Dreadbox Nymphes In-Depth Review

In his latest loopop video, synthesist Ziv Eliraz takes an in-depth look at the new Dreadbox Nymphes, a compact 6-voice analog synthesizer, inspired by the chthonic demi-goddesses.

“While it seems to be a relatively simple 6-voice polyphonic synth,” notes Eliraz, “under the hood are a few very interesting and innovative monophonic / duophonic / unison ideas.”
Topics covered:

0:00 Intro
1:05 Overview
2:30 Menu nav
4:25 Diving in
4:45 Unison
6:05 Chords
7:55 Expression
10:00 Multi mods
11:05 LFO 1 & 2
12:05 LFO as env
12:55 PWM
13:20 LFO rates
14:50 Key sync
15:10 Oscillators
15:55 LPF
16:40 Envelopes
17:25 Reverb
19:00 Tips & ideas
19:20 MIDI CCs
19:40 LFO 2 => 1
20:00 Chord glide
20:20 Load x 2
20:55 Subharmonics
22:25 Pros & cons
25:45 Outro

35 thoughts on “Dreadbox Nymphes In-Depth Review

  1. If Nymphes would come with a decently implemented and explained SysEx implementation, we could overcome the difficult user interface. Today, nothing to be found in that area on the Dreadox site.

    1. for this number of parameter sysex doesn’t seem needed. do you mean cc?
      an editor is planned so it will be midi controllable.
      it’s not shipped yet.

      1. No, I really do mean SysEx. By using SysEx Patch dump requests and SysEx paramer changes, we would be able to known the settings of all parameters, including the ones hidden behind the shift and other menu divings, and visualize them in an editor on the PC or on a controller such as the Electra One. By doing this we overcome the difficulties of the Nymphes’s user interfaces. Only the sound would be relevant.

        The same user experience cannot be reached with CC’s, is this does no allow you to retreive the settings form a patch.

        The good news: if an editor is planned, it should imply SysEx will be used. But Dreadbox should publish it, as this could only enhance the sales of these devices. I for one am not interested in yet another difficult to control synth or yet another editor to learn.

        About CC’s, I’d like to add we should no longer consider using CC’s as a professional tool ; it’s limited in the amount of controls and in its resolution. Hopefully Dreadbox implements NRPN in parallel as well with 14 bit resolution and for every conceivable parameter.

        1. @New Ignis, the Editor that Yannis hinted at to Nick is not a certainty. Apparently they are “hoping” some industrious programmer will create one as a third party app. Clearly the success and popularity of this synth will dictate if they will commit to creating an editor.

        2. no, you mixed two things.
          it’s true you do the “dump request” with sysex (and allot of others things) but the controls can still and should be purely “cc” with this one.
          cc is more economical, way less jittery, better supported with daws (some like ableton/bitwig don’t support sysex at all) and much easier to map to other controllers. it can also be high resolutions if needed, 2x cc = 128×128 = 14 bit = 16,384 steps (but no, it’s not needed for every parameter)
          the only limitation is the number of controls and with this one, it’s not an issue.

          1. @gadi: I’m indeed striving for two things, but I’m not mixing them up 😉 . Seeing all the possibilities this Nymphes has it may have more parameters than there are cc’s available. I agree we don’t need the 14bits of the nrpn that often, but nrpn allows all parameters to be made accessible and cc’s don’t.
            I’m not debating to swap cc’s for sysex, but to enhance cc’s with nrpns. In combination with DAWs cC’s and NRPNs are indeed recommended.

            Sysex serves another purposes which was originally meant for back-up and syncing two similar devices in real time, but can be put to better use for sound design and gigging as well:
            Using the combination of Sysex patch dumps and Sysex parameter change messages:
            – you can visualise completely how a patch is build, very relevant for sound design
            – you can avoid parameter jumps during tweaking, as all indicators on the editor are constantly in line with the patch. And this is very relevant during gigging. Only a few hardware synths can cope on themselves with the knobs being in the wrong place (ob-6 is one of them).

            1. I’m also into avoiding “parameter jump” and the ability to see what the value of the parameter before you edit it but you do mix two things. cc control is just like sysex control only faster and much less complicated. you can do all of what sysex does regarding control. the only limitation is the number of controls. sysex also do many other things not related to controlling values but it’s not supported by most hardware controls/sequencers.

              “this Nymphes has it may have more parameters than there are cc’s available”
              no, it’s a very simple synth (modulation included) sysex control is not reasonable.
              check all synths with limited parameters. they are all cc controlled and do all of what you mentioned.

              “I agree we don’t need the 14bits of the nrpn that often, but nrpn allows all parameters to be made accessible and cc’s don’t”
              no, they are both do it. some software don’t support nrpn.

              “– you can visualize completely how a patch is build, very relevant for sound design”
              you can do that with sysex and cc control. the sysex dump contain all the parameters values and you can still control all with cc.

