The concept behind modular synthesizers, patching cables between patch points etc are probably known to you. Tone Lab puts a different spin on the modular idea with an idea to make it less complex and more immediate, while retaining the playfullness and ability to layer and create interesting soundscapes.
Colin Hearon's Tone Lab is an interesting instrument that does away with the keyboard in favor of sliders to control chords and does away with rotary encoders, dials and buttons in favor of sliders to control each of the generators or effect tiles stacked on the Tone Lab.
For example you might place a Square Wave tile followed by an Arpeggiator, then a Delay and finally a High Pass Filter. Each of the four sliders correspond to each of the tiles. Ultimately, you won't need complicated DAWs or synths or machines in order make music... and you won't be limited by overly simplistic music tools either. At least that's the idea, as at this stage we've not got hands-on with Tone Lab just yet.
We'd also like to add that complex software (DAWs and plugins) and hardware (synthesizers, samplers, Elektron, Native Instruments Maschine, MPC, etc) bring their own benefits and pros. There are instances when learning how to use these systems brings much greater rewards. And remember, you don't have to learn these all by yourself. The Ask.Audio Academy is here to help you!
OK. Back to Tone Lab. You simply need to stack or layer the tiles, tweak them and enjoy the sounds. That's as simple as it can be. In terms of modular synthesis, you're unlikely to find a more accessible way in. However, it may not be a system that could grow with your needs, and might be best suited for beginners or those who would prefer not to learn music theory or spend time understanding how sound and synthesis works.
So, is Tone Lab for sale? Is it coming to Kickstarter? At the moment, neither.
Tone Lab is a project by Colin Hearon and was awarded first place “Best in Show” at Ohio State University’s 2018 Design Exhibition.
Perhaps with enough interest from you, Tone Lab might make it from design and concept to your studio or laptop bag...