Are Motorized Synth Knobs A Gimmick, Or A Gamechanger?

In his latest loopop video, host Ziv Eliraz offers his usual very in-depth look with this review of the Melbourne Instruments NINA, a 12 voice polyphonic, multitimbral synthesizer with robotic patch recall.

The developers say that NINA is designed to give you the tactile and sonic qualities of classic analog synths, with modern functionality, patch recall and automation.

The video covers the most unique feature of the NINA, the automated knobs, and discusses several ways in which it improves usability. The video also covers the synth engine in depth, along with performance features like the Arp and Sequencer. If you’re most interested in how the synth sounds, the review includes audio demos for 25 presets.

Are the NINA’s motorized knobs a gimmick or a gamechanger? Check out the review and share your thoughts in the comments!

Topics covered:

0:00 Intro
1:35 The knobs
5:10 The synth
6:20 Workflow
7:30 Build & I/O
8:30 Morph
11:45 Layers
12:10 Drum synth?
13:15 Multi synth
15:30 VCOs
16:10 Sub osc
16:30 Osc sync
16:50 Wavetable
18:30 Noise/XOR
19:20 Drive
19:35 Filter
21:15 Pan/Spin
22:50 Effects
25:05 Mod matrix
29:00 Arp
29:35 Sequencer
30:45 Unison
31:40 Settings
32:10 Pros & cons
35:30 Outro
35:55 Twenty-five presets

See the Melbourne Instruments site for more information.

20 thoughts on “Are Motorized Synth Knobs A Gimmick, Or A Gamechanger?

    1. In my very younger days, I was in a band with two brothers, Jim and Mick.
      We were trying to come up with band names and their mom said we should call the
      band Gimmick lol. Looking back now, it would have been a great name.

  1. It’s a luxurious solution for a real problem so not a gimmick.
    Other solutions are displays, endles encoders, or knop catch parameter value. These are not Gimmick either just cheaper to realize currently. I would love this feature on all syths of this interface type but i do not know what its worth to me price-wise.

  2. I think this is awesome and would purchase if money wasn’t a big issue. But money is a big issue after all.

  3. Neither. Here’s why. “The game’ has been going on for too long to “change” all that much, even when the method is viable and legit. Its not a gimmick when it really works, as it does here. Its a proper instrument.

    I understand the appeal of knobs & sliders. That’s where I started, fellow early Moog & Roland SH synth players. That’s why I’m kind of MEH about motorized knobbage. I’m happy to do that myself, even with a mouse, now.

    NINA has a good sound on offer, but the price minus the motors would be a lot more appealing. I’m sure that will be less of an issue for Trent Reznor and those with healthy stock portfolios.

  4. My question would be how long those tiny motors will last. I have a 25-year-old Yamaha A/V receiver with two motorized knobs on it. Those two motors were the first things to fail. Everything else worked perfectly, but I had to ditch the receiver because of the dead motors. I spoke to some folks who repair audio equipment, and they said it was too difficult to replace the motors.

  5. If the synth was designed to easily replace the motorized knobs, then extended life could be possible, otherwise it’s very frustrating if only some of them function over time.

  6. I wish this became a trend but most manufactures already skipped on solutions like leds around the knobs so I don’t think this wil be copied a lot any time soon.

  7. not a gamechanger – also the better solution is endless knobs (not encoders) with LED-ring readouts for the values… and i think moog already did that

  8. My head was turned by the knobs, but I stayed interested because of the sound. And because of my piano player roots, I love the polyphony of this thing. Given the apparent openness of the developers, I hope that I will be able to somehow eventually hook it up to my softsyths, and my favorite DAW, Bitwig, which would be really fantastic, making it central to my process.

    But it will be a while till i can afford it, I can see that in time if it succeeds enough to mature, this could become a must-have synth for many people..

  9. It seems like an awesome instrument, and they have clearly put some thought into how the feedback from the knobs can facilitate a distinct creative workflow, in addition to the practical value of always-accurate parameter state display. The morphing function stands out as something that would be challenging to keep track of in an in-between state, were the knobs not all changing in real-time.

    Personally, I would be more motivated to invest in a general-purpose controller with this kind of interface, especially if there were a fine level of customization for how the individual knobs behave, in terms of haptic response, latching etc. Here’s hoping they (or somebody) makes that before long.

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