Audio cassettes get new lease of life in analog synth

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The OM-1 Cassette Synthesizer by Scott Campbell

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The rise of digital music and, more recently, wireless streaming has relegated many physical music consumption formats to the sidelines, but they're not completely dead. Some, like vinyl, are even making a comeback. Others, such as the medium used to kickstart a mobile music revolution – the audio cassette – not so much. But if you have drawers full of tapes just waiting for their chance to shine again, now could be their moment. Onde Magnétique's OM-1 analog synth manipulates the pitch and volume of a sound recorded on a standard audio cassette tape.

Scott Campbell's OM-1 Cassette Synethesizer is said to be loosely based on instruments like the Mellotron and Ondes Martenot. A continuous tone is recorded on one side of the tape, with the other side having a different sound. After connecting the supplied cassette player to the synth unit, the pitch of the tone changes as the playback speed is increased or decreased.

The synth has eight buttons or keys for playing individual notes, with a tuning knob above each for pitch range is a bit more than 2.5 octaves. There's a pressure sensitive volume control, a three-position chickenhead switch for attack/release response and CV/Gate inputs for pitch and volume control using a linear (non-quantized) voltage sequencer.

Sonics are output to an external amp or powered speaker via a 6.4 mm jack. The synth unit is powered by a 3 V center positive mains adapter, while the cassette player gets its juice from two AA-sized batteries.

The OM-1 is made to order for US$285, which includes the synth box, a modified cassette player/recorder, a tape with one sound per side, a power supply and audio cables. Build time is around six weeks.

You can see and hear the device in action in the video below.

View gallery - 7 images

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