Playtime Engineering’s Groovebox for Kids Will Probably Tempt Adults, Too

If you can get past the looks, this is a solid sampler and clip-launcher

  • Playtime Engineering’s Blipblox myTRACKS is a full-on music making machine for kids ages 3 and up.
  • It can record samples, sequence other synthesizers, and add cool FX.
  • The no-nonsense design and easy layout is good for adults, too.
girl using Playtime Engineering's Blipblox myTRACKS

Playtime Engineering

The Blipblox myTRACKS is a "starter" groove box for kids, but don't be fooled by its oversized, child-friendly controls and 1990s-era Nintendo color scheme. This is a serious piece of music gear.

A well-designed drum machine or sampler should be as accessible to kids as it is to adults. But which of us would let a sticky-fingered child anywhere near their precious Octatrack or $2K OP-1? Likewise, a childproof instrument doesn't have to be a piece of cheap bleepy-bloopy junk. If it's good enough for kids, it might also be tempting to adults.

"The design looks like it's fun for tiny kids, but I wouldn't leave tiny kids unattended with something that costs more than $50. There's the drool, and they just love stamping on things. Maybe for 8+ kids, but even they have a short attention span, and wouldn't they appreciate something that looks a little more grown-up?" says musician MrMidi in a comment on the Synthotopia blog.

Let’s Get Groovy

The myTRACKS has five tracks, 48 built-in instrument sounds, and a 5x5 grid of pads both for playing notes and samples and for triggering pre-made clips. If you’re familiar with the Ableton Live music workstation software, which lets you pre-make clips of audio and then trigger them, in-time, from a grid, you already know how this works.

There’s also a microphone to record and capture samples and a couple of levers you can assign to audio effects, then apply those effects by moving the levers.

Playtime Engineering 's Blipblox myTRACKS

Playtime Engineering

If you hadn't already seen the kiddy-style case, that list of features might lead you to picture one of a zillion "adult" grooveboxes. And the grown-up specs continue. This thing has a proper 5-pin MIDI-out port, for controlling any other synthesizer, plus MIDI over its USB-C connection, for connecting to computers, phones, or iPads, and for downloading new sound packs to play around with.

"I bought their Blipblox After Dark [synthesizer] on sale, almost on impulse, for my daughter's kid, and kept it a few weeks before sending it on," musician, computer scientist, and teacher Prabhakar Ragde said on the Elektronauts forum. "It's quite well made, and a lot of thought went into the design. I was surprised; it doesn't sound like a toy."

You can also connect it to Blipblox's new SK2 synth, but beware—sounds that come from it are the kind of thing to drive even a well-worn parent to drink.

Grown Up Fun

If you don't mind the looks, the myTRACKS has a lot going for it as a musical instrument. For one, it does away with any kind of screen or menu, making it much more immediate to play. It may be safe for kids as young as three years old, but its straightforward layout and oversized levers and knobs should be just as comfy for adults as they are for kids.

This is the kind of educational toy we like. It's fun, and its looks are presumably attractive to kids, but it isn't dumb. Children can get started by just triggering the built-in loops, screwing with the effects, and so on, but they can also easily mix in their own recordings and sounds until they're building original songs. This box appears to remove much of the complexity that plagues modern music gear, but without turning it into a useless toy.

"They certainly are aiming this at children, but also at adults who wouldn't necessarily be playing electronic instruments but who may more casually have this on their coffee table more as recreation and just for fun," said musician Jukka in a forum thread participated in by Lifewire.

And you never know—in the future, this could become a stone-cold classic for experimental musicians, like the 1978 classic Speak & Spell or the 1967 Stylophone. Get in early while you can, for just $250 when it goes on sale.

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