Ninstrument: The Object of My Obsession Has Abandoned Me

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This is how nerdy I am:

Back in 2012, I typed the words “Rackmount” and “NES” into Google’s search bar and sparked an obsession that I still haven’t recovered from. And that’s a terrible tragedy considering what I learned today.

The search results delivered something called “Ninstrument,” a slab of music-making brilliance that incorporated the sound chips from two Gameboys, a Nintendo Entertainment System, and a Commodore 64. To non-chiptuners, this may sound silly, but it’s a professional piece of hardware that can even be mounted on the rails found in any professional studio or touring rig.

For chiptune musicians, it was the perfect piece of equipment.

Every so often, I would point my browser at Ninstrument’s website to get an update on the project, but news has been a little sparse since 2012. So this week, I decided to get some real answers, but now I’m a little sad.

According to Ninstrument’s Chris Blarsky, the device started to become too costly, and the company had to focus on other endeavors.

“We have fun making a lot of prototypes,” Blarsky said. “If they garner enough interest we move forward in to small and trial production runs. Sometimes we have to take a long hard look at the numbers and realize when a product will be too cost prohibitive to make. Such is the case with the rack mount prototypes. Too much cost makes the end price too high for the end customer.”

Bummer, right?

But I completely understand. Chiptunes have been experiencing a surge in popularity, but they’re still a niche. In fact, during our email exchange, Blarsky referred to the chip genre as a “niche within a niche.” And even that seems generous.

“In order to sustain a company you have to focus on making sure ends meet,” he explained. “No it’s not fun and takes away from your overall motivation, but if you manage it correctly it can be a lot of fun.“

And Nintstrument has been having fun. Blarsky’s team of brainiacs has already rolled out a surprising number of unique devices, and there are probably more in the works. I may never get that gorgeous piece of rackmounted ingenuity, but Nintstrument is soldiering on, creating things that any chiptuner would trade his kidneys for.

I should probably just start obsessing about one of those, but today’s news only makes me want a rackmountable Ninstrument even more.