Kanye West’s Donda Stem Player Review

Remix songs the Kanye way.

For more on the Donda Stem Player:

00:00 Introduction
00:30 Overview of stem player
01:20 Price point and what can it do?
03:34 How do you upload music to it?
08:10 Is it worth the price?

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– Hello, and welcome to
PCMag’s 1 Cool Thing. I’m Matthew Buzzi. I have with me here, Jordan Minor. Let’s talk about What I would say is probably One of the more unique and obscure And weird sort of products
we’ve shown on this show. We’re talking about Kanye
West’s stem music player. – Yeah, the Donda stem player. – The Donda stem player. Right after the launch
of his new album. Yup. And, I mean, that’s, Almost as much as I know about this thing, So please take it away with an overview. – Sure. So yeah, when they
wanted me to cover this, I’m like, well, I don’t
know what it says about me, That I would be all over
this, but we’ll see. So when you imagine music players, You know, we’ve had iPods and whatnot For years and years now. You have an image of your head Of what they look like and
what they feel like, right? – I’m going to go with square. I’m going to go with metal. Those are all the things
that come to mind. – Cool. So you’re definitely not thinking
of a circular flesh disc, Which is the most, When you first pick up this thing, That’s the thing you notice about it Before any music things. Why does it look like skin and
why does it feel like skin? – I love and hate that in equal measure. – Yeah. It’s really rubbery and weird.

They call it an anti-static
thing, which sure. You know, it feels like okay in the hand, But it’s like, it’s a little. – Yeah, it’s small and it’s a disc. So talk us through the price point. Talk us through what it
does other than feel fleshy. – Yeah. I cannot. I could not talk more about How weird the texture on this thing is And how off-putting it is. I mean, one, it being a Kanye West product Is already somewhat off putting, But then you get it and
then it comes in a box, That’s the same beige color.
And it’s just flesh textured. – Because why not? – But once you get past that. Yeah, so it’s $200. It is. It is. You’ve known me for years now. You know the kinds of things I’m into When it comes to music creation Things that focus on mash-ups. Stuff like Fuzer. Stuff like DropMix. Stuff like, The thing, Lego video I
covered earlier this year, And this is sort of in that category. So it’s a music player that’s
primarily for, like, remixing. – Okay. – So, it comes preloaded with Donda, Including some new
unreleased tracks, apparently I had not listened to it, And I arguably still
haven’t listened to it Even in the course of covering this.

So that’s kind of your jumping off point, But you can put whatever
you want on there. And then you know, you’re off to the races With the various kinds of
remixing tools that are on here. – Is that through the software? Is there some sort of
hardware remix buttons? Like what does it do? – So you’re all remixing
it on the device itself. There’s these four little, I don’t know if that’ll
show up with my ring light. – It’s blown out. – Yeah. Okay, there we go. So you see those four little strips. Those are touch sensitive strips That represent four
different stems of the song. So like one stem is the vocals And another stem is the bass or whatever. And you can isolate those stems. You can create a karaoke version Or an acapella version,
kind of right there. It also means that there’s a lot Of just swiping and
stroking of this circle. – Of this fleshy object. I would’ve thought, if
you didn’t say that, That the lights were pretty
much purely aesthetic. So I actually find that
to be kind of cool. – Yeah, it’s a navigation thing Because there’s no screen on this. – Are there any symbols to show, Which is which track, or
instrument, or anything? – You kind of just have to know, And it changes depending on the song, But the colors will change When you move to a different song.

So you at least know that you’ve moved on To a different song. You kind of just have to intuit it. And yeah, there’s volume
buttons and stuff, But to add new stuff, there’s
a USB port, USB-C port, And you plug it in. And you have to go to kanyewest.com. So it’s all handled in browser. That was kind of interesting
as opposed to downloading Any extra software or anything. – So if you remixed something And you can then save it down
permanently on the device And then play it back,
or how does it work? – Yes. It’s saved on the device. It’s only eight gigs of storage, But it’s on the device, yes. But I’ve not found an easy
way to get it off the device, Aside from just like, you
know, there’s a headphone jack, So you could theoretically
plug in a cable and record it, But it’s not like when you plug it in, You can see all your files. – It’s meant to be made
and stay on the device For the most part. – And I think a big reason for this Is potentially a legal reason Because not only can you upload your own, All sorts of different MP3s and whatever, Like lossless, stuff like that, But you can also just straight up Type in youtube.com/whatever. And it will rip the audio from that video And put it on here, with
pretty good quality. But that seems pretty dicey. – This is, very much like
selling the emulator software

And then being like, We don’t know what happens
with it after the fact, but. – Right. I think part of their cover is That it just stays on the device. It’s not like you’re going to, you know, It’s pretty bespoke in that way. – Whatever these users
do with it after the fact Is not on us. – Yeah. – Interesting. How’s the playback quality? Are there any weird options or anything? – The speaker’s pretty small,
but I think it’s all right. I mean, I’m not an audiophile. Again, I think they picked me Because they know I like weird
mashup nonsense. You know. – Sure, sure. – You know, everyone’s favorite, The combination of Hamilton
and the Space Jam soundtrack; That’s on here. – Right, why wouldn’t you? – So, I like nightmares like that, But I’m not an audiophile.
I can’t really tell you. I think it’s a little muffled.
The speaker’s kind of small, But there’s a headphone jack. – But you can put headphones. Headphones or other speakers. – Yeah, there’s Bluetooth connectivity, So you can do that as well. But I guess we can see here. We can see how well it comes
up through my microphone. If we want to not get… – Yeah, just jam it. – … a takedown.

