Got a Brian Eno wannabe in your family -- or maybe just someone whose creativity you want to encourage from an early age? The musicians/inventors/weirdos at Critter & Guitari have got just the device for you: the Pocket Piano. It's a tiny, rugged, beginner-friendly synthesizer that's about the size of a 1980s cell phone, but with much hipper retro detailing.
After 30 seconds of watching this video, I wanted one immediately. There are no labels on the gorgeous brushed-aluminum casing or luscious looking wooden knobs and keys: it's so delightfully physical that you just want to pick it up and play with it. (There are instructions printed on the bottom, but who wants to be a spoilsport?) With just a few minutes of messing around, you'll be creating synthesized loops that sound just like your favorite level in Mega Man. Nostalgia-gasm!
But while the Pocket Piano may look like a toy, it's actually a fully featured synthesizer instrument, with six modes complete with a harmonic Sweeper and two-octave arpeggiator. In practice it means you can bend sounds on the fly, output them via a 1/4" audio jack, and all sorts of other retro-futuristic stuff. What we love about the Pocket Piano is that it takes something that looks frightfully intimidating and makes it as inviting as an iPod. Who cares if you're not classically trained? Even Brian Eno started somewhere.