Stylophone™ Gen X-1

The GEN X-1 is the successor to this classic 60's synth toy, still played using a stylus. The GEN X-1 is packed with more controls to create a more versatile and competitive product for the contemporary, small analogue synthesiser market.






Stylophone™ is a British brand with significant history. The original Stylophone™, released in 1967 was a small, pocket analogue synthesiser. Although originally designed as a low-cost novelty synth, the Stylophone was picked up by a number of famous musicians of the time, notably David Bowie and Kraftwerk.

Recently the pocket synth has become a retro-nostalgic product. This prompted the owners of the Stylophone™ brand, Dubreq Limited, to approach GBE to assist with the design of a new Generation of their iconic pocket synth, the GEN-X1.


The Brief

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The client came to GBE with an existing 'alpha prototype' design, this meant that right from the start there were clear product requirements that had been defined. The brief from the client was simple: they wanted to create an updated version of their iconic small, portable, electronic keyboard instrument that could be manufactured at a price applicable for a competitive retail environment.

As well as having an 'alpha prototype' the client also delivered an initial bill of materials (BoM) and some hand drawn schematics. It was therefore the requirement of GBE to formalise and prepare the design for manufacture, and more specifically to:

  • Design product to a set end build cost.
  • Develop existing schematics and PCB layouts according to review of 'alpha prototype' and schematics.
  • Liaise with client and the manufacturer to design a case for the device reflective of the original design and Stylophone brand.
  • Ensure the product met all relevant compliance and legislative requirements.
  • Ensure the product passed relevant EMC directives.
  • Produce 20 hand-built beta prototypes to be used for initial user feedback.
  • Implement Design for Manufacture 'best practice' principles to enable a smooth transition to volume manufacturing.

Our Approach

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One of the key constraints set out in the client's brief, and the one which dictated most of the product development, was to design the product to a set end build cost. GBE worked alongside the client's music/audio expert, and it was soon realised that there were certain components that could not be compromised on when reducing cost in order to maintain an authentic analogue audio quality. This was particularly true of the speaker cup which was one of the more expensive components in the BoM, but of course vital for the quality of the audio output. Other areas where GBE were able to positively impact the build cost were through reducing the original four-layer board down to a two-layer board. Further cost savings were enabled through GBEs relationships with manufacturers in East Asia and working closely with them to source quality components at more favourable prices.

One of the more challenging aspects of the project was defining the sound outputs of the product and its various audio functions. These were very subjective and required close collaboration with Dubreq's audio expert to agree upon the 'Stylophone' sound.

Furthermore, during the development of the Gen-X1 GBE utilised its quick turnaround prototyping facilities to test iterations of designs for both the electronics boards and enclosure at various stages of the development. A final 'looks like/works like' prototype was eventually produced to be displayed by the client at a tradeshow to gain initial market feedback. This used both GBE's inhouse 3D printing capabilities along with their rapid electronic prototype surface mount technology.

The Gen-X1 was designed with compliance in mind: CE & FCC compliance testing was carried out for the client before handing over the design ready for manufacture. To ensure the hand over was smooth, and quality maintained, GBE visited the manufacturer in Taiwan and continued to liaise with them throughout the process, making key decisions on behalf of the client.

Dubreq were presented a full product solution. GBE were able to utilise their many areas of expertise to develop not only the mechanics and electronics but also provide the client with designs for the Gen-X1's packaging and even the shipping cartons.

The Solution

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The success of Stylophone was largely down to having a net end build cost, whilst maintaining the authentic 'Stylophone' brand and sound. This pushed GBE to really innovate with the design, advance prototyping facilities and develop relationships with key manufacturers in East Asia.

As of 2021, over one thousand units sold!

Features Include:

  • A stylus keyboard and separate sound strip
  • LFO square and triangle wave
  • Low pass filter cut-off/resonance
  • Sub octaves -1 & -2
  • Envelope attack/decay
  • Delay time/feedback
  • X button pulse width modulation
  • Mini-jack in/out
  • Built-in speaker
  • Battery operated


The Stylophone ™ made its first Hollywood appearance of 2017 in the blockbuster 'Baby Driver'.