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Dreadbox Nymphes

Analogue Synthesizer By William Stokes
Published May 2022

Dreadbox Nymphes

Dreadbox are on form with an instrument that packs a lot of synth into a very small box.

It should come as no surprise that Athens‑based Dreadbox have named their latest synthesizer after wild chthonic demi‑goddesses. Ancient Greek nymphs supposedly inhabited natural phenomena like rivers, woods and caves, presiding over fountains, springs and sacred wells, so thematically the Nymphes fits right in alongside previous Dreadbox synths such as the Typhon (ancient Greek monster with 100 dragon’s heads) and Erebus (Greek primordial god of darkness). Developed over the pandemic, the Nymphes is a six‑voice polyphonic analogue synthesizer with an onboard digital reverb processor. It offers a single wave‑variable oscillator (with a sub‑oscillator) over six different voice modes, two LFOs with flexible routing, and both a low‑ and high‑pass filter. It’s small, it’s bold, its sound is fat (correction: ‘phat’) and with all 14 of its sliders fitting onto the faceplate of a sturdy 24 x 12.5cm metal chassis, it’s highly ergonomic and looks very nice in a dark lavender finish.


The fundamentals of the Nymphes are straightforward. It has no onboard sequencer or arpeggiator. Its rear panel simply has one USB port, a 3.5mm MIDI input, one quarter‑inch output and one 3.5mm headphone output. Its front‑panel layout recalls the rows of sliders found on synths like the Juno, which is a departure from the design of previous Dreadbox synths and works well here.

The back panel features a 3.5mm MIDI input, quarter‑inch audio output, a 3.5mm headphone socket and a USB port for power.The back panel features a 3.5mm MIDI input, quarter‑inch audio output, a 3.5mm headphone socket and a USB port for power.

From left to right, the panel presents an oscillator section, a filter, envelope section, LFO section and mode selector. There is no manual tuning parameter on the Nymphes; instead it has a fun self‑tuning procedure that sounds like you’re powering up a computer in Star Trek. On a synthesizer of this size it’s important to keep the workflow logical and digestible — something Roland certainly achieved on their desktop‑format JU‑06 and which is similarly well done on the Nymphes. One or two workflow frustrations did recur, which I’ll come to shortly, but generally this synth is easy to use. It’s flexible and adaptable, its knobs and sliders are pleasingly firm to the touch, it feels weighty for its size and — a quality not to be underrated — it looks inviting to play.


The right‑hand side of the panel is taken up by a stepped ‘preset control’ knob and a control menu with selector button. The preset control knob is used to cycle through the menu’s options, the most frequently used of which is ‘mode’, which presents a sub‑menu with six voice modes: polyphonic, two unison modes (‘uni A’ and ‘uni B’), triphonic, duophonic or purely monophonic. There’s also a mode for building custom auto‑chords, a nice touch that all but takes away the need for an additional oscillator on the panel when in any of the unison modes. The preset control knob is also used to cycle through the Nymphes’ bank of 49 user preset slots (on top of another 49 factory presets, accessed by holding instead of tapping the ‘load’ button). The menu system teeters occasionally on the edge of ‘menu‑diving’, but just about avoids this. I can imagine Nymphes users in a live setting will find themselves simply keeping the ‘load’ button lit for quick and convenient voice switching, easily achievable with the preset control and in my opinion an important string to its bow.

Every slider has an alternative function thanks to a shift button, which I can imagine was an essential design decision for Dreadbox and one that prevented the Nymphes from having to double in size. I say this because, unlike many synths where the shift button generally gives access to more sporadically adjusted parameters, here it presents several principle functions, some I could argue are more important than those accessible without it. The VCA envelope, for example, is only accessible through pressing shift, while the filter envelope is allocated to be the primary envelope. This isn’t so much a criticism than simply an observation; the shift button is key to the Nymphes’ architecture, and I can imagine any seasoned user tapping it constantly as they work their way around the synth to make use of the oscillator detune setting, the LFO envelope (that is, its delay and fade parameters), portamento and so on.

One criticism I do have is that visually, for me at least, the functions accessible with the shift key jump off the panel more than those that are accessible without it. This frequently led me, instinctively, to adjust certain parameters and wonder why it wasn’t affecting my sound in they way I expected, only to find the shift key incorrectly on or off (it can be held down or latched with a double tap). In some cases there are tertiary functions for sliders which require the menu to be on a specific option, therefore threatening further confusion. At worst this can amount to the occasionally tedious retracing of steps to correct a mistake, but in fairness it’s reasonable to assume that familiarity is the key here, and indeed with repeated use my navigation around the Nymphes got easier.

Analogue From The Gods

At the Nymphes’ core is a high‑quality oscillator. Considering its price, if there’s one thing this synth needed to get right it was its beating analogue heart, and this they have achieved. Variable across sawtooth, square and triangle waves, the oscillator immediately gets into interesting territory once even a couple of its parameters are dialled in and modulation is applied. It offers noise, sub and even a detune function, which work together to create some beautiful tones, full of movement and dynamism — as well as some deliciously abrasive and ugly ones.

