The Pianocade is an open source MIDI controller and simple synthesizer with an arpeggiator. It’s made in Canada and based on the Atmel AT90USB646e. It’s about $325. Remember some fun in the studio can be inspiring so it gets my vote!
“The Pianocade is a synthesizer designed to sound, look, and feel like vintage arcade games. It’s easy for people who want to dive right in, powerful and feature-rich for people who want to tinker, and fun to play for everyone.” – pianocade.com
There are numerous Fireplace apps for iOS to keep you warm. However for the modern hipster Ted Martens has created an 8-bit Fireplace for Mac or PC. Commands include: log, match, marshmallow, smore, eat hotdog, fireworks, photo, paper and water
“Type words to interact with the Fireplace or just sit back and enjoy. The logs burn down to ashes in about 30 minutes each.” – tedmartens.com
Of all the modules you can buy for a modular synthesizer my favorite is the Zorlon Cannon. This nicely named module comes from “The Harvestman” based out of Michigan (USA). What separates this module, and in fact all The Harvestman modules is that they are based on vintage digital electronics not analog components. Here is the objective statement from The Harvestman website:
The development of these synthesizer modules fulfills four major personal goals:
1. To enable a voltage-controlled deployment of traditionally “digital” signal generation and processing techniques.
2. To produce a series of synthesizer modules that aid my personal compositional aesthetics: aliasing, quantization, and severe signal distortion are not traps to be avoided, but valid sonic processes to be controlled and enjoyed.
3. To raise awareness of archaic digital sound processing techniques often overlooked in the context of analog synthesizer nostalgia.
4. To aid the musical efforts of those committed to the ideals of nonlinearity, discontinuity, and quantization
The Zorlon Cannon module is a take on the Atari 8-bit machines such as the 2600 and 5200 range. The best way to get a grip on what the Zorlon sounds like is to see it in action. Take a look at this video interview with Scott Jaeger at NAMM 2008 from sonicstate.com. The Zorlon kicks in at 9:00 minutes: