When one thinks of legendary synthesizers, the first names to pop up are most likely Moog, Roland, Korg, Arp, and so on. And for good reason. They have played major roles in shaping the current musical landscape we know today. But, amongst the giants, there are smaller, less obvious names that are just as important. One such name is Stylophone, from the UK company Dübreq. Stylophone's S-1 was a go-to favorite for the likes of David Bowie and Kraftwerk, with Bowie even quoted saying that it was the only piece of gear he would ever take with him on holiday. Fast forward 50 years and the company has expanded its lineup, releasing a more advanced version called the Gen X-1. In this review, we'll be taking a look at this pocket-sized powerhouse, and what makes it a great addition to any studio setup.
What is it?
The Stylophone Gen X-1 is a pocket-sized, battery-powered analog mono synth, that uses a stylus to create sound against the metal key bed. It builds off the original S-1 by adding features like envelope controls, an LFO, a delay effect, and a filter. To pack even more into this little synth, you even have the option of adding pulse width modulation and two separate sub-octaves.
How does it work?
To create sound, the Stylophone requires the provided stylus to touch the metal keyboard, with each note being connected to a voltage-controlled oscillator via a different-value resistor—thus closing a circuit and creating sound. The X-1 takes it a step further and adds a touch strip as well, which allows you to slide between notes in a scale. It can also be played using your finger. The rest of the controls are what you'd find on any standard synth. But, to add some more excitement, there is a line-in jack for adding guitar, vocals, or any other sound and controlling it via the envelope, LFO, delay etc.
What do I think?
At first, I wasn't really sure what to make of the synth. Although it's similar in size and basic function to a Korg Volca, I've honestly never played something like this. It's a quirky little bit of kit that certainly has its own signature sound. Where I had the most fun with it, was running it through various effects like the Strymon Timeline, Big Sky, and death by audio Absolute Destruction. When running it through all these, and modulating the LFO, all I can say is WOW. Can't say I've ever heard textures and sounds like that come from such a tiny synth. Granted it received some help, but the way you play it made it so much more interactive than almost anything in its category.
Should you buy one?
If you're looking for something very different, but with a hint of familiarity, I would say yes. It's most certainly worthy of making it into your setup even just to create effects sounds in your tracks.
This is such a cool little synth. Its size, its price, and its sound are all very attractive. It might seem a little strange at first, but it's definitely very fun to play with. Like I said, when used in combination with effects, it's capable of creating incredible textures and atmospheres that you just will not get anywhere else.
Pros: Small, portable, fun to play with
Cons: None really considering it's intended to be simple. Maybe less plastic would be ideal.
Final score: 9/10