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Tenori-On O brings bleeps within reach

The second generation of the Yamaha Tenori-On electronic music sequencer offers most of the features of the $1,500 original, but retails for $999.

Photo of the Yamaha Tenori-On O.
The Tenori-On O is the plastic offspring of the original Yamaha Tenori-On. Yamaha

As a musician, one of my favorite moments of 2008 was the chance to meet Yu Nishibori and his musical invention, the Tenori-On. Coming across like a futuristic cross between a drum machine and a game of Tetris, the Tenori-On music sequencer is one of those truly odd and beautiful devices that seems too cool to be real. Even the Museum of Modern Art saw fit to pick one up--one of only five instruments in its 4,000 item collection.

Now playing: Watch this: Yamaha Tenori-On O

The problem was, it was just too expensive. You really needed to have a fetish for Japanese electronic music sequencers to pick up an original Tenori-On for $1,499 ($1,200 street). Thankfully, the folks at Yamaha are now announcing a second generation of the Tenori-On (the Tenori-On "O"), priced at a relatively affordable $999 MSRP.

The Tenori-On "O" is virtually identical in form and function as the original, but Yamaha did have to cut a few corners to get the price down. For starters, it's made of white plastic instead of the luxurious hand-brushed magnesium used on the original. The grid is one-sided now, which makes it a little less exciting to view as a spectator. And perhaps most disappointing, you can't run the "O" version from batteries--you have to keep it plugged in.

Still, if you can live with some sacrifices, the Tenori-On "O" should still make for an extremely fun and engaging music machine. Expect to see these on sale in January 2010.