Synthesizer designs in the 21st century have returned to hands-on control knobs for immediate, tactile sound sculpting, but when you switch between stored patches, the knobs don't accurately reflect the settings. This mismatch can lead to sudden, abrupt changes in the sound—like that time your dramatic live filter sweep accidentally began with the frequency knob maxed out. Well, all that is set to change with the introduction of the NINA, a powerful desktop analog synth from Australia's Melbourne Instruments. NINA's motorized control surface means that when you change a patch, the knobs instantly update to reflect the new parameter settings accurately. It's perfect for those who want precise settings with smooth and seamless adjustments every time.
A Powerful Synth Engine with Effects
Motorized control is great, but if the synth doesn't deliver the goods sonically, who cares? No worries with NINA; it boasts a 12-voice synth engine, playable in unison or polyphonic modes, with two analog and one wavetable oscillator per voice feeding an analog ladder-type filter. NINA is multitimbral, so it can put those voices to use, playing up to 4 different patches at the same time. Oscillators 1 and 2 feature continuously variable waveforms, allowing you to morph between triangle, sawtooth, and PWM square waves and create rich evolving textures, while oscillator 3's digital wavetable offers a 24-bit / 96 kHz resolution and user-loadable wavetables. The classic 4-pole ladder filter can deliver smooth frequency cut-off shaving or be overdriven for saturation and distortion effects when it's time to get busy. Filter resonance can also be modulated, and the extensive modulation matrix lets you map 16 sources to 27 destinations. The LFO offers selectable shapes, a through-zero modulation rate, and level controls. There are two VCAs per voice and the two ADSR envelopes are available as modulation sources. A host of adjustable VST3 effects are provided—currently that includes a chorus, reverb, and delay with more promised via upcoming firmware updates.
Motorized Control Surface
Yes, it's real; call up a patch on the NINA and watch the knobs miraculously dial in the patch as if controlled by invisible hands. The brushless drone motors use contactless optical sensors and are built to be extremely durable, with a lifetime rating in excess of 50 million cycles—500 times more than conventional potentiometers. The knobs also feature haptics that allow them to change dynamically from smooth, to detented, to multi-position switches, giving them far more tactile flexibility than traditional analog pots. The motorized knobs are also very helpful when you're mapping out the modulation matrix; pressing the Mod button immediately shows you how much of a selected modulation source is being sent to various destinations, making it easy to see exactly what's going on in your sound. You can also use the Morph knob to morph between patch settings, including the modulation matrix.
The NINA features an onboard 16-step sequencer/arpeggiator with tempo adjustment and MIDI sync. You can allocate the polyphony across the 4 multitimbral parts to avoid voice stealing when playing multiple sounds simultaneously. In addition, the NINA gives you four assignable line-level outputs: a stereo output with effects along with Aux Outs 3 and 4, making it easy to treat the layers with outboard processing. Three TRS inputs accept line signals or CV inputs, while a single XLR/TRS mic/line/CV input is also on the back panel. MIDI In, Out, and Thru ports are provided along with 3 USB ports and a stereo headphone jack. The solid metal chassis is built to last yet weighs only 12 pounds and is rackmountable with 19" ears.
So, there's a brief introduction to the Melbourne Instruments NINA, a powerful desktop analog synth with a truly game-changing motorized control panel that's going to have a lot of electronic musicians wondering, "where have you been all my life?" Looking forward to getting your hands on the NINA for your next studio session or live gig? Let us know in the Comments section, below. If you have questions, please call us, chat with us online, or stop by our B&H New York SuperStore.