Back in the 70s, modular synths were expensive and intimidating walls of filters, oscillators, and patch cables. But nowadays, maker culture has totally demystified the modular synth.
Thanks to products like littleBits' synth kit, making a modular synth is almost as easy as playing with Lego, and the components are now small enough to fit in your pocket instead of nearly filling up an entire room.
The basic idea behind a modular synth is that every aspect of synthesis is broken down into modules that you can piece together yourself and connect in any way you see fit—oscillators, filters, arpeggiators, and other sound modifiers can be added or taken away. The NS1nanosynth is an all-in-one machine, but it still lets you have the fun of patching modules together in new and interesting combinations.
Here's a list of what's in this thing *extremely Professor Frink voice*: a voltage-controlled oscillator, two low-frequency oscillators, an ASDR (attack, sustain, decay, and release) envelope, lowpass and bandpass filters, and a voltage-controlled amplifier. And, since this is 2015, the NS1nanosynth is also fitted with an Arduino so you can hack it, and it has MIDI and USB outs.
Alright, so that paragraph may have been just a bunch of jargon to you, but trust me, it's neat. The littleBits kit—probably the NS1nanosynth's closest relative since it's also partly an analog unit—contains many of the same components but is missing a few key bits. For instance, the envelope controls that come with the littleBits kit are limited to attack and decay.
You can't buy the NS1nanosynth and there's no price tag yet, which is actually kind of nice, because I don't have to end this article with a "You can buy this thing now" line. Instead, how about this: man, this shit is cool.