Stylophone S2 portable analog synthesizer hands-on (video)

The original Stylophone is something of a legend. Made popular by David Bowie (and possibly if you're British, Rolf Harris) in the late sixties / early seventies. Since then the original (shown in our gallery) has been re-released, and spin-off products have come to light. The S2, however, represents a new direction for the vintage synth. This time, makers dubreq wanted to create something that maintained the original's pick-up-and-play appeal, while adding some more high-end features and functionality that open it up to more serious sound-smiths. The first thing you will notice is that, while it still has the iconic metal "keys," the Stylophone S2 is somewhat larger -- no bad thing if you've ever tried penning a melody live on the original. Those keys can be triggered with a wireless stylus, but are touch sensitive also, meaning you can poke out a tune without being limited to the agility of your dominant hand. Skip past the break for more details and a hardware video tour.

If you're thinking that, despite being larger than its predecessor, there's just not enough keys, then be assured you can get a full three octaves plus a +/-2 shift function on the left giving it a comprehensive range. The all-analog sound engine also features an eight waveform LFO, bass-heavy sub-oscillators and a state-variable filter. Thanks to an Aux input, you can also use the filters etc. with external audio sources, plus there are headphone and 1/4-inch outputs. If you're worried it's all a little too compact for a live performance, there's a CV (control voltage) input trigger offering the ability to control with with an external sequencing device. It's not all retro though, with the illuminated speaker section also providing real-time feedback (such as the speed of the LFO). Best -- and most importantly of all -- it sounds just like you want it to, full of crunchy, analog goodness. The hardware feels extremely well built, and definitely feels like it could stand up to the knocks and bangs that inevitably come with taking gear out on the road, which, thanks to the option of AA battery power is wonderfully easy. Sound like something you'd like the sound of? The Stylophone S2 is available now for £299 (about $470 by conversion).

Billy Steele contributed to this report.