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The Data DUO Synth Is Both a Kids’ Toy and a Grown-Up Electronic Instrument


The Data DUO bills itself as an electronic music synthesizer for ages 3 to 99. It sounds cool enough that it could supplement a live show if you wanted to add some more synthetic effects to your musical stylings. But it’s also designed to be a toy that’s accessible for kids who aren’t quite old enough yet to handle playing a synthesizer.

There are many synthesizers that are made for kids to use, but this one has an even lower barrier to entry.The DUO doesn’t include a traditional keyboard at all; it has eight black buttons on the bottom of one side, which make up a pentatonic scale. It’s almost impossible to play something that sounds truly dissonant if you only use these notes, and there’s even a pitch alteration, so you can change keys if you want to.

The DUO also includes some effects that most kids’ synthesizers would never include, like two different oscillators to control the size of the waveform. Basically, you can mess with those to change the way the synth effect sounds, making it either a biting tone or a more hollow tone.

The synthesizer that I had as a kid didn’t have any of those fancy effects; it was just a little electronic keyboard for playing ordinary piano notes. I think it was good to mess around with a “real” piano keyboard as a kid and figure out which notes sounded good together even before I started piano lessons, but it sure would have been cool to have something like this, too.

The DUO also includes a lot of features for adult musicians that still wouldn’t get in a kids’ way, including all of the inputs and outputs that you’d want to have on a “real” synthesizer. There are ordinary instrument cable outputs, plus MIDI inputs and outputs. You can digitally record the songs you make, or use it live. It’s a simple device, but it’s designed to be as un-intimidating and accessible as possible, especially for someone who doesn’t know how to play the piano (yet).

If you want one, you can kick into their Kickstarter and have a DUO of your own for $334. That’s a lot more expensive than your average kids’ synthesizer, which will run you $50-$100. At $334, the DUO is definitely a “grown-up” price, but I guess this is also a “grown-up” instrument—the sort of thing a kid will grow into, and keep playing with their future electronic act.

(via The Verge, image via Kickstarter)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (