If a huge box sprouting hundreds of cables is your idea of a modular synthesizer, then you may need to have a rethink. London production and technology studio Artists & Engineers has launched a project on Kickstarter to fund the production of a four module sound synthesis system called Polytik that's designed to be as pleasing to the eye as it is to the ear.
Polytik is inspired by the DIY and maker community and the result of a collaboration between production studio Artists & Engineers, designer Jack Featherstone and John Richards of Dirty Electronics. Its open source analog/digital synth modules have been created to be touched and held while playing and are described as beautifully designed objects in their own right.
The system is currently made up of four color-coded, battery-powered modules, but its creators are encouraging tinkerers, synth hackers and sonic scientists to come up with new modules of their own. To this end, all software, design files, schematics, layouts and materials lists is to be made available for free download.
For the Polytik system to work, players will need to connect at least one sound module via ribbon cables to a Core module. Up to three sound modules can link to a core module at any one time, and audio is output through a 3.5 mm jack.
The blue Core module includes a sequencer, programmer and mixer. A black Combi module is home to a voltage-controlled oscillator, voltage-controlled feedback and filters. As its name suggests, the red VCO module has a voltage-controlled oscillator and voltage-controlled filter. And a yellow Noise module packs a noise generator, patchable feedback networks and a voltage-controlled filter.
To get the Polytik synths into the hands of e-music makers, Artists & Engineers has launched on Kickstarter. Pledges start at £120 (about US$150) for a starter pack comprising a Core and a Combi module. The campaign runs until March 2 and estimated delivery is penciled in for May, if all goes to plan.