Dato DUO is a peculiar and playful “synth for two” for kids aged 3 – 99 and up. As you might remember, we introduced the Dato DUO back in 2016, at the time of its successful Kickstarter campaign. Why are we featuring it again now? Well, during these lockdown months, parents have been spending much more time than usual with their kids at home. Music activities are one of the best ways to interact with them, and that made me think of the Dato DUO again. Long story short, I ordered one and…
Wait, What Is It Exactly?
The Dato DUO is a two-oscillator synth, with an 8-step circular sequencer, a pentatonic keyboard and a noise-based two voice percussion synth. The peculiar jam-oriented design of the Dato DUO offers the synth controls (envelope, filter, etc.) on one side, and the sequencer with the keyboard on the other side.
Speaking of jams, the Dato DUO plays well with others as well, thanks to its sync input and output (compatible with Korg Volca, Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators) and full-size MIDI DIN connectors.
The Dato DUO is an instant gratification kind of instrument. No menus, no shortcuts to memorize, just a bunch of buttons, faders, and knobs. It’s a simple yet inviting design.
The sound is quite ‘phat’ (and the internal speaker is better than I expected), while the interface is as playful as it gets (without looking too cheesy). The synth side has the basic controls you would expect from a subtractive synth, and a few twists such as detune, accent, and glide controls. Plus, you get to play with the kick and snare pads, because… why not?
The colorful circular sequencer is also very straightforward, and it comes with two nice extras, the random and boost buttons. You can tell Dato DUO is a real work of love; in fact, it was created by two parents with a passion for electronic instruments and design.
If you would like to hear the Dato DUO in action, make sure to check out ‘Together!’, a lovely album bringing together 12 artists that all made a song using the Dato DUO. You can find the album on Spotify and Youtube.
Here’s one of the tracks from Together:
Kick Out The Jams
While the Dato DUO can be a fun tool even for adults, it shines when you show it to your kids. I almost envied my daughter. I wished I was that young again even for a few minutes, just to experience those mesmerizing moments when a bright, colourful toy starts creating weird sounds and patterns you’ve never heard before.
I don’t know if she will become a synth-head, but she sure loves every single minute we spend playing with the Dato DUO. She quickly grasped the workflow of the instrument. Her favourite side seems to be the sequencer one, but who knows, tomorrow it may be different! I even let her in charge of the whole instrument, while I was playing with some other ‘toys’ (the Digitakt + Dato DUO combo is heaps of fun!).
So, in the end, is this an instrument or a toy? I would say both things at once. It can playfully teach you the basics of synth design, let you jam with your friends, and it has all it needs to be your kid’s favourite toy.
All perfect then? Well, the Dato DUO certainly has some limitations. For instance, the sequencer could be a tad more creative, while the drum pads feel like an afterthought. But it doesn’t make much sense being so picky here. The Dato DUO does what it says on the tin. It’s a brilliant instrument for two, aimed at children and adults alike.
At 329 € I find it also reasonably priced, despite what some people think. After all, it’s a boutique item hand-assembled in The Netherlands, that oozes quality and is simply unique. Sure, nowadays with that money you can buy full-featured synths, drum machines, etc. But that’s not the point. None of those instruments will give you what the Dato DUO can provide, that is the joy of sharing joy.