3D printing technology has a lot to offer the audible world of music, and not just through the whizzing sound of the print head in motion. As an emerging technology still relatively in its early stage of development, we’ve already seen 3D printed instruments, such as MONAD studio’s Piezoelectric Violin, and even 3D printed headphones from Print+. Now, 3D printing is enabling your voice as the lead instrument with Loopa, a 3D printed looping microphone created by the Cambridge, UK-based instrument manufacturer Sonuus.
Any musician out there who has used looping technology in the past can likely testify to the fact that looping pedals and software generally come with technical inconveniences, which is why Sonuus decided to develop the Loopa microphone, the world’s very first microphone with a built-in looper engine. In order to help with the manufacturing of the Loopa, Sonuus has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finalize their idea.
The microphone was developed by a small team of engineers and musicians, including Sonuus CEO Dr. James H Clark, R&D Dr. Morag Clark, and music industry expert Paul Wishart. After spending the first two months of the project developing a robust and high-quality looper engine, created using Toshiba’s BENAND flash memory and Sonuus’ custom software, the team went on to 3D print the casing for the microphone in ABS on their office 3D printer. The 3D printer helped to optimize the feel of the microphone, creating a product that both fit and felt right in the hands of the Sonuus team. These 3D printed prototypes were assembled and showcased at The NAMM Show 2016 in Los Angeles this past January.
The Loopa allows users to build up layers of their own voice or other sounds, and also to conveniently manage these loops using the microphone’s built-in controls, which include features such as unlimited overdubbing, undo & redo, and playback. According to the Sonuus team, the Loopa is capable of layering and looping for up to 12 minutes of recording time. The team also made it a point to equip the Loopa with top-notch audio quality, and have tested the Loopa prototypes with professional beatboxers, hip hop and pop musicians, and even musically savvy children, ensuring convenience and quality for all levels of experience.
To complete manufacturing of the Loopa, the Sonuus team is seeking $52,024 on Kickstarter. For those who pledge £75 or more, Sonuus will send the early bird iterations of the Loopa Pack as a reward, which include the Loopa microphone, microphone cables, and the necessary adapters. The Sonuus team is confident in their ability to produce the Loopa after two successful prototype runs, and are seeking the assistance of the crowdfunding community to help finalize their goal. As a musician of sorts myself, I’m certainly intrigued by the idea of owning a 3D printed looping microphone, and possibly even fulfilling my dream of starting a barbershop quartet using only my own voice!