Pocket Piano from Critter and Guitari on Vimeo.

Apologies to the immense powers of lumbering studio gear, but a new lifestyle may be forming around unique, mobile, small, simple synths. The latest entry comes from none other than Critter and Gitari, some of our favorite electronics designers, based in Philadelphia. This time, they’re touting a pocket synth. No MIDI, no control voltage – just wooden keys, some knobs, an audio out jack, and a speaker. But the killer feature is, it runs on batteries. That allows you to take it anywhere, including – as evidenced by the video – on the Staten Island Ferry.

The sounds are decidedly lo-fi, but varied in synthesis methods:

  • Vibrato Synth
  • Harmonic Sweeper
  • Two-Octave Arpeggiator
  • Octave Cascade
  • Mono FM Synth
  • FM Arpeggiator

Twist the knobs to select mode and waveform, with a colored light to give you feedback. Then play on the wooden keys, though they require a bit of what the creators describe as “a refined touch.”

Lots of additional sound samples, including some that sound like they escaped from a vintage arcade cabinet (or a really cheap alien spacecraft):
Pocket Piano

Bonus: Here’s a wonderful recorder called the Kaleidoloop from the same builders, costing $299. They’ve been documenting its many powers over the past months. It’s insanely simple – to the point that somewhere, KAOSS Pad engineers are scratching their heads — but also insanely delicious.

Kaleidoloop: Effecting a Voice Recording from Critter and Guitari on Vimeo.