Since its first release in 1968, the Stylophone has straddled the line between a musical instrument and a toy. Sure, serious musicians occasionally play around with its electronic sounds, but they were mostly sold as an easy way for children to make music until it ended production in the mid-70s. The brand came back in the mid-2000s, releasing various styles of synths and drum machines since then. Some of them felt like the half-toy, half-musical instrument that the original was, although others felt more like full-fledged modern synths with the accompanying price to boot. For the new Stylophone Beat, the outfit has returned to its simple and affordable roots.
As you can guess from the name, this is not a keyboard synth like the original Stylophone. Instead, it’s a beat box that you can play with the attached stylus, allowing you to craft rhythmic beats using a toy that still looks straight out of the 70s.
The Stylophone Beat is a compact drum machine styled with the retro aesthetics of the original toy synth. Actually, the outfit calls it “pocket-sized,” although our impression from the early photos and videos make it look a little bigger than what’s going to comfortably fit inside our pockets. Instead of a keyboard, though, it gets a circular drum pad on the right side, along with levers, buttons, and a knob on the right side, giving you full control over the instrument’s multiple functions. At the bottom right is a dock for the tethered stylus that you can use to tap on the pad.
It comes with four drum kits and four synth bass sounds, allowing you to use it to create groovy beats and basslines alike. According to the outfit, the sounds range from classic drum sounds to real beat box samples alike, giving you a great selection of options for the drums and bass sounds you can make.
The Stylophone Beat allows you to record, layer, and loop drum patterns with simple button pushes, as well as change tempo, quantize beats, and even mute individual sounds. A built-in speaker with a grille on the upper left side can output sound directly from the device, although you can also play it through headphones via the 3.5mm jack for a little private listening. There’s no output specific for external music production, which, we guess, is appropriate for something that’s halfway between a toy and a serious musical instrument, although you can always run a line from the 3.5mm jack and hook it up to the rest of your gear.
Aside from that, there’s not much else. If it sounds a little simple, that’s because it’s the whole point – this is a basic drum machine with basic features that make it approachable to novices, while being a interesting curiosity for serious musicians. Oh yeah, it’s battery-operated, although there’s no word on whether it’s equipped with a rechargeable module or it requires you to plop in AA cells (hopefully, it’s the former).
The Stylophone Beat is now available for preorder, priced at $39.95, with shipping slated to start next month.