Having highlighted my surprise to see the VCA envelope playing second fiddle to the VCF envelope, I should point out that there’s no real reason why this ‘should’ be the other way around — every hard‑wired analogue synth offers its own take on the signal flow of synthesis and the Nymphes is no different. I did find the fact that the filter envelope amount is presented as a primary function (and not a shift function) a little confusing, since the Nymphes’ workflow seems to encourage that parameter to simply be left on full. The more I worked with the Nymphes, however, the more I saw how its detailed filter section is key to its character, and it packs a lot of control into a very small space — particularly important when working with just one oscillator. Importantly, it sounds good. The frequency curve was pleasing but still had edge. I was particularly pleased to see a 6dB/oct high‑pass filter accompanying the Nymphes’ 24dB/oct low‑pass filter, something that in my opinion not enough small analogue synths offer, and with its punchy envelope, whistling resonant peak, smooth and accurate key tracking and dual LFO control there’s scope for tremendous amounts of filter‑flavoured analogue creativity here, with a rock‑solid oscillator as its foundation.

The Nymphes won’t take up too much space on your desktop, measuring just 240 x 125 x 38mm.The Nymphes won’t take up too much space on your desktop, measuring just 240 x 125 x 38mm.

Modulation For Days

One of the Nymphes’ most impressive features is its modulation and expression routing. Four of the main menu’s options (LFO 2, mod wheel, velocity and aftertouch) are dedicated to this, with each control message able to be routed to a possible 24 destinations across the panel, using the slider for each to adjust the level of modulation. In essence, pretty much anything you see in front of you can be modulated, be it the chord generator with aftertouch, the LFO rate with velocity or pulse width with your mod wheel.

Despite the fact that the polyphonic LFO 1 is accessible from the panel in ordinary play mode, it can only go to either the oscillator or frequency cutoff, while LFO 2 is far more flexible. I actually found it more helpful to think of LFO 2 as my go‑to, with LFO 1 as a source of further detail for the pitch or filter. It’s a highly impressive amount of sound‑sculpting potential and far more than one might expect from a synth of this size. With so many different modulation sources and a plethora of destinations, though, it can be difficult to know where to start when editing an existing preset — particularly with the absence of any screen. Luckily, the Nymphes has the panic option to kill all parameter modulation from a selected source by holding down the menu button.

Temple Of Reverb

Turning the menu to option three enters reverb mode, giving the envelope section sliders control over size, decay, filtering and mix. Far from a lush, flexible, studio‑style reverb, the Nymphes’ onboard reverb is something much better, which is full of character. I am of the opinion that onboard effects should never try to emulate the function of outboard gear — there are legions of pedals and units for that. Instead they should work to augment the inherent character of an instrument, and in this respect the Nymphes’ reverb is on point. Its harmonic response is resonant and interesting, occasionally to a wild degree, while its decay and size settings interact in unusual and intriguing ways.

I did notice some disconcerting residual feedback at high settings — though this never quite takes off and I’m sure will strike some users as musical self‑oscillation — and at times I did feel aggrieved not to be able to hear such characterful reverb in stereo. Nevertheless, the Nymphes’ reverb does an excellent job of bringing out interesting characteristics in its sounds and occasionally morphs them into something else entirely. My only real regret is that it can’t be used to process an external signal, as I can think of many things it would work brilliantly with!

From thick basses and sub frequencies to sparkling and harmonically rich top lines, it ticks the most important box of all — which is that it sounds great.


The Nymphes is an impressive little synthesizer, full of character. It packs a hefty punch for its size, cramming as much modulation and sound‑sculpting potential into its small footprint as it possibly can. From thick basses and sub frequencies to sparkling and harmonically rich top lines, it ticks the most important box of all — which is that it sounds great. It certainly has a wild side, sometimes resistant to ultra‑fine tuning of parameters and on occasion feeling more like I was taming sounds than tweaking them, but I respect this level of character in an instrument, particularly now that it’s so easy to achieve conventionally satisfying analogue synth sounds with the cheapest of hardware (not to mention the cavalcade of free VSTs available online). The Nymphes is a synth yelling ‘let me at ’em!’ It’s plucky, it’s powerful and it’s fun. Dreadbox have taken a leap forward with this synthesizer, which will likely set a precedent for things to come.


  • A high‑quality, rich‑sounding analogue core.
  • Characterful and interesting onboard reverb.
  • Huge amount of modulation and expression options.
  • Well built and sturdy.


  • Not always intuitive to navigate.
  • The reverb could use a stereo output.


The Nymphes is a highly capable synthesizer from Dreadbox with masses of character and creative potential. It’s small but sturdy, and sure to bring colour to any studio or live setup.


£449 including VAT.