Invented in 1968 by Brian Jarvis, co-founder of Dubreq Studios, the Stylophone has become one of the best selling single musical instruments of all time, having sold three million units in the 1960’s and 70’s, and almost a million further units since it’s re-launch in 2007.
Envisaged originally as a ‘toy synthesiser’, the instrument’s unique method of play and classic synth sound, coupled with it’s uniquely small size, made it popular with professional musicians as well as the public, and it has become a truly cult instrument with fans in the very highest echelons of the music industry.
The basic premise of the Stylophone design was simple; to create a keyboard instrument that was cheap to manufacture (by eliminating the need for physical keys and replacing them with the plated circuit board touch-pads it is now so famous for) and which was easy for anyone to pick up and learn. To intentionally cut out the esoteric ‘need to be taught’ that put so many youngsters and newcomers off picking up a musical instrument.
In 1969 David Bowie famously used the Stylophone in the track ‘Space Oddity’ and it’s popularity sky-rocketed even further. The Stylophone was subsequently used many famous artists of the day including the Beatles, Kraftwerk, Queen, Vangelis , The Osmonds and many more.
Dubreq started out in the ’60’s as a dubbing and recording studio for films, the name evolved from the abbreviation Dub/Rec found on most recording equipment of the time.
The Stylophone’s success meant the company quickly expanded to a large UK factory in North London and a 100+ strong workforce to meet demand for the new product.
After the launch of a few variants of the Stylophone, including the larger ‘350S’ model in the mid 1970’s Dubreq eventually closed it’s doors in the early 1980’s.
The company was re-formed as ‘Dubreq Ltd’ in the UK in 2003 by Ben Jarvis, the son of the Stylophone’s inventor, Brian. Inspired by a prime-time TV appearance by David Bowie in which he played a Stylophone on a new track and claimed the Stylophone was “The only instrument I take on holiday with me to compose on”, Ben set about re-launching the iconic micro-synth.
In 2006 the Stylophone was licensed to a UK based toy and gift manufacturer who went on to launch both a replica of the original Stylophone (now known as the ‘Stylophone S1’) followed by a matching percussion instrument, the ‘Stylophone Beatbox’ in 2009.
The re-launch was a massive success, with over a million units sold across the Stylophone range.
In 2012 the license ended and Dubreq Ltd took the brand back in-house, appointing a UK distributor to take on sales of the still popular products. In 2013 Dubreq launched the new ‘Stylophone S2’, a professional and British made analogue dual-oscillator synthesiser, heralding a new range of incredibly well engineered and made Stylophone instruments.
Building on the success of the initial Stylophone relaunch, the business has since been developed by managing director John Simpson, and has a number of successful products in production, with the goal of producing “a steady diet of compact, affordable, fun toys that can also be serious sound tools”.