Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Hands-On With The Stylophone Beatbox

Stylophone for the 21st century.

The Stylophone Beatbox has just been released, 40 years after the original Stylophone took the world by storm. We were lucky enough to receive one of the first units in the US. I'll post a video shortly, but here are my initial thoughts:

  • It's dirt cheap, retailing for only $25.50. I'm tempted to buy a pair - one for each hand.
  • It plays sampled sounds rather than the simple weedy oscillator that made the original famous. That makes for some surprising audio coming out of tech that looks so 1960s from the outside. You can still slide around the control surface. The Beatbox is rigged so that several samples can be triggered at once.

  • It has a built-in looping sequencer. You can tap out a beat on any of the three sound banks, and the Beatbox will keep looping until the 3 x AA batteries run flat. You can also play other sounds over the loop.

  • It has a record scratching sound effect you can trigger from any of the sound banks, and it's rather cleverly camouflaged. Drop one any time you need a little turntablism, even without a turntable in sight. 

  • There's a tempo control for the loop, so you can enter your beats at a slower speed, then rev it up when it's time to freestyle.
  • Even though it uses a lot of modern sounds (including a few samples from champ beatboxer MC Zani), it retains that retro charm. Not just because of the overall look, but the quality of the sounds coming out of the thing.

  • Go ahead and put headphones on. The built in speaker is fun, but the sounds really come to life when amplified.
  • It's the perfect companion for an original $19 Stylophone, or as we see in this marvelous video by plastic keyboard heroes the Brett Domino Trio, a second Stylophone Beatbox.

$19 of brilliant retro bleeps.

I hope this is the first in a series of modern instruments based on the old Stylophone look and feel. With the circular control surface, I'd love to see some lo-fi sampling & scratching. Or how about some sort of stylo-theremin hybrid? Or bring back the 'pro' dual stylus version from the sixties? To think it all started with a buzzy little synth that resembles a cheese grater.

My advice? Pick one up now, because they're likely to sell out before Christmas.

Buy the Stylophone Beatbox ($25.50), standard Stylophone ($19) or the sleek Stylophone Studio Black Limited Edition ($19.50) through one of our links and a portion of the sale will support Retro Thing.


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