They did it before with their 'Nano-series' of multi-effects
- why not do it again with their synths?!
The NanoBass was a member of a trio of 'Nano' products that also
included the NanoSynth and the NanoPiano. Together, they offered
over 1,000 sounds with 192-voice polyphony across 48 MIDI channels
through three pairs of stereo outputs for under £1,000! In
1997, this was a steal! The 1/2 rack-mount format meant that two
could fit into one single IU rack space (with an appropriate rack-mount
The user interface for all three products was blindingly simple
- 16 categories of sounds each with 16 variations offering 256 sounds
for each module that were easily selectable from two rotary switches
on the front panel (the NanoSynth was slightly different in that
it offered a further 400+ sounds selectable using MIDI bank and
program changes). All three modules also had built-in effects that
could be added with the twist of the EFFECTS balance control. You
had to be an idiot if you couldn't use the Nano-series!
If it all sounds too good to be true, there was one limitation
- none of the sounds could be edited from the front panel but given
the diversity of the sounds (and variations) on offer from each
module, this wasn't quite the limitation you might expect. You could
edit them using a 3rd-party commercial librarian/editor program
(such as Mark Of The Unicorn’s Unisyn) if you were feeling
adventurous but this had limitations not least of which was that
you had to be fairly fluent in MIDI SysEx and with no on-board storage
facilities on the NanoBass itself, any custom sounds you made had
to be stored off-line and dumped (one-by-one) into the module. This
complexity seemed at odds with the simplicity of the front panel
The NanoBass was designed with one thing in mind - to provide a
wide range of quality bass sounds to cover an equally wide range
of applications. In that respect, it succeeded very well with various
acoustic, fretless, electric, funk/slap and assorted synth bass
categories (including 'rap', 'house', 'acid') on offer each with
16 variations. Some of these included bass 'effects' such as thumps,
scrapes, rattles and finger squeaks. This innocuous little box was
a veritable powerhouse source of solid bass sounds.
Of course, not every one of the 256 sounds was totally unique and
some samples were re-used in different programs with variations
provided by use of the effects and/or the internal synth parameters.
As a result, some categories had duplications with some sounds being
almost identical except, perhaps, for a subtle variation of chorus
rate or depth or a hint more reverb (or whatever) but overall, the
NanoBass provided a good range of useful bass sounds that could
be used in a diverse range of musical styles.
Despite rave reviews at the time in several influential magazines,
the NanoBass failed to make a big impression on the market. This
was possibly because people were reluctant to spend £300 ($500)
on what was perceived to be a limited and specialised 'one trick
pony' - the lack of any editing (and/or the complexity of external
software editing) probably didn't help either. Either way, it's
a shame because the NanoBass was a good piece of useful kit to have
at your disposal.
NanoBass modules can now be found for as little as $50 in the classifieds
and second-hand shops and they are well worth picking up as a simple,
no-nonsense source of quality bass sounds.