It might look like a prop from an 80's sci-fi B-movie, but this device is the only (official) way to listen to Ye's new album, Donda 2.
The artist formerly known as Kanye West posted on Instagram that he was bypassing all the major streaming services for his new drop. Or, as he put it in his own, inimitable, comma-free style, "Not on Apple Amazon Spotify or YouTube."
The $200 Stem Player will ship with Donda 2 pre-installed. The device was actually created last year in partnership with Kano Computing to tie in with Ye's first Donda album. Those lights aren't just for aesthetic purposes – they're sliders that let you manipulate a song as it plays. You can control the vocals, drums, bass and samples, isolate parts of the tune and add effects. It also comes with four-channel lossless audio mixing, real-time loops and speed controls and tactile effects, like a mini mixing desk that fits in your pocket.
It comes with 8GB of storage, a USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth and a 97db speaker.
So why is Ye taking this approach? Like many musicians, he's had enough of streaming services and their paltry royalties. As he wrote on Instagram: "Today artists get just 12% of the money the industry makes. It’s time to free music from this oppressive system. It’s time to take control and build our own. Go to stemplayer.com now to order."
He was previously signed up to Tidal, which was the exclusive home to his 2016 album Life of Pablo. Until it wasn't. Despite claiming that it would never be available on Apple, Life of Pablo launched on Apple Music just two months later.
This isn't the first time a musician has branched out into hardware to try and have more creative control over how their music is enjoyed. Neil Young previously dipped his toe into the hardware waters with the launch of the Pono Player, a portable music device to go alongside his hi-res PonoMusic streaming service. Young recently slammed Spotify's sound quality after he pulled his music from the service when its star podcaster Joe Rogan was accused of spreading covid misinformation (amongst other things).
Everything we know about Spotify Hi-Fi
Why I don’t think Spotify HiFi is coming any time soon (and why it doesn’t matter)
Best portable MP3 players: from budget to hi-res music players