You know the grid craze is in full steam once ThinkGeek offers a $50 clone. The Bliptronic 5000 is somewhere between the Tenori-On and monome. It certainly looks like the monome, with an 8-by-8 grid of light-up pads in a square form factor. But like the Tenori-On, it has built-in sounds and speaker, it’s made of aluminum, and it runs on batteries. The Bliptronic also simplifies its user interface. Its 8×8 pads are simply an eight-note octave with eight steps. There’s a play button, and knobs for tempo and tone selector. There’s also the ability to link up devices and play them together – bonus points for that, as aside from basic MIDI function, the Tenori-On as shipped by Yamaha failed to deliver some of the original collaborative features promised by designer Toshio Iwai’s original proposal.

The “old-skool” sounds are pretty lo-fi-sounding from what I can tell, but this unit does have a certain charm. If you’ve got a monome and a Tenori-On and a Launchpad in every room, you can amuse your friends by keeping one of these in the lavatory. And who knows, someone might pick this thing up and do something terrific with it. (I sure can’t argue with the price.)

Mostly what it reminds me is that it would be really fantastic to pair a synth chip directly with the monome, for a standalone monome synth, perhaps even an Arduino-programmable model (particularly since the monome already speaks serial).

Updated: Wait, hold the presses — this isn’t the work of some anonymous creator; Ty Liotta is doing the gadget design. That means this could be an eminently hackable little device, which is a good thing. Stay tuned.

Thanks to Louis Muloka and everyone else who sent this in.

The specs from ThinkGeek:

Unusual retro synthesizer is played with a grid of glowing buttons
Create looping patterns and change them dynamically while playing
Chain multiple units together and create more complex melodies
One octave range. 8 notes can be played simultaneously
8 different old-skool synth sounding instruments to choose from
Sounds created using FM waveform synthesis
Set the BPM (beats per minute) from 60 to 180 in 20 BPM increments
Built in speaker with headphone jack and line-out jack
Front panel is constructed from brushed aluminum
Includes, manual and 2 link cables for connecting additional Bliptronic units
Requires 4 x AA batteries (not included)

Bliptronic 5000 Instrument

Stay tuned here for news of the Bliptronic 10000.

  • bela

    mmm… too much poor soundwise and basic operation… it should be 10$ ;)

  • s

    wow, I wonder how hard it would be to hack this and add midi/osc support and create a $50 launchpad/monome! Would love to see an internal pic.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @s: Well, by the time you "hacked" that in, you would have built an entirely new piece of hardware, so I'd rank that as "needlessly hard." ;)

    Easier to do would be to add sound capabilities to one of the existing open devices.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Actually, scratch that, I spoke way too soon… it does sound like it should be hackable. And we did get MIDI going on those cute little Gakken synth. So there could be good fun here, after all.

  • S Ford

    Who is Ty Liotta?

  • http://www.document02.com Document 02

    The day MIDI is hacked in these babies, I'm getting one.

  • s

    I'm pretty sure I can hack it in, but I don't know if I have 50 to spare right now :-( .

  • http://www.isle-of-avalon.co.uk gwenhwyfaer

    What's in it – MCU or custom hardware? And do those link thingies carry audio or a control signal?

  • dead_red_eyes

    Once MIDI is capable on this little guy, I'm buying 2 of them!!!

  • http://trash80.net trash80

    Uhm. Neat! Misleading though, that's not FM. sounds like its sample/wave table based. Aka the piano when he switched presets around in the beginning of the video.

  • jonah

    Just ordered one. I think it will be pretty useful if I run it through a bunch of effects. I want support the concept behind it too.

    MIDI isn't a big deal to me. What I would like to see is a drum sounds version or even a better a cheapo on board sampler. Like a budget version of the Electribe line.

  • Ernie Jackson

    Bought it – don't care to hack with it.

    Just wanna press some buttons and torture the kiddies at school.

  • fach

    "Once MIDI is capable on this little guy, I’m buying 2 of them!!!"

    damn right! :)

  • boreg

    I agree with all above posters who say MIDI would make it much more useful. But nobody seems to be bothered by 20 BPM increments – don't you think that's rather too limiting?

  • Simon

    Mhhh……80, 100, 120, 14, 160, 180 BPMs only, and only playable in the C Major scale…I'll pass thanks.

  • http://www.technoetc.net/blog AO

    The price point sure makes it tempting, but I agree feature-wise I don't think I'd make as much use of it as I'd like to.

  • http://trash80.net trash80

    @Simon … You know it also works in a minor.

    muhahahaha

  • Lennon

    I bet I could hack this thing, meaning just using the box with the LED button grid and connecting it to my own innards(microcontroller, etc.). I did design this thing: http://lennonluks.atspace.com/projects/senior_pro

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  • http://www.brainstatik.com Ken

    My son and I each got one for Christmas, and soon discovered a quirk when you connect 2 Bliptronic units together. Normally, 2 linked units will play their notes sequentially across both units, resulting in a 16-note pattern. But with a little tweaking, we found a way to have both units play a single, simultaneous 8-note sequence! Pretty cool toy for 50 bucks!!! Gather your friends and have a Bliptronics jam!

    See our results here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lcUJ9Md680

  • http://www.straytechnologies.com vblank

    Hey all! If anyone is working on this…
    I figured out the full pinout to control the button matrix from an Arduino or other controller. Pinout and IC info here:
    http://www.straytechnologies.com/bliptr … utton-pcb/