Critter & Guitari’s 201 Music Synthesizer is the long-awaited successor to its pocket piano

Critter & Guitari’s line of hackable music computers and video synths are undeniably unique. They do things that virtually no other instrument can, and they’re probably the most visually distinctive portable music devices. Its latest creation is the 201 Music Synthesizer, an arguably long overdue replacement for the company’s first product – the Pocket Piano.

Like its flagship Organelle, the 201 is built on open source software, specifically Pure Data and Faust. But rather than trying to be everything to everyone, it’s more narrowly focused. It comes with six built-in synth engines covering chiptune-style beeps, analog sounds, drum samples, physical modeling (likely via Karplus Strong), and vocal synthesis. Rather than four knobs whose purpose varies depending on the patch you loaded (which may or may not have particularly good documentation, depending on who created it), the 201 has three parameter knobs for Envelope, Tone, and the “surprise” – for when you just want a happy accident.

One of the things that makes the 201 truly stand out is the pattern generator and sequencer. While you can just play notes live and record them for later recall, the synth can also create patterns for you. A few presses of the single maple fingerboards and the 201 will begin spitting out simple octave jumps, arpeggios or random polyphonic mayhem. And if something appeals to you, you can also save it. And you can literally save thousands of footage on the included 8GB microSD card.

Like the Organelle, you can actually hack your own patches for the 201 together using Pure Data or Faust, but that’s more of a nice bonus than the main selling point here. Under the 201’s hood is a 900 MHz ARM processor with 512 MB of RAM, which should be enough for most synth patches, but it’s not as powerful as the Organelle M. The 201 also features ‘a built-in speaker, a 1/4-inch stereo output jack, 1/8-inch MIDI in and out, USB-A for connecting MIDI controllers and USB-C for accessing files on the microSD card .

Of course, to be a true Pocket Piano replacement, the 201 must also be portable. So, in addition to the AC adapter, it can be powered by three AA batteries. And at around a pound and just over nine inches long, it’s easy enough to toss it into a backpack.

The Critter & Guitari 201 Music Synthesizer is currently crowdfunded on Kickstarter and has already surpassed its goal. If you want to get one when they start shipping in April 2023, you can save it before December 20 for $295.

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