Mini studio modules designed for hands-on electronic music creation
Mindflood has developed the compact minijam studio platform to provide everything an electronic musician needs to create a beat or track, without having to pair up a smartphone running music production apps or software. The first "tek" minijam range is made up of a drum machine, a wavetable synth module, an analog filter, a mixer unit and a portable speaker – offering plenty of scope for hands-on live jamming and the ability to record creations to microSD for polishing in audio editing software.
Northern Ireland's Mindflood was founded in 2013 by Sebastian Heinz and launched its first product, and first Kickstarter, at the end of the same year. That product was known as Patchblocks, a system of blank canvas synth hardware where the user determined what each module should do in software, and the hardware obediently obeyed. Heinz and company has now returned to the crowdfunding platform with the minijam studio project.
The idea for minijam started to form in early 2016 in response to Patchblocks customer feedback, with a number of customers and retailers asking for more on the hardware front, and much less in the software department, but something that was just as accessible, affordable and fun as its first modular synth system. The result is a suite of devices that crams different studio hardware into small desktop packages.
The current "tek" line is made up of a drum machine, a wavetable synth, and analog filter, a mixer and a speaker. All units are battery-powered and ready to use out of the box, and each can be used on its own or cabled up with others in the range. Sound generation can be automated to cater for single player performance, or friends invited to take an instrument each for live jamming.
Mindflood also says that the platform should serve as a useful educational tool for electronic music noobs to get their heads around key concepts like building tracks, creating patterns, setting up automation, and using arpeggiators, filters and envelopes.
Built around a Cortex M4 ARM processor, the tek.drum unit is an eight voice, eight track, 16-step drum sequencer wrapped in polypropylene housing with road ready bumpers left and right. There are four parameters per track in the shape of note pitch and decay, distortion effect control, and level, it allows pattern chaining up to 128 steps and there are knobs for tempo, delay and volume control. The 155 x 65 x 32 mm (6.1 x 2.5 x 1.2 in), 100 g (3.5 oz) drum machine can keep running for up to 12 hours before its Li-Pol battery needs a top up.
The tek.waves module rocks the same processor, outer skin, dimensions and weight as the .drum unit, and is a wavetable synth with 16 sound parameters divided into four banks. There's an onboard arpeggiator, cooked-in delay, a two octave keyboard, four patterns with 128 steps per pattern, and a 12 hour battery life.
The analog tek.filter has two modes – one engaging a 2-pole resonant low-pass filter and the other dialing in a band-pass filter. The 115 x 65 x 32 (4.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 in), 65 g (2.3 oz) can be used for up to 40 hours per charge.
The .hub 3-channel mixer unit is the heart of a multi-device setup, designed to keep all connected units in check while offering additional hardware integration. Its digital encoder can manage 16-bit/44.1 kHz audio resolution WAV format recordings for saving to microSD card. There are three mono input channels, each with sync trigger output, and a small display top left can be used to set global system tempo.
The 140 x 65 x 32 mm (5.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 in), 95 g (3.3 oz) mixer should be good for up to 8 hours of battery between charges, and sports a headphone jack for feeding the system's sounds to ear candy or the 60 mm (2.3 in) high - 50/70 mm (1.9/2.7 in) diameter minijam .boom portable speaker.
The minijam studio project launched yesterday on Kickstarter, where pledges for a full five module kit start at £130 (about US$160). Backers can also plump for individual modules for either £40 or £45 each. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in September (though pre-production pledge level backers could be in for a May delivery). The pitch video below shows the potential for beat creation fun.