Let’s see if I remember how to do this Because, again, there’s no screen. So you kind of just have to
remember what the buttons do. – Interesting. (Smash Bros.’ theme
song starts playing) Okay. This is the Smash
Bros. theme song. – Is that coming through all right? – Yeah. – So let me try doing a different I’ll try to isolate some of the sound. (song becomes acapella) And then, you know, you say to the crowd, Save your soul when you fight
these Nintendo characters. – Interesting. So there’s no indication of
what song was going to come on? There’s no way to know that? – Yeah. You just have
to remember the order, It’s the same order every time. Again, if you have Donda
memorized front to back, You’d be like, ”oh yeah, This is a song about ’guess
who’s going to jail.’” – Interesting. – And, again, the colors change Whenever you change the song. – An iPod shuffle that doesn’t shuffle. – Yep. Yeah. That’s a
comparison to be made. Let’s see if we can get us
into the different kinds of, You can kind of switch this around, You can kind of do your looping, Different effects, and stuff. (song speeds up) (song slows down) – Oh, now this is a Kanye track now. – Yes!

(music returns to normal speed) And I can adjust the length. – Okay, and this is all
just with the sliding. – Yep. At a different light key. (music volume decreases) You can see, The lights are shorter now.
So the loop is shorter. – Interesting. – So it’s kind of your other mode there Beyond just the stem isolation There’s also the other kind
of remix stuff you can do. – I definitely didn’t expect The remix functionality out of it. (music stops) I kind of thought, You know when I knew
nothing about it, going in, That it was kind of just like an iPod. It played music. It was
shaped weird. Kanye branded. But there’s some at least unique utility. I don’t know how usable. – I think the utility is the point. – I don’t know how usable or
user-friendly that non-UI is, But you seem to have
gotten a handle of it. – Yeah. I think if you’re
not using that stuff, Then there’s extremely
no point to buy this, Because then you have a
weird flesh iPod shuffle With eight gigs of storage And half of it is taken up by this album. – Yeah. It’s got to have something. Well, I wouldn’t have put it past, You know, the brand necessarily To just put that out anyway for $200, But that’s kind of neat. – It’s kind of neat.

– Yeah, kind of neat. I don’t know, worth the
price you think, roughly? Anywhere near? – No, I don’t. I think that, I mean I’m still working on
my review as we’re recording. I’m probably going to land
on around like a three-five, Which is, you know, it’s decent. – It’s decent. If you take the cost and
value idea out of it, The thing itself is kind of. – Someone will buy this, Some musician will buy this And will put on a set that will be, Like the most mind blowing
thing ever put on stage. – That sounds right. – But only so many of us are blessed To be freaks of that variety. So most people, I don’t, Or again, if you just also go into it As a weird sort of accessory, You’re not even thinking about it as, ”oh I’m like a serious
musician but just like This is the Kanye West
little music flesh pod.” – This is like a street wear item. – Totally. Yeah, yeah. – Have it on your person,
and that’s all you need. – So as far as utility
out of like a device, Out of the thing that’s not even really First and foremost meant
to be a useful product. I think it’s actually kind of neat. The things you can do with it. – That remixing stuff is cooler
than I would have thought. So I’ll give it that.

– Yeah. You can take this at a party. For example, my party, That you may or may not be invited to. Yeah. You know, you can just
pass this around and like, You can kind of accidentally
make some cool looking, Or sounding stuff. I put the, the Sopranos
theme song on here. And when you speed that up, It’s already kind of funky,
but when you speed it up, It just comes like a straight
up kind of disco song. – Yeah. And then who knows
what it’ll match up with, And work great with. – Something I’ve tried
to mess around with, I’ve not got of full handle on is It seems like there is a way Where you can take different
stems from different songs And play them at once, But I’ve not got a full handle on that. And again, lack of screen
makes it kind of tough to like – Expand it, at all.
– Yeah. – Interesting. Someone’s going to have
the definitive user guide To the stem up soon, if you just wait. – Yeah. Here’s how to unlock all the
Kim Kardashian diss tracks, Which are on here. And
apparently we’re not, I just researched it. Apparently there’s some stuff on here That wasn’t in the full
version on that album. – Ah, you got to hit a secret
button combo on the flesh desk – You got to just. Yeah. You do some. I don’t know. Different finger, – Konami Code unlocks it – Yeah. The Kan-yan-mei code.

– Kan-yan-mei code. Well, unless you have any
other single weird feature, I think that pretty much
sums up the Donda stem. – I think if people really want
to do some nightmare mashups And have it on like a portable device, They should just buy a
Switch and just play Fuzer. – Great game. – But, you know, this does what it does. I think it’s impressive. The way it separates the stems
I think is really impressive. Just putting… You know, I ripped that smash from YouTube And it was smart enough to like here’s a, You know, that’s sounded pretty good, Like the instrumental
was pretty convincing. – Yeah. So do that and then let
you also mess with the file In a meaningful way is pretty cool. – So I think it’s pretty
impressive for what it does. It’s just a very limited, very kind of. It’s a toy. You know. – It’s a toy. It’s like a novelty, But it’s one that does something. So, that’s seems pretty neat. – And again, you know,
your mileage may vary On your opinions of Kanye West
as an artist or as a person. – Right, right. As they should. They should vary, indeed. Well, if you’re a big fan Or if you are just really
into the idea of this disc Or you really enjoy making silly mashups That you haven’t played DropMix in awhile, – Or you just want to feel
some flesh in your technology. – Plus it’s way fleshier
than any of the other games

So that’s a real boon. – If you’re a big fan of
Videodrome or eXistenZ Some Cronenberg movies… – Have we got a disc for you. – Have we got a disc for you. Thank you so much, Jordan. His full review is coming to
PCMag as you, as he mentioned. So stay tuned for that on the
details and the final score. Thank you so much for
watching. See you next time. – Peace.

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