Crudlabs Intros Crudman – A ‘Walkman Mellotron’


Crudlabs has introduced the Crudman – a monophonic Mellotron-like instrument, designed around a single cassette Walkman.


The Crudman, above, is based around a Walkman which has been elaborately hacked so that a tape of a looped or droning sound (or any other sound) can be precisely sped up or slowed down, via MIDI or 1v/octave CV, to accurately hit notes over a range of 3 octaves.

The Crudman can be used monophonically, or multiple Crudmans can be used polyphonically.

Here’s an example of a single Crudman in action:

Here’s an example of three Crudmans, daisy-chained for polyphony:


The Crudman can be played just like a synthesizer with MIDI or CV in. Standard synthesizer parameters – ADSR, pitch bend, portamento, can also be set using MIDI Control Change messages.

To use, put in a tape tuned to C, and you can play all the way from C two octaves down, to C one octave up – 3 whole octaves.

While the concept is simple, the developer says that a great deal of research and experimentation has gone into building the most powerful cassette Walkman instrument possible. They’ve documented the design and build process on their site.

via Sonic StateCrudlabs

23 thoughts on “Crudlabs Intros Crudman – A ‘Walkman Mellotron’

  1. This is incredibly clever!! I love that they have kind of side-stepped the rewind and play the same tape issue by just running a long tone for the entire length of the cassette.

    Really brilliant proof-of-concept thing. I can’t judge if the ratio of hard-work-to-outcomes makes it all worthwhile, but the resulting mellotron effect is pretty wonderful.

    I think if the recordings had some built in time-based grit, it would create even more “texture”.

    This is a win.

      1. You can still by endless loop cassettes from the company Delta Media. They actually have a tape spooling machine and make em to order. That’s where I got all the clear blue endless loop tapes in the vids (I ordered 100!). I gave up splicing tape loops by hand a long time ago, though maybe other people are better at it.

  2. Look Ma, no giant snarled tape racks! What a great oddity. Considering the substantial effort it took to refine this into a usable shape, I’d say it cries out for some really serious sound design to make the most of it. If you’re going to wrestle with a near-dead format like cassettes, you need to ‘program’ with more forethought than usual. This is like a poor man’s Ondes Martenot, with a unique, singular voice. I get the feeling that there are Ten Great Sounds to be had that would bring out the Crudman’s weird strengths, making it near-unmistakable in a mix. I’m impressed.

    1. Thanks! You’ve got exactly the right idea. The big overarching concept behind this project was not to make a shitty Mellotron, but to make something that could foreseeably make some new sounds and maybe even pull contemporary music in some interesting new directions, which even I, the guy who designed it, won’t be able to predict.

    1. Yuck, do you kiss your USB interface with that mouth? Great way to kill a new project’s incentive in the cradle! 😀 No, I still say its an instrument someone whips out suddenly, startling everyone because its so unexpected. It could sound really rich or super-pretty if fed the right materials. There’s a personal Voice in it somewhere. I once had a circle of friends which included a fringe character who was usually very quiet. We made a fun-stop to ogle new synths and suddenly, we see him playing the utter SH*T out of a hard-body violin with pickups built-in. No one had a clue. All we could do was stare and then applaud when he finished. You never really know. So I give added points here. Cassette-o-trons aren’t a new idea, but this implementation is a weird labor of love that takes it above the pack. Its like a beautiful OCD waiting to happen.

    2. Yeah, I’m sure a walkman stuck to the front of a Eurorack panel with a bunch of jacks and switches sticking out the front would be SO much easier to use. ..

      Modular front-panel-use-only format works fine for some equipment, but not something like this.

  3. This is more of a recreation of the Birotron – which was a loop Mellotron that used higher fidelity 8 track tapes as opposed to cassettes. The problem with using multiple motors in any tape playing keyboard is that the motors will not ever play exactly at the same speeds. This means that the pitch of any note will never be consistent across the keyboard. If it’s being used for sound effects, then pitch doesn’t matter as much, but for orchestral instruments, pitch is of fundamental importance. The Birotron uses a 10 turn pitch motor/tachomter which is necessary for tapes recorded at differing speeds and fidelities. But this Crudman is a great effort regardless.

    1. “Fundamental” importance? Yeah I saw what you did there …

      Anyway I think your point is flawed. People use analog polysynths, whose voices may go out of tune with one another, and perhaps even the “analog slop” parameter on a software synth to deliberately make that happen.

      Even if such things are too much for you, think of how nice this might sound if you layered it with something that was perfectly in tune.

  4. If you’re looking for perfection you shouldn’t be looking here. If you want something unique and with its own voice this is it.

    Great job dev!

  5. Hmm. Instead of daisy-chaining the walkmans for polyphony, is it (or will it be) possible to allocate the mapping of walkmans over the keyboard range? Then you can have keyboard splits or extend the three-octave range (depending on the content of a tape recording).

    This instrument is a great innovation. Nice work, keep it up!

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