Around Christmas time my Husband decided that he wanted a Stylophone, it was one of those toys he had never been brought as a child and he always remembered that the annoying kid down the road had one and he never did.
I had a quick look on eBay and found that they were relatively cheap. For a modern remake of the original Rolf Harris one it is around £10.00, there are also some original ones on eBay selling for around the same price. We managed to buy a second hand one from a local person for £3.50.
For those of you who don't know a Stylophone is a miniature analog stylus operated synthesizer. Invented in 1967 it was a popular toy until the mid 70's, Rolf Harris was the face of Stylophone, whenever anyone mentions Stylophone I instantly think of Rolf Harris.
The modern Stylophone measures 15.5cm x 9.5cm x 3.5cm, it looks pretty much the same as the original item apart from it has connections for your mp3 player, so you can play along to your favourite song, a headphone jack, very handy so no one can hear the noise you make and most importantly a volume control.
The Stylophone needs 3 AA batteries that are inserted in the battery panel on the back, these do last for a good couple of weeks considering the level of noise the Stylophone makes. To start making beautiful music you need to unclip the stylus from its handy niche on the top of the Stylophone, set volume to maximum and then press the stylus onto the metal keyboard, what then emits it's a high pitched squeally, wailly, warrbly sort of noise. To improve the sound coming from your musical instrument you can switch the vibrato switch on this then gives a lovely wibbly sound to the squeally, wailly, warbly noises, there is also a switch on the side marked 1, 2, 3. I am not sure what difference switching this makes to the sound and there is also a twisty dial underneath, this seems to make the Stylophone go higher pitched.
My husband was delighted with his present, he switched it on a started trying to play a song, when the lovely tuneful! Noise that is very authentic to Stylophone was emitted he did look a bit puzzled and continued in his attempts to make music like he remembered from his childhood for about an hour, he then passed it to our then eleven year old daughter to see if she could get anywhere with it. Amazingly after a few attempts she managed to play the theme song to Wallice and Gromit, which she then played repeatedly for a couple of days much to mine and my husbands delight.
I am in two minds as to whether I recommend this toy; on the one hand it is very authentic looking with its black and cream plastic casing and silver grid on top, the stylus is really well secured and easy to grip, the keyboard area is marked out 1 through 10 on one side and 1.5 through 11.5 on the other, the extra functions like headphone jack and volume control are great as not everyone appreciates the music a Stylophone makes, these are all pluses. On the other hand it is a bit of a gimmick, bringing back childhood memories for my husband and no doubt many others, it is really difficult to get any sort of tune out of the thing and I found it nigh on impossible to find a modern Stylophone music book.
The toy was popular for less than a week in our household and now languishes in a tub under my daughter's bed, but for around ten pounds it is almost worth buying for the nostalgia factor alone. My Husband wanted one as soon as he saw it but he soon got bored of it, if he could have time travelled back to 1975 and given it his five year old self it would have been wonderful, but unfortunately it does not come with a time machine.
In conclusion it is a bit of a gimmick but would make a nice gift or stocking filler for some one who was a child in the late 60's early 70's. If you can get one cheaply it is worth it for the couple of hours of fun and the amazement on your kids faces when you explain to them that this was the toy every child wanted in the 70's.
Thank you for reading xx
The Stylophone is a small (slightly larger than handheld) musical instrument, it's not a serious thing but it does what it does, and it does it well. It's played via an attached stylus(hence the name I believe!) and by pressing the keys with the pen/stylus, there are several different sounds that can be chosen via a waveform selector, you can add vibrato to the notes with the flick of a switch and the range of pitch can be increased with the turn of a knob recessed into the back of the Stylophone.
It's powered by battery or a 9v adapter (if I remember correctly, neither were included) and has a headphone jack so you don't annoy everyone around you with whacky BEEEEP sounds.
The grating square waves produced out of it's tinny speaker are what I refer to as 'nostalgia'. I feel as though a trip down memory lane to the era of Sonic the Hedgehog and Zelda happens each time I play with this little thing. Obviously it's only a toy so don't expect an antique synthesizer to jump out of the box, however, if you just want to make silly sounds reminiscent of the gameboy and sega era then this is definitely for you.
Obviously the cheap'n'nasty sound of this little unit has little use for most peoples repertoire but I think the Stylophone company realise this also. For some new sounds that are amusing and not costly I'd go for this before anything else (they also have a drum machine released in their catalogue).
The amount of entertainment attained from this device definitely outweighs the cost, this can easily keep you (a 21 year old man) amused just as easily as it could your niece (a 3 year old).
I found the stylus to be easy to manoeuvre and didn't really struggle with any aspect of the Stylophone, it's definitely anybodies instrument.
If you're looking for a cheap piece of fun, then you've found it.
Stylophones tend to bring a wave of nostalgia when anyone even hear them mentioned and for various age groups (children, who might enjoy it in earnest; people over 30 with fond Rolf Harris related memories; and those Generation Xers who enjoy a healthy dose of knee jerk irony) the stylophone is perfectly capable of providing a good time. For the most part though, it's little more than a novelty, and doesn't have much ue a an instrument. This is largely due to the fact that it makes a pretty horrible, piercing sound on all 3 of its tone settings. It has some uses though: I find it's useful for sound effects rather than any kind of melodic playing and I've seen someone use one as a keyboard amp using the mini jack input which gives a nice lo fi effect. Not sure if this is harmful to the device itself though so I wouldn't recommend it.
This wonderful bit of retro kit makes an excellent present, as I found at Christmas! It takes the fondly remembered Stylophone sound and design and adds a couple of modern touches; you get a choice of 3 slightly different sounding noises to make, a vibrato switch, volume wheel (which comes in useful when others don't find it quite so fun) and headphone socket. The keyboard is in a piano style and gives you an octave and a half of pure beeping fun. A small booklet included also has a couple of songs telling you what button to press to get you started.
A couple of downsides that I have noticed; the stylus and keyboard needs cleaning every now and then because the sound gets quite jumpy because of dirt, and the only other main point seems obvious; for anything other than a novelty present it needs a particular interest to stop it being put in a cupboard after two days.