Every few weeks, I get an email from someone saying "You should post something about Bhajis Loops. It's amazing!" It's a studio-in-a-box which runs on Palm handhelds. I've written about it a couple of times . So, finally inspired by this thread full of more happy users, I emailed Olivier, who told me (roughly) "Get a Tungsten T3. They've got a clever memory thing, they're cheap, and they're cool". So I did. Mine came with a Wifi card for £85, some go for £60. The software is $27, and you can buy 1gb SD cards for £10 on the 'bay.
What does it do? Loads samples and lets you sequence them. Each sample is like an oscillator - you can use a single wave or long sound, loop it, and run it through the filter/effects. You can sample directly from the built-in microphone. You can draw the waveforms from scratch. Most things can be automated. You can download free sample packs - the Fairlight CMI library, old tracker sounds, vintage synths and drum machines, or just dump your own samples onto the SD card. I've made this sample pack with Mellotron, Cracklebox and DSI Evolver samples.
Why do people think it's so cool? Olivier is a genius of interface design. The software is intuitive, logical and really quick to use. Drawing X0X drum patterns right onto the screen is great. Because it's quick and dirty and fairly lo-fi (like an MPC60 is lo-fi) it's fun, and I found myself avoiding micro-polishing hell. There's a very active user community always coming up with new hacks and tricks - three weeks ago, jngpng worked out how to do Ableton-style timestretching (roughly).
What's bad? Entering tiny little notes with a tiny little pointer on a bus rattling through South London is a bit fiddly. It's quite tempting to make really bad hardcore records.
What does it sound like? There are tonnes of user songs to download here.