We may be at the saturation point for sound synthesis and modular. You know what that means: it’s time for video synthesizers.

East Coast American boutique darlings Critter & Guitari are diving into that field headfirst with their ETC video synth.

Here’s how it works. Pick a background color. Dial in a mode – from various preset animation styles. Choose to leave accumulation on or not (whether those animations stack atop one another). Add an audio input if you choose for sound reactivity. Then adjust parameters manually, or use MIDI for automation (via scenes and CC automation).

That might all be a bit limiting, but the box is open to coding your own modes via Python, too. (Cleverly, they’ve even allowed USB wifi support, so you can edit those scripts remotely. I’ll have to check out that programming capability.)

There’s also a screenshot feature, so you’ll be ready to upload images to Tumblr. And that’s a good thing … because this looks a bit like what would happen if someone turned Tumblr into an image, or fed drugs to MS Paint and had it go sentient and take over your eyes.

Now, of course, on some level what this is is essentially a computer with some knobs attached and video output. But that very trend could open the door to other similar creations. And it means the responsibility lies with the video synth makers to do what Critter & Guitari have done, which is to make their mark in smart hardware design and pour the love into the actual visuals.

Video Format: 720p, 60 Hz
¼” Mono Audio Input
¼” Footswitch Jack
MIDI input: 5-pin MIDI jack & USB-MIDI
4GB USB drive included for modes and screen grabs

Aluminum and plastic case, typical Critter & Guitari style.

Cost: US$$495 (with free shipping in the USA).

  • Tommy Preger

    Looks like a lot of fun! I wish it was based on Javascript/canvas though since that’s my doodle-language of choice…

  • Robin Parmar

    More love for Python, absolutely the best choice for human-readable code.

    But this cool box means more flashing displays at gigs that I cannot watch… that video should have had a photosensitivity warning for starters.

    • “Absolutely” eh? Never read Ruby I suppose.

      • Cory

        read ruby, I have.
        readable is unless see python first?

  • Olivier Ozoux

    Missed an opportunity by not adding “midi sensitivity” Audio reactive means yet another iTune style screensaver. Midi would have meant really being able to “see” the music.

    • Polite Society

      I noticed there was a midi notes option in the video, leading me to believe there is some midi based reactivity, plus as Peter said, you can control it via cc.

  • ioanni

    In a new update, they should allow different video modes, like European 720p 25 fps.

  • chili

    I saw the potential for this device with the introduction of the organelle and am very glad they made it. The comments below in my opinion just reinforce how much opportunity there is for these kinds of devices.

  • Mark Kunoff

    Limitations drive creativity, so I can see the value of this device, but personally I would get bored with it pretty quickly. Nice touch with the USB drive too, just a bit too expensive. If it had 1080p output, I’d be ok with the $500 tag. I’m using Lumen now (1/4 the price of ETC) and can’t see any end to the possible output that can be achieved with it. It also has Syphon in/out.

    • ioanni

      For Lumen you need a MAC (3 * the price of ETC) and maybe a video input-output card. For that cash I would rather build a LZX video eurorack.


      • Mark Kunoff

        How much would that cost?

        That image does look tasty though! 😉

        • ioanni

          LZX Visual Cortex ($800) is an input output module. A base module in my book.
          Then there are various other, that generate or modulate a video stream.
          Add to that a case and cables and you are computer free.

          Bring also that old VHS video camera from the storage . It’s a good input device.

  • I’ve been playing live with one of the very limited videoscopes for around a year now (https://www.critterandguitari.com/products/video-scope)

    For me, it’s just a zero-effort way to bring visuals to a live show. While I often perform with a drummer, sometimes it’s just me, a laptop, a synth and occasionally my double bass, so I don’t want to be worrying about another thing to set up and control. I installed it in my flightcase, which i just open and my controllers are all there, point it at a wall somewhere behind me and forget it exists.

  • Martin Roberts

    Given the price tag of what is, in essence, a $500 music visualizer (even if it is called a “video synthesizer”) I was a bit disappointed to see that it doesn’t do higher than 720p video resolution. The patterns themselves were pretty underwhelming – you can see better at any chipmusic show for a fraction of the cost.

  • Dee Lux

    Not really interested in 720 vs 1040, but this should have some image mangling capabilities. I.E you upload an image to it and mangle it via whatever you put into it sound or midi wise. if you just have to use their graphics then you can’t really do anything unique with it, anybody could buy one and do exactly what you do, if that’s the case, then it’s just a toy and shouldn’t be priced like an artistic device, because it isn’t. I’m pretty sure I could build one myself that does more using an Arduino platform, to buy this would be lazy, people can do this themselves. Love the idea but as it is it seems like a gimmick