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.