Video: Quilter's Panoptigon Brings Back the Optical Disc Instrument

Back in the 1970s, Mattel, the toy company, was going through a bit of an experimental phase. They made the Synsonics electronic drum pads, a Bee Gees Rhythm Machine, and a strange home organ whose sounds—rather than by a transistor board—were generated by a 12-inch optical discs. It was dubbed the Optigan.

In 1975, Moog tech David Van Koevering created the Orchestron, intended to be a competitor to the tape-based Mellotron, but with its own distinct version of the Optigan-style optical discs as its sound source.

The Panoptigon

But like the original Optigan, the Orchestron failed to find a large fanbase, though a kind of cult following grew with time for both optical discs.

Quilter Labs' Robert Becker has apparently been one such cult follower. For a decade, he's worked with Pea Hicks of optigan.com to create the new Panoptigon.

It's a brand-new device designed to play optical discs—including the originals from Optigan, the Orchestron-era discs, as well as new ones created specifically for the Panoptigon. While this too may fail to excite too large of a music-making audience, curious musicians and producers can bring the charms of optical discs to their records and performances via a host of modern features: pitch-control motor, reverse playback, MIDI controllable with aftertouch, onboard effects, and output options.

Check out our video above to see the return of optical discs. For all the latest product releases from this year's NAMM convention, see our ongoing NAMM 2019 coverage.

See more New Products and Highlights from Winter NAMM 2019
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