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.
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.