If you think Nanobox gear looks like toys, they’re supposed to look like toys. What’s wrong with that? Great music has been made with toy-like drum machines in electronic music, like the MFB-522 Drumcomputer — or even the old Italo standby, the Speak & Spell.
I would love to hear tracks made entirely out of Nanobox gear and that’s a little easier to imagine with the Nanobox pocket-sized “streaming sampler.” The Nanobox Tangerine is 3.75″x3″, same as the companion Lemondrop granular synth, Fireball wavetable synth and Razzmatazz pocket drum sequencer and FM synth. It has an identical form factor — every button (four) and knob (two) is in the same place across the Nanobox line and so is the 2 inch center touchscreen.
All have limitations too. To fit this much into this small package, 1010music has foregone batteries and onboard file storage for the Tangerine. Instead there is a 32gb microSD slot and power comes via USB-C, which makes this more complicated to carry along portably or play with the others.
On the positive side, those compromises have made the Tangerine more powerful than its size suggests. The Tangerine has a 4gb maximum sample size, which is quite large, thanks to that microSD slot. You can play up to 24 stereo polyphonic notes, multi-sample banks with 16 velocity layers and 576 WAV files loaded in one preset. You can trigger samples from the touchscreen as one shots and tweak and re-sample playback on the fly. It can be networked with MIDI to sample from other devices. The interface is well-designed (evocative of the minimalism of the original scrollwheel iPod) and 1010music’s minimal but intuitive user interface is useful, it doesn’t try to cram too much into such a small space.