A few years ago 1010Music released Bitbox – a simplified but extremely powerful Ableton-Live style sampler, slicer and clip launcher – by far the most advanced Eurorack sampler I’ve ever seen. Where it gets a little confusing is that since then they’ve released two completely different firmware versions for the same hardware – Fxbox and Synthbox, which transform it into radically different modules. I’m not talking about just updates with new features (which have also come out separately), but rather alternate firmware versions with entirely different functionality. In parallel, they’ve released independent modules with said firmware versions, which can also load each other’s firmware.
So, essentially, if we ignore the history of gradual improvements and releases, I don’t think it’s right to talk about these different modules separately, but rather as one “mega-module” that can run different firmware versions, or, essentially apps, because they’re so easy to swap.
It really doesn’t matter which of the Series 1 modules you buy – Bitbox, FXbox or Synthbox – they can all run all three “apps”. Note that 1010Music have also come out with a new sequencing module called Toolbox, which while similar in appearance, is physically configured differently, so it won’t run Series 1 firmware and vice versa. Series 1 modules aren’t inferior to Series 2, just different and the firmware is not interchangeable.
Series 1 Hardware Layout Overview
Since all three Series 1 modules share the same hardware (except for a differently labeled panel), it’s safe to talk about the hardware of all three as one. The most striking feature is it’s 3.5-inch multi-touch display. It’s bright and clearly visible in daylight and is extremely responsive. Paired with an intuitive user interface for all three modules, consulting the manual is rarely needed. The screen maintains its clarity in left to right viewing angles, however viewing angles from the bottom are somewhat limited. You can solve this problem quite easily by rotating the module, which supports flipping the UI as well, however, the panel labels will be upside-down in that case. Luckily for OCD users like me an inverted panel is available. If you’re mounting the module on a skiff, you’ll probably want to rotate it as well because having the screen on the bottom will make it more accessible.
The second dominant feature of the Series 1 modules is the extensive patch bay – 28 inputs and outputs in total. The 20 inputs in the middle are arranged in a 5×4 grid and typically align with corresponding user interface elements on screen. In addition, there are four inputs on the left – TRS MIDI, clock, and stereo inputs, and 4 audio outputs on the right.
Finally, also common the modules are four endless encoders, a Home button to get you back to the main screen and an Info button to access secondary parameter screens.
Bitbox has 16 sample slots – each can be looped and quantized to an external clock, and triggered separately via CV or MIDI. Samples can be loaded from the SD card or recorded directly from either one or both of the stereo inputs.
Samples can be treated differently by assigning one of three different categories to them – Sample, Clip or Slicer. These are explained in depth in the companion video. Multiple sample parameters can also be modulated with Control Voltage.
The next module, or firmware version that you can run on 1010Music’s Series 1 hardware is FXBox. This one is much simpler than Bitbox, though it does have an interesting twist to it, in that you can combine and sequence the effects. Overall it’s a real time effects module – with 20 types of effects. You can activate or deactivate any of the effects using the touch screen, CV or MIDI. You can also drill down into an effect and use the touch screen as an XY controller for up to two parameters.
Available effects are Pitch shift, Distortion, Bitcrusher, Filter, Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Ring Modulator, Freeze, Loop, Reverse, Vinyl, Gater, Panner, Delay, Reverb.
You can modulate up to 3 parameters with CV.
Synthbox is a 4 voice polyphonic wavetable synth. Each voice has three sound generators – one “traditional” oscillator with saw, triange, sine and variable duty square options (though no PWM in this version). In addition, two wavetable based sound generators let you play and cycle through dozens of wavetables, with an option to import additional wavetables from Serum.
The sound generators pass through two multimode filters, and three optional effects: Flanger, Distortion and Delay. My obvious feature request here it to add Reverb as a fourth option…
There are multiple modulation destinations available to both internal and external mod sources: internal mod sources are two envelopes, two LFOs and a quantizable 16 step sequencer, and external mod sources include CV jacks and MIDI information.
The CV inputs however work a little differently than Fxbox and Bitbox- there are modes: Global mode uses the bottom row as mod inputs, and Four Voice lets you control each voice using a separate row of inputs. As usual, MIDI works as well, whether for one voice or up to four polyphonically. You can configure all four voices to feed into the the stereo output, or use each of four outputs separately, one per voice.
Then you have two effects cells, FLDS stands for Flanger and Distortion, and Delay is self explanatory.
Pros, cons and summary:
PROS: Extremely powerful modules with an easy to use interface that means you rarely need to consult the manual. Bitbox is probably the most powerful available Eurorack sampler/looper/clip launcher.
CONS: While the screen is bright and clear when viewed head, brighter colors fade when viewing from an angle, so you may need to rotate the module when mounted on a skiff.
If you ask me which of the 3 modules to get the answer is it doesn’t really matter – because it’s so easy to change the firmware it’s really like having different apps more than different modules, so the only thing you’re really committing to is the name on the panel. Get a panel labelled “Series 1” and that dilemma is solved as well. All three modules have unique and impressive capabilities but if pressed to say which is my favorite I’d say it’s BitBox just because it has such a comprehensive feature set and yet is so easy to use. If you want to bring sampling capabilities to your Eurorack setup, I think BitBox is the Eurorack sampling market leader, and pound for pound, or dollar for dollar, it’s a winner, especially considering you get SynthBox and FxBox bundled with it.