Review: Littlebits Korg Synth Kit

Synth building blocks for big kids      23/12/13

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12:12 mins    

There's been a lot of noise surrounding the Littlebits Synth Kit. made in conjunction with Korg, it's essentially a set of Monotron modules in snap together electronic kit form - something for which Littlebits have become very well known for. Tatsuya Takahashi, the engineer behind Volcas and Monotrons has been involved in re-engineering the Monotron circuitry to work in Littlebits format.

Equally, many have poo-pooed the idea saying it's not a serious instrument. and no, no it isn't, but it's not supposed to be that, it's created to encourage people to fiddle and experiment.

So with that in mind, here's what you get:


Oscillator (x2): Saw/Square wave switchable with coarse and fine tune control

Random: switchable noise output or random voltage for modulation

Filter: from the monotron design cutoff and peak with control input

Envelope: Attack/Decay with control input.

4 Step Sequencer: four values, with internal clock or trigger to advance step

Keyboard: an octave of micro switches, two sets of outputs and a three octave range

Power module: PP3 lead input or 9-12v power

Splitter lead: one to two

Mixer: two inputs to one

Delay Module: crunchy analog delay, like the Monotron Delay

Speaker: small speaker with minijack output

Magnets snap the kit together, it clicks, pops and clunks but who cares, itsa great fun to configure on the fly.

I did notice that using an external power supply (I tried a couple) gave me a pretty awful hum on the audio output which I couldn't shake. Korg tell me that if I had a switch mode power supply this would go away, but I don't have one about the place to confirm that.

Finally

It's bags of fun as are the monotrons, but this is more so, I want to get my soldering iron out and do unspeakable things to the kit, and get my CV gear playing along - all we need is the instructions, so I see a bright future for this, more modules and the ability to buy separate ones will create some wonderful setups I have no doubt.  Indeed it's worth noting that Korg have in fact released the circuit diagrams in open source Eagle format - a first with major current instrument production, being pleased with the interest in modding their Monotrons and Volcas.

The good news is that synth kit operates at 5V, which should mean compatibility with Eurorack stuff given the right interfacing.

A professional modular synth it is not. But it is a lot of fun.

 

 

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