Dubreq Sty­lo­phone Gen X-1

Sty­lo­phone hacks are com­mon­place, but one com­pany have gone all out with this re­lease. Rob­bie Stamp picks up the sty­lus

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

There’s no mis­tak­ing the sight and sound of the Sty­lo­phone, but af­ter many years, the sty­lus based mini-synth has been – dare I say it – enhanced. The Gen X-1 adds sub-oc­taves, PWM, de­lay, a low-pass fil­ter, a pitch/fil­ter en­ve­lope and a Sound­strip. You may be won­der­ing if a re­boot of such an idio­syn­cratic icon is such a good idea. Well, I’ll save time and cut to the end; it’s still fun and cre­ative, but a whole lot more so. The main rea­son is that the essen­tial quirky Sty­lo­phone sound and slightly awk­ward play­ing method (the wired sty­lus) re­main un­touched, whilst the new ad­di­tions are in keep­ing with the sonic aes­thetic of the orig­i­nal – ie scratchy, dis­torted, buzzy and oddly en­dear­ing.

First off there are three new ‘voic­ing’ but­tons: -1 oc­tave, -2 oc­tave and PWM. The first two add some heft and depth bring the Sty­lo­phone into the world of bass. When played through some­thing other than the tiny in­built speaker, it pos­sesses some cred­i­ble low end weight. The PWM is a nice touch and adds cho­rus/en­sem­ble rich­ness to the essen­tial in­sect tonality. The PWM rate is con­trolled by the LFO, which also af­fects the pitch and fil­ter cut­off via its Depth knob. The LFO has tri­an­gle and square wave os­cil­la­tor shapes, and the os­cil­la­tion speed range is just what you need, though it stops short of ring-mod style silli­ness.

The ad­ja­cent En­ve­lope sec­tion con­sists of At­tack, De­cay and Pitch knobs. The AD en­ve­lope af­fects the low-pass fil­ter in the first in­stance, with the Pitch knob di­alling it into the os­cil­la­tor(s). This is where the Gen X-1 crosses into a new cre­ative realm of­fer­ing myr­iad synth FX noises (sirens, bleeps, bloops, bee­ows, etc), which cou­pled with the LFO and ex­tra os­cil­la­tors (don’t for­get the big pitch dial at the back) makes for a lot more con­tact time.

Last but by no means least, we have the Fil­ter sec­tion, with its sim­ple Cut­off and Res knobs, and the De­lay. First off, the low-pass fil­ter is no Moog Lad­der de­sign, but its qual­ity and res­o­nance be­fit the Sty­lo­phone con­text. It adds fun and colour to the pal­ette, which is fur­ther ad­vanced by the De­lay, with its D-Time, F-Back and Level knobs. Yes, it’s grainy and lofi; yes, it feeds back and makes a mess; but it’s re­ally, re­ally fun. Oh yeah, I nearly for­got – while you’re tweak­ing the knobs, why not ditch the sty­lus and just sweep a digit along the new Sound­strip, a ribbon-style con­troller.

Added to­gether, th­ese ad­di­tions make the Sty­lo­phone more in­stru­ment or sound de­sign tool than mu­si­cal toy. The line in­put (Aux) also makes it an FX unit as the in­com­ing sig­nal passes through the fil­ter and de­lay, which is well worth ex­plor­ing. Where Sty­lo­phones pre­vi­ously were played for a day then rel­e­gated to the cup­board to be pulled out when cre­ative juices ran dry, I think the Gen X-1 could well break out of the cup­board and live atop an ef­fects rack or synth stack ready for the next time grown-up gear just leaves you cold. It might be three times the price of the ba­sic Sty­lo­phone, but I reckon it’d see more than three times the ac­tion.

CON­TACT WHO: Dubreq Ltd TEL: +44 (0)1424 439 151 WEB: dubreq.com KEY FEA­TURES In­put: stereo 3.5mm jack (AUX). Out­put: stereo 3.5mm jack (line/head­phone), built-in speaker. Con­trols: sty­lus key­board and sound strip (pres­sure). Ad­di­tional Con­trols: En­ve­lope (Pitch/Fil­ter), LFO (square/tri­an­gle), De­lay, Fil­ter (low­pass), Sub-Oc­taves (-1/-2), PWM (LFO Rate linked)

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