              “you can avoid parameter jumps during tweaking, as all indicators on the editor are constantly in line with the patch”
              Again, there is no relation if you control parameter with cc or sysex. you can do that with both.

              “Only a few hardware synths can cope on themselves with the knobs being in the wrong place”
              some of the old one do have problem with this but most of modern synth have a “pick-up mode” or relative mode or both (or encoders) this one have pick up mode and i bet it will be cc controlled. again no relation to sysex or cc control.

              1. => “no, it’s a very simple synth (modulation included) sysex control is not reasonable.”
                Let’s do some math. I have the numbers distilled from LoopOp’s video, by counting parameters, so they won’t be exact: 14 regular, 14 in shift mode, 4 for reverb, 2 for LFO2, 7 hidden ones, 28 mod destinations for mod-wh, again for velocity, again for aftertouch, and 24 more destinations for LFO2. That totals up to 149. More than CC can handle. I don’t consider Nymphes to be very simple that way.

                => “you can do that with sysex and cc control. the sysex dump contain all the parameters values and you can still control all with cc.”
                I am very much interested in hardware controllers that can receive all parameters first with sysex, show those settings and then allow bidirectional control via midi cc instead of with Sysex param changes. Please tell me their brands and models, I will look into it.

                => “check all synths with limited parameters. they are all cc controlled and do all of what you mentioned.” unfortunately most of my synths have a decent amount of parameters. Not a single one of them gives me full control with MIDI CC only, except a Korg NTS1.

                Especially on older synths the CC implementation used to be very limited. Very often only 10 or 12 very basic CC messages were implemented, and NRPN was non-existent.. Modern synths are better in that perspective. Let’s look at the Moog Sub 37 f.i. : it uses 14 bit on Midi CC where ever possible. Total amount of CC controls is about 79. With NRPN there are about 98 controls. With Sysex 150.
                Or the Hydrasynth; they only use 7bit Midi and reach around 118 CC messages which is almost the maximum. With NRPN and Sysex there are more than 300 or 400 parameters.
                Some other numbers on SysEx : Waldorf Blofeld: 350. Oberheim matrix 1000 V1.20 : 133. Korg Karma : 809. Roland D-05: 256. Yamaha TG77: 1430 !

                My whole point indeed is that most hardware controllers offer only CC-control, and that is a shame. They should at least offer NRPN as well to broaden the palate available to musicians with modern equipment.
                Sysex patch dumps and messaging, I agree, can be very complex. But more modern hardware controllers should offer the possibility at least for those who want to use it.

                As for Nymphes: no way you can fully open up this synth via an editor just with CC messages. It will need additionally NRPN or SysEx param change messages to have all parameters made available. If they want to enable a full blown editor they’ll need Sysex. With only CC, the criticism on their user interface will remain.

                1. the manual is already out and it’s all cc controllable like assumed.
                  less than 80 cc’s in total so any editor for this will be cc based.

  2. I watched the review and I like Dreadbox stuff in general, but even when visualizing that an abused or oppressed woman was being soothed with each note loopop played, this synth is a stretch at $600 for me. For $50 less you can get a Korg Minilog and for $150 more, you could get a DeepMind 12. This synth in this package, at this price point feels very limited to me. That being said, I’m all for more synths on the market so I hope it sells well for them and they continue to make more products.

      1. again with the not mass produced in the far east

        almost like 99% of the other electronic stuff you own is not mass produced in the far east

        1. so you don’t know the product you own. most electronics in any house manufactured in the far east unless you avoid that on purpose.
          there is a good a reason brands manufacture product in the far east. it is much much cheaper to do it in large scale. lower cost = lower price.

  3. I am a neophyte for whom loopop was my gateway into this hobby. Watching him struggle with that knob to change parameters was not inspiring. Is it still called menu diving if there isn’t a screen?

  4. Brilliant review Loopop yet your “Cons” list is rather kind and mild, as @Jakelin and others have pointed out, there are far better options available.

    1. too many items have been cut to stay under a certain price , usb power and its problems with noise , mono output !!! on a poly synth , and all the things explained above and in the reviews
      you are in reality buying a “price” with the dreadbox sound and promises of things to come
      a lot of people are still waiting for the firmware improvements and missing features ( see loopop and other reviews) for the typhon
      to many options around that price point , that maybe dont have the dreadbox sound , but they have the functions to make them a pleasure to use or be useful

      1. usb connector does not means noise, it’s just a connector. if it’s done right it will not have this issue.
        mono output is not a biggy, you can make it “stereo” easily, it’s a little surprising considering it has a built in reverb but most synths are still mono out, even the very expensive prophet 5.
        it’s a boutique product, you buy quality, sound, looks and something unique not mass produce. if you looking for a “deal” firstly look for a made in china product.

