In a week awash with new music gadgetry, Kaleidoloops are a reminder of the electronic musical object at its most basic. It’s a box for collecting and making sounds.

The Kaleidoloop contains basic digital audio recording capabilities – 16-bit / 22,050 Hz mono WAV. You can now save those recordings on an SD card, with up to 32,000 tracks and – if you upgrade beyond the paltry included 256M card – hours of sound.

What makes it interesting is its simple controls for manipulation. Knobs control speed and direction, and you can switch the speed control between a continuous mode and one that steps along the harmonic series. Buttons let you select tracks. There’s a built-in speaker and mic, or you can opt for 1/4″ input and output. And you can layer tracks together, too.

None of this is innovative; buying a Kaleidoloop is like buying a trawl or a hoe. It’s a basic tool you’d always expect to use.

It’s the simplicity of the thing, combined with an artful case, that makes it worth mentioning. The art collective Dearraindrop has given it a gorgeous skin, lending an almost mystical quality to the object.

Since these are handcrafted, the price of US$299 isn’t entirely unreasonable. But whether you buy this, or rescue a tape recorder, or build your own hardware or patch, I think just looking at it is a good reflection. It’s a way of reminding ourselves that what we do in production is work with sound. And getting back to basics is never a bad idea.

Or, as the makers suggest:

“Use several devices to build up layers of sound, pass a sound from one to another and play with resonance, invent new musical games, practice speaking in reverse, alter playback speed and explore new harmonies, carry sounds around the room… the list is endless. Best of all the Kaleidoloop stores everything it records, so you have a collection of your sound journey.”

http://www.critterandguitari.com/content/kaleidoloop

Like bright colors? Want to see other projects? Look here:
http://www.critterandguitari.com/projects

  • TJ Ward

    Thanks for the post.

    It reminds me to do more with less.

    I love getting exposure to this kind of stuff!

  • spazmatron

    I'll never understand what music nerds have against tables and chairs.

  • http://www.soundcollective.tv Lucas Van Lenten

    what's the silver, bloopy, sequencer-looking thing at around 4:00?

  • anechoic

    while it is a nice looking homemade gadget it seems to me that a cheap digital recorder can do most and more than this can. Firstly. 22kHz at 16bit is great if you like all your field recording to sound lo-fi (which makes it a sure bet that the mic pre is also of cheap quality) but other than that I see no compelling reason to buy something like this…

  • ideletemyself

    @Lucas … it's their product called "Pocket Piano" which is basically a simple synth. Here's a link: http://www.critterandguitari.com/content/pocket-p

  • Sasa Rasa

    $299? Really?

  • Peter Kirn

    They do have stuff that's cheaper than $299. It's steep for this – you're buying an art object, then, and I'd imagine they're not making a lot. But like I said, I think you can take inspiration from this thing whether or not you buy theirs. In fact, I'd encourage people to go hack together something on their own and think through how they want to decorate it and how they want to make music with it — the lot.

  • BIlly Ray Valentine

    Another interesting box, this Kaleidoloop.

    In looking at the Vimeo vid, once they've laid down that silver space blanket and they start dialing in the boxes, I would think that the Homeland Security forces would be all over these guys. (That is an American city in the background, is it not?) What they're doing on that blanket doesn't appear to be legal (would be the argument from the Feds). I would recommend people buy these and keep them to yourself. You'll be safe behind closed doors (or possibly a "techno" nightclub), but once you leave the room with the Kaleidoloop you could be in for a world of hurt, Son.

    "Oh, haha, HI OFFICER. Geez you scared me sneaking up like that. Yes, this? This is just my Kaleidoloop…haha…Oh, and that? Why that's a Penny Whistle. Yes it usually smokes a little bit after you've finished laying down a groove.". 

    Sure.

    All kidding aside, I can appreciate the Art, the "DIY" aspect, and the "love" that goes in to a handmade device like the Kaleidoloop, but (hate to say it) I feel they're asking too much money for it. Just like with "other recently released" fun devices in compact form (OK…KORG Monotribe), it all comes down to the price. I think the makers of the Kaleidoloop know that the world would be a better place if (just a few) more people could add one these to their own space blanket. Solve that, Kaleidopeople.

  • Peter Kirn

    I use chairs (right now, in fact), and certainly when I play, but I'd still like to know what the anti-floor-sitting hate has been about here.

  • http://jasonrkramer.com kramer

    i love how people just bitch about the cost these days. i'd really hate to see them come up with another reason to be pissed.

    (some of my favorite pieces of my setup are made by Critter and Guitari, they make wonderfully crafted and very inspirational gear.)

  • Kim Prouty

    Cost Matters. Zoom H2 on craigslist for 80 bucks or low quality sounding art object. The Zoom gets my money.

  • Kim Prouty

    The Kaleidoloop is still cool, but two kids to feed and the decision is made.

  • tamagotti

    $299? a bargain! i bought a 2 knob controller that cost more than that!

    yep. now i can set this up on the floor next to my Arc!

    i'm on the floor because i sold all my furniture so i can afford these overpriced 'art gadgets'.

  • Peter Kirn

    Right, so I say in the story above and again in comments maybe you do rescue an inexpensive recorder OR go make your own audio recording gadget. (Adafruit's Wave Shield for Arduino is one option.) This isn't a Future Music mag product review. But obviously, I'm talking to a wall. Or the floor.

