Retrokits RK-008 is a robust MIDI sequencer disguised as a pocket calculator

It could be the brains of an entire studio or live music rig.


If you're a fan of Korg's Volca lineup, then there's a decent chance you've heard the name Retrokits before. The company builds a bunch of useful tools for making the most of your electronic music setup, but its specially designed MIDI cable that adds features like velocity control to the Volca FM have proven quite popular. The latest member of its lineup though, is quite a bit more ambitious.

The RK-008 is a full fledged MIDI control center. It's an eight track MIDI sequencer and recorder, which allows it to be the glue that keeps your rig together. It also has a built-in metronome to help you stay in time with your instruments, which is important since all MIDI data is recorded unquantized. (Though you can quantize it after the fact, and then undo if you prefer to go back to your original sloppy playing.)

Each track can record on multiple channels, so you can actually control multiple devices from a single track, leaving the other seven open for... even more devices? You can even record eight parts across the eight tracks, then consolidate them down to one, freeing up more room for sequencing. And of course you can overdub or overwrite any performances.

Each of the tracks can be manipulated independently too. Allowing you to quantize them, add swing or transpose them. And it's all non-destructive, so you can easily undo your changes.

There's also a simple step sequencer built-in to the RK-008. It's probably not gonna work for complex chords, but does the job just fine it seems for four on the floor drums.

There's two MIDI inputs and two MIDI outputs on the back, plus a separate dedicated sync port. Tracks can be assigned to one or both outputs, which is handy if you've got that one drum machine that insists on having each instrument on a separate channel. The two in ports means you can merge MIDI from different sources, but also use different controllers for different instruments.

It's quite a feature list as is, and Retrokits says there's still more to be revealed, which is incredibly impressive for something that looks like pocket calculator from the 1980s — and I mean that as a good thing. The RK-008 looks part MPC, part HP calculator, could probably fit in a pocket and yet seems capable of controlling an entire live music rig.

There are still some outstanding questions though, most importantly when it will come out and how much it will cost. But hopefully we'll find out sooner than later.