        1. There is an electrical difference between USB and DIN-MIDI which explains the noise risk: a USB connection is an electrical connection, so you risk getting ground loops in larger settings. DIN-MIDI uses opto-electrical separations so it can’t trigger ground loop noise. But as you say, when set up carefully the noise issue should not appear with USB.

          As for most synths only having mono out, that is not true, especially for polysynths. Effects inside synths, that generate the stereo sound, only became popular during the ’80s. Even the DX7 did not have effects yet, but Korg and Roland (D-50) introduced it during that era. Most synths before that were monophonic, and so are their modern reproductions such as the Prophet 5, the Behringer stuff, the Korg MS20 or ARP 2600. But almost all modern poly-synths are stereo out.

  5. I got those illuminated sliders at $2.5/pc and was supper happy about price. Plus STM32 (which is their digital platform) has some limit on inputs. They would need some extra demux chips if adding more pots. I see why they added shift button. Otherwise it would be $100 more in the price.

  6. I can’t help but chuckle a bit when reading this comment thread.

    A 6 voice VCO(!) synth that sounds supremely analog (way better than Minilogue, if it sounds anything like their other VCO synths) for 600 usd?? Do you know what you had to pay for a polysynth in the 80s adjusted for inflation? How few options there were?

    This is a boutique(-ish) manufacturer, for god’s sake. Not economy of scale+poor worker’s conditions-Behringer, not multionational Japanese corp like Korg. We’re spoiled and be thankful for another option.

    If this isn’t cheap for what you get, I don’t know what is. Love what Dreadbox is doing. I think this is brilliant use of SMD to get it cheap and compact, ideal for live use.

    Yes, corners have been cut to reach a price point for a certain segment. Can you name one synth in your arsenal where production cost hasn’t been a consideration?

    Dreadbox also has Abyss V2 on the way which will most likely be a more well-spec’ed 8 voice poly, if this doesn’t float your boat. I’m holding out for that one.

    1. Yes, they are a small boutique manufacturer with a reputation of abandoning products with questionable firmware. Just because they achieved a certain price point, does not absolve them of criticism of what is and could have been.

      I am glad you like their products.

      1. Hmm, I can’t speak to the abandoned firmware part. Haven’t monitored their products for that long. The version upgrades I’ve seen with older synths like the Nyx and Erebus has mainly been about adding more modulation like digital LFOs, cheaper price points due to more efficient SMD-soldering etc.

        I’m merely commenting on people criticizing the price/value ratio here. In terms of amount of proper-sounding analog VCO-voices, 2 filters and sound quality for the price compared to even some of the biggest musical instrument corporations (like the Minilogue with its more modern sheen), that is impressive for a boutique company. People have become tired with new analog synths, for good reason, I think. That market is mostly saturated.

        User interface is another thing. I haven’t tried it and I agree that it doesn’t look like the most ideal menu-diving interface based on Loopops review. But as I said, it could be ideal for live use, where you don’t really need more functions than what is on the panel+mod wheel along with a Nord-esque keyboard to cover all bases.
        FOr studio you can most likely use the CC implementation and buy a controller for knob-per-function.

        1. That is a fair assessment (and I appreciate your civil and well reasoned discourse). From a feature standpoint, I suppose an argument can be made in either direction, and yes, for small boutique maker this is an accomplishment.

          I do take exception with their user interface and the user experience. That is the basis of my criticism. Regardless, I wish them well, small makers are an important and integral part of this industry. For instance, I am disappointed that the Artisan Instruments Nucleus was not funded on Kickstarter. Mike has been creating some truly thoughtful synths that are just not gaining the traction they deserve in my humble opinion.

          Cheers to you Sesh!

          1. Nucleus: $900 for a not even produced monosynth? Well, we need 5 more Biden’s covid stimulus bills to inflate the dollar to that point.. It is indeed a great synth! But you know, some actors-beginners shot in movies for free to ramp up their career and make millions later. Something for Mike to think about.

        2. the market is “saturated” with the lowest budget analog synth, i hope we will have more options for advance analog synths with, maybe more digital involve maybe even for the same price.
          the dave smith tetra was for about the same price, 4 voices and dco’s but so much more. people also complain about it’s control. i guess “bad” control is a good compromise.

  7. Why did Dreadbox discontinue the Erebus? I liked that one and hoped to pick one up some day. Now, people are already jacking Erebus prices on the used market.

  8. Nymphes owner here: power it from a USB source which doesn’t have a load of other gear hanging out of it, like a mains-powered hub, and unwanted noise doesn’t happen. The sound quality is superb, reminiscent of Roland synths as well as the characteristic richness of Dreadbox ( I also own a Medusa and Abyss ). I’m still finding my way around, but I’m not having a problem using the different button/knob combinations to make and save changes. I defy anyone to demonstrate a 6-note polyphonic *analogue* synth which sounds as good or better for under £400.

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