1010music’s third entry in their Nanobox series is the snazzy looking hot pink Razzmatazz drum synth and sequencer. Like its fellow Nanoboxes the Razzmatazz is a super compact unit with a large touch screen, two multi-function knobs and a single row of four soft-touch buttons on the top, and a USB-C port, a micro-SD card slot (card is included) and 3.5mm jacks (for MIDI IN and OUT, CLOCK in, and stereo LINE IN and OUT) on the rear of the unit.
Razzmatazz is powered via USB and once powered up, the default screen is the drum pad view, arranged as eight pads in two rows of four with each pad being able to be loaded with a different drum sound. It’s a familiar drum machine/pad look, and can be used for performance, auditioning kit sounds, and recording patterns into the step sequencer. If (no judgement here!) you don’t have the patience or precision to work with the small pads, the Razzmatazz MIDI integration makes it easy to utilize an external controller to play, enter, or sequence (if you don’t want to use the internal sequencer) patterns. Navigation is generally a combination of touchscreen and the physical controls and is relatively easy to grasp once you get the hang of where things are. If you’re familiar with the other Nanoboxes you’ll be right at home with navigating Razzmatazz. There’s a “teleport” function where by holding down the HOME button will bring up a screen with touch points for all the main areas of the interface is shown, making it simple to jump between different sections of the unit, which really helps if you are popping around a bunch or get lost in the machine.
Loading up different kit presets is easy and similar to the process for the other Nanoboxes and saving changes to kit presets or saving to a new kit preset is also intuitive. Individual drum pad presets can be swapped out as well, by touching the three-line hamburger menu while the pad you want to load into is highlighted and in addition to loading in new pad presets, the menu is where you can save pads as well as copy, paste, and rename them. Saving, loading, integrating, swapping…1010 has made this all really intuitive in all of their devices, Razz included.
In Razzmatazz each pad is associated with a different percussive instrument model and each model has its own prescribed set of macro controls so you can really tweak the sound the way you want. They are slightly different depending on the model and are laid out on a MACROS screen. Each model has up to eight macros controlled by the two knobs in groups of two (top knob = top macro, bottom knob = bottom macro) and there is a little pad trigger at the top on this screen so you can trigger the sample while adjusting the macro parameters to audition the sound. It is a really small button and I found it difficult to trigger the sample without accidentally selecting the macro column directly below the trigger even though I was able to circumvent the need to manually trigger by running a sequence while I tweaked the parameters.
Razzmatazz has a step-sequencer on board and sequences can be entered either one step at a time or by recording a pattern into a sequence while playing the pads with your fingers. It’s a pretty familiar process if you’ve ever used a programmable sequencer. Each preset can store up to 16 sequences and the step length and number of steps—up to 64 max— can be adjusted, from a step length of 64th notes all the way to 8 bars per step, so it’s really flexible. Additionally, each sequence can have different step lengths and step counts for more fine tuning. Editing sequences takes place on a screen that has grouped boxes that represent each of the 8 available pads with each group of 8 pads representing one step and you can add or remove notes on a per-step basis and each pad has its own separate screen for editing. The advantage of this approach is that you can see where you have triggers set for other sounds while editing one pad at a time, and it’s a great visual representation of your pattern and makes what can be a somewhat tedious process that much easier. There’s even a secondary screen in the sequence editor that allows you to edit per-step velocity to add more dynamics.
The Razzmatazz comes with 120 great sounding preset sounds to get started with and tweak to your tastes or aims and using the presets is a great jumping off point for learning about the different sound sculpting options that the Razzmatazz has on board. Each pad’s sound can use a combination of two FM oscillators and a WAV file as the sound source and additionally there are two filters, two envelopes, a resonator, a snap generator, along with distortion, bit crusher, and rate crusher effects, and each pad also has a dedicated LFO to modulate various parameters, so the sonic possibilities are immense. That’s a ton of features to have on board for crafting your sound, and additionally, there are six different percussive models available. When creating a new pad you choose between models for kick, snare, closed or open hat, tom, or sample, and depending on which model you choose, the Razzmatazz will populate the Macros screen with a preset selection of controls.
There are also Clip and Slicer models which can be used only on the top left pad (one per kit) and the clips play WAV files and have beat sync and looping capability. The Slicer plays back a sliced WAV starting at different times in the file. There’s no way to do onboard slicing or loop point adjustments like you can on 1010’s Blackbox, so both clip and slice require files to be prepared outside of the Razzmatazz, though you can record WAV files from external sources for use in pads using the LINE IN. This isn’t really that big of a deal since this isn’t a sampler, but maybe in the future there will be a way to edit/prepare the files inside of Razzmatazz.
Once you’ve chosen a model you can dive into selecting and modifying any combination of the two FM oscillators and sample WAV available on board. The oscillator options are well laid out and offer a great palette for creating interesting and varied percussive sounds and when the synthesized options aren’t doing it for you, layering in a WAV file is fantastic. Going the other way is super fun too, and starting with a drum sample and layering in the oscillators over the top can add great subtle color and punch—or total wildness—to a sound.
Razzmatazz sounds excellent on its own and shines as an on-the-go drum synth, especially for sketching out beats or song ideas, though I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as a studio tool as well—it sounds that good, as the real strong suit of the Razzmatazz is in its sounds and sound design feature set. As a drum synth it offers a fantastic amount of depth in a super compact format and 1010’s user interface for the Nanoboxes is fairly intuitive and provides a very manageable workflow, even when adjusting multiple parameters across multiple pads. The flexibility of coupling FM based sounds with layered WAV files is great and I love the ability to mix and match the two and blend them together. The send effects and global cab simulation sound excellent with the latter being great for dialing just the right amount of grit, and being able to pan individual pads is great for giving some spatial depth to a drum track, and the muting capabilities are nice for getting more mileage out of your sequences. It would be great to see a few more modulation targets in the voice architecture, but given 1010music’s track record for firmware upgrades, it’s a good bet that there will be continued additions and improvements. As for the size? In use the size rarely becomes a hindrance. The Nanoboxes are charming, intriguing, and surprisingly powerful little boxes and the Razzmatazz is a great addition to the burgeoning Nanobox family.