nanoloop, beginning life as a Game Boy cartridge, helped ignite a craze in chip music by intuitively combining sequencing and sound. Now, its creator wants to make his own hardware.
And — while I hope you read what I have to say, you almost don’t need to do anything other than watch this tantalizing demo:
It’s really hard to describe nanoloop just in terms of specs. The music tool has seen iterations on original Game Boy plus Game Boy Advance generation, in addition to iOS and Android apps. It wasn’t the only Game Boy cartridge embraced by musicians – LSDJ (Little Sound DJ) was also beloved by artists, more in the conventional tracker model. And just talking about the particulars of the synth architecture below also makes this sound crude.
But there’s something uniquely magical about nanoloop, the one-man invention of developer Oliver Wittchow. The software is minimalistic and elegant, reduced to a simple grid. You can pick it up and make things happen right away, making it friendlier than rivals to newcomers – you can be led by instinct, without having to understand concepts like “tracker” sequencing. And then more depth unveils itself in time. The result is an instrument that melds sequencer and sound, in a way only a handful of instruments ever have – the Roland TB-303 being an obvious comparison.
The sound of Nintendo’s Game Boy hardware was also integral to nanoloop’s appeal – augmented later by Oliver’s own software-based FM synth.
nanoloop hardware, therefore, is a big breakthrough. It recreates the signature sound established by its Nintendo predecessor. It boils down that intuitive grid into a hardware design. And it keeps the arcade-style controls – perfectly positioned for use with your thumbs, and keeping the whole package compact.
Plus the Kickstarter project – which has already crossed its funding threshold – starts at just 97EUR for hardware. That prices this only slightly above the cost of the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator line, with I think a far more interesting interface and sound.
In other words, once this ships, I think it’s overnight the most interesting budget synth and mobile sound-making hardware.
And it’s really packed with everything you’d want – battery power, sync (both via MIDI and CV), tons of musical features for messing with patterns, and the ability to store patterns on microSD card or even an audio cable if you … forget the card. (Have you ever done that? Me, never. Never, ever, ever forgot an … okay.)
dual square wave with true analog filter (mono)
4-voice polyphonic FM (stereo)
monophonic FM (stereo)
noise & clicks (stereo)
per-step control for all parameters
pattern transpose for all parameters
“meta step”: play note only every 2nd or 4th loop
variable pattern length per channel
individual channel tempo
ping pong and random modes
shift pattern in four directions
randomise all parameters
8×4 bi-color LED dot matrix
5 LED digits
8 menu icons
various color combinations available
silicone rubber buttons with plastic caps:
d-pad + 4 buttons
3.5 mm mini jack stereo headphone/line out
3.5 mm mini jack input for CV and MIDI sync
3.5 mm mini jack output for CV and MIDI sync
bent acrylic glass
2 x AAA batteries, micro USB (power only)
physical power switch -> zero “standby” power
battery life: 50+ h
99 banks à 4×8 patterns each
song 999 patterns length
backup / restore via audio cable
micro-SD slot for near infinite projects (SD-card not included)
MIDI sync in & out
analog 1/24, 1/16, 1/8 in & out
12 x 6 x 2.5 cm, 100 g (incl. batteries)