Playdate pocket game system as sampler, granular instrument, FX, recorder, more

The Playdate looks at first like a curiosity – a black-and-white pocket game system with a crank, from Teenage Engineering and Panic. But now as it starts to get into the world, it’s proving itself as a beautiful mobile instrument, especially with developer Orllewin making everything from samplers to effects pedals and recorders.

Various folks sent me this mesmerizing live ambient performance by Perplex On:

What are you hearing? The artist explains:

I’ve recently finally received my playdate after more than 2 years of waiting. Besides the nice retro games, there are also a few audiovisual apps already out there, which makes the device way more exciting. First stop here is an app called Granular by Orllewin, inspired by an old Reaktor instrument called Travelizer. It is an experimental granular sampler which splits a sample (recorded via its internal mic, via external mic with trrs splitter on the headphone jack or in this case, an imported custom sample) into 5 tracks with various granular controls and separate fx.


The app in question is Granular, an experimental grain sampler by Orllewin. Maybe further motivated by the attention from Synthtopia and others, they’ve added another video with a Pocket Operator, just sampling that into the playdate. Wonderful:

But you’ll find a lot more on the Orllewin Itch site:


There’s a tape looper, an in-progress effects pedal, and lots of other AV toys and soundmakers. There’s a field recorder, though that is temporarily limited to the internal condenser mic as there’s some playdate OS bug with the TRRS jack. (Hope that gets fixed soon on the playdate side.) There’s even an experimental music album.


Perhaps the most ambitious project yet is Musik aus sample (MAS), a sample-based drum machine with looping and file streaming (for long files) and custom patch creation and user samples.

The advantage of these systems goes beyond just novelty. You get a form factor that’s more compact that what you normally get, for maximum mobility. And the limited controls also inspire designs that are uniquely simple and tactile, not loaded up with features like so much music gear. That’s nothing against the depth of “pro” equipment, but there is some beauty in this minimalism and a chance to be expressive and musical in a different way.

See also the gogledd orllewin GitHub site.

playdate is still in preorder mode, shipping later this year. (Hey, I’d love to see a suite of the apps above on Nintendo Switch. Cough. But this is great – and it’s hard not to covet that cute yellow game system, especially for said Nintendo handheld fans.)

Official site:


Anyone else got one? Other apps we should know about?

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