  • Spazmatron

    I think that from way up there in your chair, your point goes right over their heads;)

  • This Year

    I own 2 of these and have to say the comparison to other digital recorders doesn't make sense. Other recorders might have small built in speakers, but the Kaleidoloop is as much about playing sound as recording it, and this makes all the difference. With 2 or more devices you can collage sound together in a very physical way.

    and @Kim Prouty your kids will LOVE this thing way more then any digital recorder

  • http://mermaidds.com/ kramer

    http://mermaidds.com/

    For instance, in this project I used their cigar box synth for all the leads. 

  • http://braduro.com James

    Floor and price seems to be the critical subject here so far. No comment.

    I just bought a gift for a friend's child on her 1st birthday. I chose a music box. If I was her dad or was thinking of something for her big brother, this sound object would be well within the ballpark of the many classic wooden toys, puzzles, games that the shop had (on a 30%-50% off sale!). Maybe not as classic (yet) as the red wagon, but there's plenty reason why a child would gain from examining circuitry and sound in a box, and why parents who keep away from plastic would find an object like this decorative, thoughtful and fun for their child.

  • http://soundcloud.com/night-night Dana

    LOVE these guys. I own their Pocket Piano and TV 'scope. – great build quality matched with quirky, unique design will always win for me. I'll pay $299 for inspiring handmade nerd goodness any day. 

  • Peter Kirn

    @kramer: Thanks for the music!

    I don't want a comment rating system, I want a comment *scoring* system. Earn points by actually sharing your music. ;)

  • http://jasonrkramer.com kramer

    @pk, always glad to share! i'm actually going back into production mode next weekend for the mermaidds second release. we limit ourselves to a few pieces of gear each project. in the first release we used vdrums to trigger all the bass lines, hence the super syncopated rhythm lines. looking forward to using the c&g pocket piano on this next shit.

  • http://www.wholeheartedsongs.com The Wholeheart

    I love the minimal approach. As a performs artist/musician I would like this even more if it had some kind of grid below speaker that you could record samples to and then retrigger/recombine for live performance as opposed to overdubbing so much and having to buy two.

  • random name

    for some reason this video reminded me of that op-1 swedish house mafia vid. i thought about that for a while and figured out why. in both of those videos, the focus is not really on the device, it's about the aesthetics. the performance and the image.

    monome, arc, kaleidoloop, that little light-sensitive bleeping box that was featured a while back… i came to realize it's all the same type of thing: performance art. the actual hardware and it's functionality & practicality is not the prime focus of the maker. the focus is more on the entire process that begins with the idea for the device, sourcing the materials, building the object, making the demo vids, presenting the work, etc.

    if i view these type of objects in that light, as a long performance art work which happens to produce a small amount of functional artifacts of the performance that some well-off people with a good amount of disposable income can purchase and use, then i don't really have a problem with it. the artists built something themselves, they made a series of aesthetic decisions to arrive at an object that is not part of the mainstream, they found some patrons to support their work… good on them.

    it's when i begin to consider the objects themselves as functional tools for the rest of us that the problems rise up. because then i'm left with a $300 wooden box that loops & stores sound, something my iphone (and numerous other hardware devices) can do much better for much less, and it just doesn't make any sense anymore. same goes for the monome, arc, etc.

    i'm always so conflicted when i see these types of posts. on one hand i think "these guys made a tool from scratch and it does some cool things in a unique way. awesome!" on the other hand, i think "they want how much for that little wood box with a couple buttons that records sound??! are you kidding?!"

    i think it's important to keep in mind the big picture. these are art objects. the whole design & manufacture of them is part of an art project, and all the decisions made along the way are made in accordance with the purity of an artistic vision and not "how do i make this device as practical & functional as possible and get into as many hands as i can?"

    interesting as curiosities and examples of what can be done, but not so useful or practical for the majority of us.

  • Peter Kirn

    @random name:

    I think you're probably reading more into it than the guys who made the video ever imagined. But that's okay – I don't entirely disagree.

    Look, like I said, I'm not endorsing that you buy everything I write about. Honestly, unless something absolutely grabs you, knocks you to the floor, and insists yes, you must, absolutely, positively buy it, eat ramen noodles to pay for it, and reorganize your life around buying it, I'd think really hard first. Why? Because there's just so much great sound gear out there in which to invest, from vintage to modern.

    Otherwise, you risk being light in the pockets and having a lot of gear around that you don't really use. (And I'll bet we've all been there.)

    But that shouldn't stop us from window shopping, and appreciating the aesthetic of the things for what they are.

  • Armando C

    lol Peter. "buying a Kaleidoloop is like buying a trawl or a hoe. It’s a basic tool you’d always expect to use." that should be the selling slogan, I nearly fell out of my chair. That's an awesome line man bravo!

  • Stij

    A $300 trawl or hoe? :D

    I'm sorry I'll leave now

  • Kaden

    Trowel.

    Trawl is a method of fishing.

  • leakeg

    this music is really beautiful… the type of stuff I could sleep to and have mushroom dreams.

    Just wish I had a clue what these guys are actually doing and then I could make some myself!

  • http://www.thenoisettes66.tk noisettes

    i only have 2 questions: how long can the loop be, and what kind of batteries will i need?

    also, i'm actually more impressed with the condenser mic to 1/4" plug! that, i could use about six of!

  • leakeg

    I keep thinking about this music…

    can anybody recommend me something similar?

  • Hio

    Sound quality is way too low.  16 bit/22 isn’t even CD quality.  Better off getting a looping pedal from Boss.