littleBits, a company formed by 21st Century Renaissance woman Ayah Bdeir, has garnered a reputation in the maker community for its unique modular electronic circuits that snap together using magnets. Recently, littleBits teamed up with Korg to release the Synth Kit, a collection of “bits” used to construct a miniature modular analog synthesizer.
I picked one up over the holiday season, and the Synth Kit is a blast. It sounds great, and features the same Korg filter from their MS-20, Monotribe, and Monotron synths. Let’s take a closer look at the littleBits Synth Kit.
Analog Synths in Grade Schools Everywhere!
When first opening the Synth Kit, one is greeted by its excellent manual. It serves as a proper introduction to analog synthesis along while explaining how the included modules work together. A host of project ideas are also diagrammed, with some including some of the other available littleBits modules and hardware.
The included Bits are color-coded by function. The kit comes with two oscillators, a filter, a noise/random voltage generator, a mixer, a simple envelope generator, and a delay. Micro keyboard and 4-step sequencer Bits allow for performances. Utility Bits round out the collection — splitters, power, a battery, and a small speaker with a headphone jack.
It only takes a few minutes to whip together a variety of synth layouts. The noise generator puts out an excellent sounding wind, especially when connected to the filter. The two oscillators output either a sawtooth or square wave.
The 4-step sequencer allows for simple pattern creation. It also includes a speed control. The one octave keyboard spans up to 4 octaves when using its control knob, but the action was too tough for truly dexterous playing.
Apparently, a MIDI to Voltage Bit is in the works. Its release will truly make the littleBits Synth Kit a regular part of my workflow — the sound quality is that good. Some of the other Bits are expected to be released individually, which will be great for creating larger synth layouts.
Other littleBits Modules add to the Fun
Some of the other available littleBits products are useful for expanding the Synth Kit. Mounting boards are a must for using the Kit in performance mode. Other modules, including the microphone as well as light and pressure sensors, intrigue with their potential musical applications.
There is no doubt the littleBits Synth Kit serves as a great introduction to analog synthesis. Musicians with a bit of a maker gene probably can come up with some other innovative applications for this unique entry in the world of analog. Maybe as part of the recent trend for STEM education initiatives, we can get Synth Kits in schools everywhere?
Note that the following littleBits kits aren’t the Synth Kit, but the modules within will extend the Synth Kit’s capabilities in unique ways, indeed.