There can be no doubt about the impact of crowdfunding on small-time inventors with a passion for music technology. With reliable consistency, we’ve been seeing at least one imaginative music tech project on Kickstarter or some other crowdfunding platform every month.
These ideas range widely, from a guitar that leverages an app to make playing guitar easier than ever before, to a stompbox that creates a portable light show for stage musicians. However, they almost unfailingly have in common is a spirit of innovation, an underlying love for music and a concept that’s just crazy enough to be nearly unthinkable for a major music-gear manufacturer. To me, that’s why crowdfunding is such a boon for these projects. They allow creative developers to bootstrap their ideas with just a few hundred pre-orders, rather than assuring many thousands of sales that a big-time OEM would need to get involved.
And we haven’t seen any of these projects in recent memory miss their funding goals. Take for the latest example the Dato Duo, a tabletop synthesizer/sequencer made to be played by two people of any age or skill level at once. I learned of the Dato Duo late in its Kickstarter funding cycle; in fact there were only about 40 hours left in the campaign when this published. But the Dato Duo had met its goal by that time, with more than 200 people having pre-ordered the product at a minimum price of $300.
On one side of the Dato Duo sits the sequencer. It loops the last eight notes played from the pentatonic keyboard (which is like only using the black notes on a piano, so every note sounds in harmony with the others). You can turn notes on and off from the circular sequencer, as well as use like Booster, Random, Velocity and Length to alter the sequences.
The second person on the opposite side of the Dato Duo has control over the two-oscillator, 12-bit digital synthesizer. One slider controls the combination and wavelength of the oscillators; one slider controls filter cutoff; and two knobs affect the filter resonance and amp envelope. Pads add percussive noise blasts and a bit-crushing effect.
The Dato Duo was designed to only do things that sound musical in the end, so that kids can enjoy it from the internal speaker and learn about electronic music through experience. However, it plays well with other grown-up toys. It has 5-pin MIDI In and Out ports to sync up with other gear, as well as Sync I/O, which works with gear like the Korg Volcas and Teenage Engineering synths.
Also, an audio out can drive headphones or speakers; a Micro USB port supplies power and allows firmware updates. Upon delivery planned in April 2017, the firmware is to be released as open source. If you want to get in on this last-minute deal, units were still available from the Kickstarter page for $334 USD or 299 euros.
• 2 oscillators: 1 pulse (variable width) and 1 sawtooth
• Digital low pass filter with resonance
• Amp envelope (note length and release time)
• Sample rate reductor
• Noise-based percussion synthesizer
• 8-step circular sequencer
• Pentatonic keyboard. Two octaves
• Inputs and outputs
• Audio out capable of driving headphones
• Sync input and output, compatible with Korg Volca, Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators
• MIDI IN and MIDI OUT on full-size DIN connectors
• Internal speaker
• Micro USB for power and firmware update. 5V, 2A max.