
Perhaps best of all, after spending the time and effort to dial everything in, the Bluebox allows you to save your settings into a project [track parameters, EQ and effects settings] making it super easy to recall specific set-ups or experiment with alternate mix settings without having to recreate them from scratch each time. This is great if you have multiple setups that you like to play around with or if you want to focus on only certain instruments within a larger set up. You can keep all twelve mono channels plugged in but switch between different profiles of four or six different instruments, depending on what you are actively using.
If all that wasn't enough, you can also record all the tracks individually as well as the main mix at the same time. Each track can either record its input or playback a stored .wav file. Each new track recording will supersede the previous one but the Bluebox will store each take as an alternate file, and although only one file can be played back at a time, you can select which recorded take is active. Tracks cannot [at the time of writing] be overdubbed and there is no ability to punch-in, though conceivably these features could be added in a future firmware update.
Bluebox speaks MIDI as well and its controls can be mapped easily to be controlled via an external controller if desired. MIDI clock can also be followed or sent from Bluebox in order to sync with external gear.
Bluebox's combination of onboard recording as well as full-featured live mixing is a killer combo. Of course, there are other mixers with the same abilities but none that have such a compact size with as many inputs coupled with the intuitive and flexible workflow. The Bluebox shines as a mixer for synths and other electronic hardware but it also offers a great set of controls that nudge it out of the category of a fancy submixer into a performative part of your sonic arsenal. It’s an incredible solution for Eurorack users who are loathe to devote precious HP to large modular mixers and a godsend for those looking to free themselves from the DAW, while not compromising on sound quality or intuitive workflow. For compact mixing with powerful features and flexibility, look no further.
Price: $499