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Patchblocks is a Northern Irish electronics company founded in 2013 by Sebastian Heinz. The company has a focus on audio production software and hardware, and its core product is the Patchblock, a small programmable and chainable synthesizer module. Alongside the module, the company offers the free Patchblocks software, a visual editor that creates and compiles C++ programs to control the modules.
Patchblocks was initially funded through a crowdsourcing campaign on Kickstarter. Since manufacturing its first run, the company has added Patchblocks in additional colors, as well as MIDI implementation and a prototype module that sends MIDI to and from a Patchblock. Patchblocks have been well received for their inexpensive price point and for their flexibility.
Patchblocks was originally conceived in 2009 by developer Sebastian Heinz as a PhD project at the Sonic Arts Research Center in Northern Ireland. The project received some initial funding for prototypes and software development from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, but the remaining funding for a 1,000-unit run was crowdsourced through Kickstarter, with a goal of Template:GBP. The campaign ultimately raised Template:GBP. Due to budget constraints, the blocks are contained within a minimalist acrylic shell. This makes the circuitry inside vulnerable. However, early prototypes were well regarded for their flexibility, modularity, and price point. The final products were delivered in February 2014. According to Heinz, his intent was to create "a combination of Max, Arduino, Moog, and LEGO". The comparison to LEGO comes from the ability to "snap" blocks together to send digital signals between them.
Since the original campaign, the company expanded to include a production and sales manager, a former schoolmate of Heinz. The two appeared at Musikmesse in 2015 to promote Patchblocks. They are currently in the process of developing the Midiblock, which will send MIDI data into or out from a Patchblock or chain of Patchblocks. A short run of prototypes were available online in August 2015 as a beta test for user input.
In 2015, Fact listed the Patchblocks as one of the "13 best affordable, pocket-sized, hackable, off-the-wall synthesizers". Scott Walker noted that the physical interface—which includes two knobs and two buttons—adds a "tactile physical presence" that expands upon existing visual software synthesizers like Max and Reaktor. Each block acts as a "blank canvas" that the user can use by uploading programs written on a Mac or PC in the Patchblocks software. The blocks can be chained together and used as a small modular system.
The Patchblocks software is largely based on contributions from users. Users can write programs and additional modules and upload them to the Patchblocks website for others to use. This makes it possible for users who are not familiar with a modular environment to use Patchblocks.
- Patchblock (2014)
- Patchblock Neo (2015)
- Midiblock (2015)
- Heinz, Sebastian (November 2013). "Patchblocks - programmable mini synth modules". Kickstarter. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2012099678/patchblocks-programmable-mini-synth-modules. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- Childs, G.W. (25 August 2015). "Review: Patchblocks, Programmable Mini-Synth Modules". Ask Audio. https://ask.audio/articles/review-patchblocks-programmable-minisynth-modules. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- Kirn, Peter (6 November 2013). "Patchblocks: Modular Synth Units, Programmed Visually". Create Digital Music. http://createdigitalmusic.com/2013/11/patchblocks-modular-synth-units-programmed-visually-sounds-gallery/. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- Limmer, Jack (12 November 2013). "Everyone Loves LEGO, Will It Work for New Mini-Synth 'Patchblocks'?". Stoney Road. http://stoneyroads.com/2013/11/everyone-lego-mini-synth-patchblocks. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- Template:Cite interview
- Patchblocks (14 August 2015). "Thanks for your awesome support. The Midiblock for...". Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/patchblocks/posts/439029542967583. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- Walker, Scott (28 March 2015). "The 13 best affordable, pocket-sized, hackable, off-the-wall synthesizers". Fact. p. 7. http://www.factmag.com/2015/03/28/best-affordable-small-hackable-open-source-off-the-wall-synthesizers/. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- Gaughan, Kevin (21 May 2015). "Patchblocks let you create your own modular synth system [Review"]. Earmilk. http://www.earmilk.com/gear/240398/patchblocks/patchblocks. Retrieved 4 September 2015.