When you're new to making music, affordable gadgets provide a nice introduction without a hefty investment. As far as tiny synths go, Teenage Engineering's $59 Pocket Operators are an easy sell, but Zeppelin Design Labs may have a compelling option as well. The company's Macchiato Mini Synth starts at just $39 if you're willing to assemble it yourself. If you'd rather not, you can pay $96 for one that's already built. It's also small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
The Macchiato packs everything you need to start making noise quickly. There's a 13-note touch-sensitive keyboard to control the 8-bit synth alongside eight control knobs to make changes to the sound. The mini synth runs on either a 9V battery or can be plugged in with a power supply that will set you back a few extra dollars. Inside, the compact instrument runs on an open-source synthesis library for Arduino which allows users to download updates and flash them to the Macchiato for new sounds. A built-in speaker beams out the audio so you can hear your tunes. Yes, there's also a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones and a MIDI input so you can control the Macchiato with another compatible device.
Zeppelin Design Labs says the DIY kit has an intermediate difficulty, but it's a project that can be completed during the course of an evening. What's more, the company says it's just fine for aspiring musicians as young as 13 to tinker with -- so long as they're supervised, of course. If you're looking to nab one for yourself, both configurations of the Macchiato are available now from the Zeppelin Design Labs website.