We're fans of the Stylophone, an oddball British instrument from the 60s. it strikes a dear bleepy chord within many hearts since for many it was their first ever electronic instrument, or even their first musical instrument! Monophonic, buzzy, and played with a little plastic stylus seems like an unlikely combination of ideas to become a cherished object, but for decades the Stylophone has stood the test of time by remaining resolutely true to its 60s origins.
A few years ago the Stylophone re-entered production by the same outfit who put out the original. they added such luxuries as a volume control and an output jack, but it was the same analog bleepiness as ever. More recently, the Stylophone Beatbox morphed the shape into a circle, and triggered a whole mess of samples, and even had a sequencer of sorts built in. We had the first Stylophone Beatbox in the USA, and have since wondered what was next for the proto analog synth.
Now we know. The NAMM show rolled out the newest member of the Stylophone family, the S2. it's a larger road-worth successor to the original Stylophone, with some surprisingly advanced tweaks built in. The keyboard is much larger and can be played either with stylus or fingertip. The sound is also tweakable and filterable, all built in. You can even patch external sounds through it and apply analog filtering through the S2 itself. There's more to it, but even this short list is an amazing start.
The past few years have seen a resurgence in interest in analog synth technology, and the original Stylophone represents one of the simplest and earliest expressions of electronic sound. A huge part of the fun of the original stylophone is how cheap and odd it is. For example, the 60s version didn't have a volume - the manual helpfully suggests that you cup your hand over the built in speaker! This new version seems like it has tremendous potential to combine the oddball likability of the old instrument, with the sorts of new features that a modern synth freak might look for. We'll have to keep our eyes on YouTube for the first squeaky tunes to come out of the thing.
Until then, ostensibly famous synth duo "The Bret Domino Trio" have cut a demo song with the S2. It's a Justin Bieber song, so I'm very very sorry. Just do your best to listen solely to the cool Stylophone bits.