Review: LittleBits MIDI, CV, and USB I/O

Low-Cost Modular Studio Gear
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Although the littleBits Synth Kit ($159), developed with Korg, sounds great and is simple to use, until recently it was a closed system. Three new modules—MIDI ($39.95), USB I/O ($34.95), and Control Voltage ($34.95)—allow you now to connect the synth with external hardware and software instruments. The kit also opens up the world of inexpensive littleBits input modules (e.g., pressure, bend, and light sensors) for you to use as external instrument controllers.

The MIDI module has a 3.5mm MIDI input and a USB MIDI port. A female DIN-to-3.5mm cable is included. The USB port can send or receive MIDI messages, and a switch determines the direction. Only MIDI Channel 1 and Note On/Off messages are supported. The module has three magnetic littleBits connections—power input, trigger out, and control voltage out.

The USB module (cable included) can pass audio or CVs. It has one port and a switch to set it to send or receive. Use it as an interface to record your littleBits synth or to control the instrument from your computer. A USB connection will power the MIDI or USB module, but not the rest of your littleBits synth. A driver for Windows OS is available online.

The CV module has 3.5mm I/O and a scaling switch—V/octave or Hz per volt. Use CV In to control a littleBits oscillator, EG, filter, or the sequencer speed in step mode. I have only one Power module, so I used a Split module to power two CV modules. You can also mult a voltage going into the CV module by using its Output as a Thru.

At $139.95, the Synth Pro kit is a bargain, providing two CV modules, MIDI and USB I/O, two mounting boards, and cables. Every musician who owns littleBits will find these modules indispensible.