Critter & Guitari’s range of hackable music computers and video synthesizers is undeniably unique. They do things that virtually no other instrument can, and are perhaps the most visually distinctive portable music devices. It is his latest creation 201 music synthesizerperhaps a long-awaited replacement for the company’s first product – the A pocket piano.
Like its flagship Organelle, the 201 is built on open source software, specifically Pure Data and Faust. But instead of trying to be everything to everyone, it’s more narrowly focused. It ships with six built-in synth engines covering chiptune-style beeps, analog sounds, drum samples, physical modeling (probably via Karplus Strong) and vocal synthesis. Instead of four knobs that differ in purpose depending on what patch you have loaded (which may or may not have particularly good documentation, depending on who created it), the 201 has three parameter knobs for envelope, tone, and “surprise” – for when you just want a happy accident.
One of the things that makes the 201 truly remarkable, however, is the pattern generator and sequencer. While you can simply play notes live and record them for later recall, the synthesizer can also create patterns for you. A few taps on the unique maple keys and the 201 will start blasting out simple octave jumps, arpeggios or random polyphonic chaos. And if you like something, you can save it. And you can literally save thousands of sequences to the included 8GB microSD card.
Like Organelle, you can actually hack your own patches for 201 using Pure Data or Faust, but that’s more of a nice bonus than the main selling point here. Under the hood of the 201 is a 900Mhz ARM processor with 512MB of RAM, which should be enough for most synth patches, but it’s not as powerful as the Organelle M. The 201 also has a built-in speaker, a 1/4-inch stereo output jack, a 1/8 -inch MIDI input and output, USB-A for connecting MIDI controllers and USB-C for accessing files on the microSD card.
Of course, to be a true Pocket Piano replacement, the 201 also needs to be portable. So, in addition to the AC adapter, it can be powered by three AA batteries. And at about a pound and just over nine inches long, it’s pretty easy to throw into a backpack.
The Critter & Guitari 201 Music Synthesizer is currently being crowdfunded by Kickstarter and has already surpassed its goal. If you want to secure one when they start shipping in April 2023, you can return it before December 20th for $295.
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