In today’s crazy technology fuelled age, toys seem more advanced than ever before, with so many giving you many ways to play, but very few of them allow you to create with them. Sphero is a company known for offering both and the latest little item Specdrums is no different, but is this colour tapping device loud enough, or is just more background noise?
The idea of Specdrums is actually quite a simple one, you simply tap colours in order to generate a sound, the more colours you tap, the more sounds you create and with only a few short taps, you have a melody. While that sounds, pardon the pun, like a simple way of talking about the product, it really is that easy, the app is easy to use and the set up a breeze and within a minute you can be crafting some sick beats. Included with the starter kit is a Specdrum, as well as a play mat, the mat is important, because it has a range of colours on it, so if you live in a monochromatic house, you are covered with the mat. Each portion of the mat is laid out on the app, so once you tap a colour, the same section on your device will light up and the sound begins to play.
Creating a beat can be achieved in one of two ways, you can tap the larger colours, which will give you back a sound, what type depends on the pack you have loaded up, the sounds can be as simple as a drum hit, or as complex as a dj scratching a record. These sounds will also last until you remove the Specdrum from the colour source, or it plays out, for drum hits and what not, that will usually be the case first. Learning how each of the included sounds plays out is crucial for you to create some awesome tunes yourself, once you understand your selected pack, you can start to jam out, but there is so much more you can do. The app allows for you to record what you play, letting you create a baseline beat, or something more complex with the acapella pack, the only downside, is that there is no way to layer them in the app, or at least that I could find, so you need to export them to another device to do that.
While Sphero have packed a range of sounds into the app, covering everything from drums to guitars, dj’s to disco, you can also replace the sounds with your own, letting you become one with the music. There is no limit to the sounds you can replace the defaults with, from a kettle boiling, to a train horn and even your own voice, if it makes noise it can be used. You can also change the colours that the Specdrum responds to, so if you have a distinct lack of yellow, for example, you can swap it out for another colour and doing so is real easy, you just need to tap the colour you want, so you don’t need to worry about knowing its name or exact HEX colour code, you just tap and its stored and now you can make more music. There is nothing stopping you from heading to your local hardware store or paint place, getting some paint cards and making your own colour pad, the only restrictions are no black or white and no glass, so no using the app.
The actual Specdrum itself is quite a wondrous little device, it is about the size of a dice, then with some medical grade silicone around it, to protect it and give you a place to place your finger. The ring that goes around your finger is not full enclosed, so it has some give, letting adults or people with larger fingers use as designed, the problem though, is it has very little give, so after a few minutes on my ring finger, it would feel tight and require me to remove it.
The best way I found for using it, was honestly to just hold it between two fingers, pinching it and then tapping that way, when I handed it off to young ones, they would vary, some would wear it, others would pinch it, but either way, it works. As the Specdrum has some tech inside of it, you need to recharge the device, between charges you will get around 2 hours of on and off usage, when I ran it continuously, it ended up in the lower range of 100 minutes, but still a lengthy amount of time. Charging the device is done via a mini usb cable, which is included, though no wall adapter is provided, the only issue with this, the cable is tiny, barely 10cm in length.
The highlight of the Specdrum is that no matter what colour you hit, something will happen, it is just a refreshing thing to do, and it works without issue. The size of the Specdrum will limit some folks from using it, at least the way intended, but as long as you can hold it, you can use it. The app, while provides plenty of sounds, does require a device to be on and in range, so you can’t take the Specdrum with you and tap all around town and while recording in the app is nice, being able to layer would be amazing as well.
Review unit provided by Sphero