Devices like Yamaha's Tenori-On or the monome are great, but their pricing is definitely out of the "casual treat" range and well into "serious investment". Stepping into the fray to sate your button-led retro synth whimsy needs, therefore, comes the $49.99 Bliptronic 5000, a battery-powered 8-bit synth that makes pattern-based music creation indecently straightforward.
Video demo after the cut
The idea is that each backlit button triggers a note, and the step-sequencer moves from left to right at a BPM pace you control with one of the side knobs. The FM synth chip blasts out some pleasingly crunchy sounds - and sports 8 note polyphony - and then the whole thing loops around again, so you can tweak the audio each time. It's also possible to daisy-chain Bliptronic 5000s together, with each machine clever enough to only start playing its sequence when the previous one has finished; that way you can create longer sequences or have multiple people helping out.
There's no MIDI and no complex editing functionality, but that helped keep the price down: $50 is, frankly, a bargain. Create Digital Music discussed the instrument's development with the ThinkGeek team member responsible for it (there's a photo of one prototype, using switches instead of the 8x8 button array, in the gallery below) and he's keen that the modding community get to work tweaking the best out of the Bliptronic. Check out the video demo below and tell me you don't want one.
[via Coolest Gadgets]