The Stylophone

So about two weeks ago, I ordered a Stylophone from Thinkgeek and have been more than satisfied. For those that don’t know, the Stylophone was a popular toy in the late 1960’s. What sets this toy apart is that it is infact a compact synthesizer. What makes it awesome is the fact that it was used by several big names in music, for example David Bowie played a Stylophone on his song, “Space Oddity” and Kraftwerk used it on their track, “Pocket Calculator”.

stylophone

I purchased a reproduction Stylophone for $20, and certainly got everything I wanted and more. The new Stylophone has three tone settings as opposed to the original Stylophone’s one, so my Stylophone has the same set of tones as the original, but also two additional. I also learned after purchasing that there is a pitch knob underneath the unit, that can be used to tune the Stylophone to the desired key, but can also be used while playing for strange melodic effects. Lastly, there is a vibrato switch on the top next to the power switch, which can make the tones “pulse” in a way that mimics the human voice.

Below is a wav file of some tones I recorded while I was screwing around with it (yeah, this thing has a line out jack).

Stylophone Synth Demo

 

Ghettoblasters and Boomboxen in the Modern Age

So for the past year or so, I’ve had increased interest in vintage boomboxes. I believe the appeal comes from the need for a powerful portable audio solution. Previous to having boomboxes, I would take a set of dc-powered computer speakers, chop off the plug, strip down the wires, and hook up a set of 9-volt batteries wired in parallel. The problem with this, however, is that 9-volt batteries are expensive, and most sets of computer speakers run on more then 9 volts of electricity. So yeah, I could mix and match batteries, but to get a reliable flow of electricity, that would require casing, and basically a bunch of wiring I didn’t want to do. So I went around with underpowered speakers that just caused problems when batter life ran short.

Now, I turn to boomboxes to do the hard work for me. Boomboxes were first introduced in the mid to late 70’s and became a facet of audio gear until their decline in the late 80’s. The appeal of boomboxes were their portability, battery life, and most important, volume. Every boombox was made to be cranked up with quality amplifiers and top of the line remixing features.

The thing that makes boomboxes accessible nowadays is the fact that the majority of them included built in cassette decks. With simple adapters purchasable at any electronics store for under $15, any new mp3 or cd player can be hooked up to a boombox, giving it whole new life and purpose.

Clockwise, mid 70's Panasonic, mid 80's Soundesign, late 80's Panasonic

Clockwise, mid 70s Panasonic, mid 80s Soundesign, late 80s Panasonic