Updated: Sep 23, 2022
Build incredible live sets with this feature-packed sampling DAW. With a small footprint and rugged construction, the Blackbox is a complete music workstation for musicians on the go.
Makers of many unique musical products, including the Nanobox Fireball and Lemondrop mini synths, and the Bluebox compact mixer, as well as many Eurorack modules, 1010Music knows a thing or two about mobile music devices.
One of their devices, the Blackbox, is an ultra-portable sampling studio with many features that allow you to leave your computer behind on your next live outing. Measuring 10"x7"x3" the Blackbox is right at home in your portable rig and with its intuitive touchscreen controls, it represents the next generation of sampling studios. Blackbox has 16 pads on the screen that you can assign your samples to. You can load samples from an SD card or record a sample from one of the audio inputs. Samples can be one-shots, loops, or even complete songs. The total sample limit is 4gb, so you have all the space you need. You also have a lot of control over the sample. You can play it with your MIDI keyboard and make an instrument out of it. You can load up multiple samples, like a drumkit, and trigger each sample with your keyboard as well. You can time stretch samples so that they conform to the global tempo settings. You can also pitch the samples without affecting the speed. There is an automatic slice function that will slice your samples and allow you to play each slice on the keyboard. You can adjust the slice points as well. When recording a sample directly in to Blackbox you have the option to set a threshold for the incoming signal and record automatically, or you can have it start recording automatically and set the length of the recording in measures. There is also a live looping function that will allow you to add parts over different passes. One interesting feature is that the Blackbox can record control voltages (CV) from a sequencer or other devices and play them back to control a synth or anything that will accept CV. This is very useful if you have semi-modular or modular gear.
The Blackbox also includes an onboard sequencer that allows you to record the playback of the pads, instruments, and MIDI for external devices. You can record up to 16 sequences per present and trigger the playback by the touchscreen. Each sequence will play in sync and will start once the current sequence ends. Each sequence can be set to different lengths and quantize settings. There are two modes for recording your sequences, pads mode, and keys mode. In pads mode, you can record how all 16 pads are triggered, much like an MPC. In keys mode, you can choose a pad and record notes to a piano roll-type grid. The sequencer can only record notes and velocity at the moment. So, if you want to record things like filter sweep or volume levels you currently can't do that.
There is also a Song mode in the Blackbox which allows you to build sections and play them back in order. Not merely a way to place the sequences in a particular order, sections record the way the sequences are triggered and can contain many sequences in whatever order you want. If you like you can loop sections and when you are ready to go to the next section, switch loop mode off and it will automatically go to the next section when it finishes playing the current section. Sections are a very powerful way to play back your sequences.
The Blackbox doesn't stop there. It includes a number of other pages to help you with your projects. The FX page has a built-in effects processor allowing you to add global reverb and delay effects to each pad. You can adjust the global settings of each effect, as well as the amount of each effect applied to the pad. The Mix page allows you to adjust the volume, pan, and mute for each pad. The Preset page allows you to save, load, and delete projects. There is a Tools page that allows you to control things like MIDI channel, metronome setting, and various other settings.
The build quality is excellent, with a durable metal case and rugged buttons and knobs. It includes a number of inputs and outputs, providing quite a bit of flexibility for integration into your system. There is a USB connection for power and one for MIDI controllers. The Blackbox acts as a USB host so you can plug your controllers in without the need for a computer or stand-alone host device. There is a clock in and out for syncing with other devices, a MIDI in and out, a stereo audio input, 3 stereo outputs, and a stereo headphone output. The Blackbox has 64mb of memory on board, but it also accepts SD memory with a card slot on the front panel. All projects and samples are stored on the SD card and samples are streamed directly from the card.
The Blackbox is a very powerful, easy-to-use, portable sampling studio that has some very useful and unique features. On the hardware side, it provides you with many options for integrating with other gear, including the ability to record and playback CV and function as a USB host. The touch screen provides easy access to all of the functions and controls. On the software side, the flexibility to directly record and manipulate your samples is on par with computer-based workstations. It would make a great addition to any mobile music setup.
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