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Organelle M is a portable and endlessly hackable music ‘computer’

TechnologyOrganelle M is a portable and endlessly hackable music ‘computer’

But the faster CPU isn’t the star here. The more important new features of the Organelle M are all about making the device more immediate and approachable. The two biggest are the addition of a speaker and battery power. While the original Organelle was easily portable, it required an AC adapter. The M on the other hand can be powered by four AA batteries. That means you can fire it up and start jamming or sketching a song wherever and whenever the mood strikes. As long as you’re not going to be disturbing anyone too much, you don’t even have to bother plugging in headphones. The integrated speaker is surprisingly solid sounding and loud. It’s not going to rattle your walls with deep resonant bass, but it’s definitely a notch or two (or three…) above the speakers I’ve seen in other portable synths like the Volcas.

Critter & Guitari Organelle M

The guys at Critter & Guitari even took me to the park down the block from the studio where they do the final assembly of each Organelle M by hand. They fired up four devices, linked them up via WiFi (a USB dongle is included in the box) to sync the tempos and started jamming. There was no mixer, no outlet, no router — just three dudes playing music in the park. And it was loud enough to be heard over kids yelling in the playground 30 feet to our right, the pickup games of basketball being played 20 feet behind us and the people doing tricks in the skate park beyond that.

The other nod to immediacy is the integrated microphone. The previous model required you to hook up an external mic or audio source to make use of any sampler patches. With the M, you can just hold it up to your face and sing or speak into it. Obviously, the quality won’t be quite the same as if you plugged in your trusty SM57, but it’s not half bad either. It’s definitely enough to have some fun and jam, or to just start mangling sounds in search of inspiration.

The last major additions are dedicated MIDI in and out ports. The original Organelle supported MIDI over USB, and the M does as well. But the new version also includes a pair of 1/8-inch jacks for MIDI over TRS or via five-pin DIN adapters.

Critter & Guitari Organelle M

What makes the Organelle unique, though, is unchanged. And that’s its ability to be almost anything you want: a synthesizer, a sampler, a drum machine, a guitar effects pedal. There’s a sizable and active user community always building new patches for the Organelle, and Critter & Guitari itself is constantly whipping up new ones as well. Some of them are simple, like an emulation of the Rhythmicon, which is widely recognized as the first drum machine. But others are incredibly complex, like Orac, which actually lets you combine other patches within it like a modular synthesizer.

In one demo, I saw two Organelle Ms linked together — the first being used to process a guitar signal, and the second acting as a complex looper that could play back the same sound source at different speeds or in different directions simultaneously. The result was a gorgeous and bizarre wash of guitar that both sparkled and made me feel slightly uneasy (in the best way possible).

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