Meet CHOMPI, the yet unreleased, cuter-than-cute, portable, 7-voice polyphony chromatic sampler.
I spend too much time on YouTube. It’s my favorite platform and I’m tired of being called a boomer by kids on scooters doing backflips whilst scrolling Tik Tok and berating me mid-air about YouTube’s inferior algorithm. I’ll have them know that very occasionally some special videos arrive in my feed that really excite me and reward my perhaps misplaced loyalty. And look, when I stumbled upon the announce video for CHOMPI Club’s first instrument – the appropriately named CHOMPI – I was in awe at just how magical this new sampler machine looks and sounds.
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The team behind the yet unreleased, portable 7-voice polyphony chromatic sampler, Tobias and Chelsea Hendrickson, set a goal of just $30,000 on their Kickstarter campaign (to fund production costs) that accompanied CHOMPI’s launch video. A month later and it’s just shy of two million dollars pledged, rendering it one of the year’s most successful crowdfunding campaigns, musical or otherwise.The success and virality of their campaign speaks to both the inviting aesthetic and sonic design of the instrument as well as the communal receptiveness to a sampler that doesn’t appear to look or function like the flight deck of a cold-war space shuttle. Instead, the instrument looks cute and accessible.
Sound designers and ardent samplers will be the first to tell you that kawaii doesn’t equal quality. Fear not: beneath the instrument’s gorgeous exterior rests what looks like an incredibly modern, powerful and dynamic piece of gear. In CHOMPI Club’s own words, the CHOMPI is a ‘..quirky tape music instrument inviting you into the world of sampling and sound design.’ While I’m only going by what I can see and hear on CHOMPI’s launch video and by what I can read on their Kickstarter, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a new instrument’s release. There’s something about this thing that goes beyond its slick marketing and its affordable price tag and forays into something more along the lines of CHOMPI becoming – quite genuinely – a studio gamechanger.
CHOMPI looks to be in the same physical size range as Teenage Engineering’s OP1 although it must be said CHOMPI looks far more attractive and its sampling engine, at least, appears to be immediately more alluring and intuitive. What’s astounding is that almost every part of CHOMPI’s external hardware can be customized giving the user unprecedented flexibility over the look, feel and workflow of the instrument. Buyers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the firmware of CHOMPI (developer made tutorials await), while CHOMPI Club expects a rich community to flourish around the programmability of the instrument to explore and push CHOMPI’s capabilities.
CHOMPI features an inbuilt microphone with a high gain preamp, with the ability to also record samples into the machine via a stereo 3.5mm line input. The stereo output is also 3.5mm, as well as a 3.5mm MIDI in/out. So you’ll need to stack up on auxiliary adapters to get the most out of CHOMPI. Speaking of MIDI, CHOMPI features a ‘MIDI mode’ allowing users to substitute the internal sampling engine for external synth voices, feeding MIDI through the onboard FX and looping engines. There are two knobs to control the start and end point of any recorded samples, which also double as attack and decay envelope controls. Once a sample is recorded in CHOMPI’s primary mode there are two octaves of chromatic sampling available, as well as a tape-style looper with pitch-speed control.
You can layer as many samples on top of one another as you like via CHOMPI’s looper, with a single FX knob available that contains a granular delay, lo-fi saturation and several more effects which are customizable via the device firmware. These effects can be stacked on top of one another. There’s also a resample mode and various inbuilt presets allowing an amazing amount of customisation to recordings. A micro-SD card slot can be used to store and manage recorded samples, and there are 40 preset slots available for saving and recalling your work. ‘CUBBI Mode’ allows users to assign up to 24 different samples to different keys on the instrument, enabling rich worlds of sampling elasticity. For all of its dynamism and powerful sampling mechanisms, however, the CHOMPI appears far more easy to understand and control than many of its competitors. This is a great selling point – beginners and professionals alike are bound to find something to love about the instrument.
I reached out to CHOMPI Club asking them their thoughts on the virality of their Kickstarter campaign. CEO Tobias Hendrickson responded in kind:
“To tell you the truth, I think we’re still trying to figure it out ourselves. We’re obviously thrilled that folks seem to connect so much with our little instrument! Over the last 5 years of designing and developing CHOMPI, the goal has always been to offer something that EVERYONE could have fun with, no matter their level of experience. We also wanted to design an instrument that we ourselves would want to use in our professional lives as sound designers.”
CHOMPI Club care about their customers and they care about building a community of kindness and creativity. I’m not aware of an instrument developer making more suggestions to community building on their website than CHOMPI Club have done. They’re for real about it, and it shines through in a convincing and inviting manner.
Sustainability has been in mind throughout the entire development phase, with careful consideration given to the materials used to build the device and developers opting to ditch plans to powering the CHOMPI with batteries as it would ‘lead to wasteful practices.’ It’s thus powered entirely by USB-C, so you’ll need a portable charging hub if you’re looking to capture field recordings through CHOMPI. The CHOMPI is unfortunately sold out for pre-order, but you can expect to be able to order one directly by the end of the year.
Learn more about CHOMPI here.