Kanye West said Donda, his latest studio album, would be released on July 23. We’re now nearing the end of August and the album still has not been uploaded to any streaming services. Love him or hate him, you have to admit Kanye’s king when it comes to procrastination.
Here’s his latest stalling tactic: a $200 stem player meant to “customize any song” from the still-forthcoming album. The stem player is available for purchase now on West’s website and ships with a copy of Donda pre-installed on it.
The album itself is now supposedly scheduled for release this Friday, August 27, though we know better than to hold our breath on that one. As for when you can expect the stem player in your mailbox, West says only that it’ll ship in “Summer 2021.” Technically that means it should head your way by September 22. But, well, this is Kanye we’re talking about. So who knows.
Mix it up — For a device that’s basically glorified Kanye merch, the Donda stem player is surprisingly full-featured. The player’s official page says the stem player can handle four-channel lossless audio mixing, real-time loop and speed control, and tactile effects, as well as the ability to isolate any part of any song and turn it into a custom stem. The stem player can save mixes for later sharing and playback, too.
The stem player hardware is pretty hot, too, with a taupe-ish soft silicone skin that covers its palm-sized body. The front of the player includes touch-sensitive sliders that light up in custom color combinations. Beneath the skin: a haptic engine, a 97dB speaker, 8GB of onboard storage, ports for 3.5mm headphones, and USB-C for power and data. It comes equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, too, and can simultaneously play through the headphone jack and an external speaker.
Keep it for the long haul — Perhaps most interesting about Kanye’s stem player is that it’s not just Donda you can remix with it — you can throw any tracks you want on its storage drive and use its included tools to create stems from it. It supports just about every music file type you can think of: .aiff, .aif, .m4a, .mpd, .wav, .wave, .aac, .alac, and .mp4.
Of course, how well the player will actually accomplish what it sets out to do remains to be seen. It sounds almost too good to be true; mixing hardware this nice often sells for much more than a couple hundred bucks. If it’s as impressive as it seems, Kanye’s stem player would be a pretty great deal with long-lasting value beyond its initial novelty.