Hermutt Lobby bring a new twist on faders with CTRLCap ‘Squeeze your fx’

It’s no surprise to see Hermutt Lobby bring an innovative hardware product to the market. The first time I met some of the team was at Music Tech Fest 2014 where they were part of the hackathon that I was judging. Their entry for that event was amazing to say the least.

Here’s the video description:

“Ever tried to add FX while scratching without breaking your flow? As both hands are already busy to control the fader and the record, it’s pretty much mission impossible…
Unless you own a CTRLCap.

With its cutting edge technology, CtrlCap adds expressive controls at your fingertips!

Pinch it lightly or squeeze it firmly to send expressive midi controls to your FX, stage lights…you name it.

Replace your dead plastic fader Cap with a CTRLCap and get to the next level.

More info at www.ctrl-cap.club

If you check the site above you’ll see that these are currently retailing at €119.00 for a starter kit.

How to Play the Moog Model 15 with the AC Sabre MIDI Controller

I’ve been a fan of the AC Sabre since before it came out. This is a truly amazing video from Hari, the maker of the app. It’s great to see it being used with another excellent iOS app, Moog’s Model 15.

What’s more, AC Sabre is on sale now, for just $4.99. Watch the video, grab the app …

A first impression … ROTOR’s tangible controllers

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Reactable have a long history in creating innovative musical instruments, starting out with their original Reactable, moving to Reactable Mobile, and now with ROTOR and their accompanying controllers.

Of course tangible controllers for an iPad aren’t actually a new thing. In fact, two years ago Tuna DJ brought out their control knobs (you can see them here in this post). Enough of those for the moment.

When Reactable brought out their first mobile app it was a very different beast to the other modular apps around at the time. When they recently followed up with their new ROTOR app it was another big step, but not just a software step, one that they aimed to  provide users with an experience that is somewhere in between using the full hardware version of the reactable and an iPad app.

So the real question is, have they succeeded?

I’d say yes. In many ways. However, I’d also say that this is not a perfect solution, and if that’s what you’re seeking then you’re almost certainly looking in the wrong place. Before deciding whether the ROTOR tangible controllers are for you or not it’s worth understanding what to compare them against. A brand new Reactable will currently cost you 5900€ (that’s with an 800€ discount). A set of ROTOR controllers will set you back 39.90€, which is about 0.7% of the cost of a full Reactable. In my mind that’s a pretty good deal.

Personally, whilst I’d love to spend some time playing with a full Reactable, I’m more than satisfied with the new ROTOR controllers. I think that they represent excellent value for money.

Let’s move on to how they work and what you can do with them

I’ll start by saying that I think that the presentation of these is lovely. They come in a nice little round tin and are cushioned in foam. In my view presentation is important, and even though you’ve only paid less than 1% of the cost of a Reactable I still think that the whole experience is important.

When you get the controllers out they’re simple things, which initially made me wonder if they’d work at all. However, placing them on the ROTOR app, they work immediately. They will control any on screen ROTOR object.

One thing that quickly became apparent was that to use these controllers you absolutely need a flat surface to work from. Whilst I’ve not tried using these in a mobile environment (and by that I mean on a bus or a train), I’m fairly sure that they’re not going to perform at their best. Having said that, for indoor, flat surface use, they work better than you might expect.

But they are not perfect. And I think that it would be wrong to think that these little devices could be. They will slip and can change from controlling an object on screen to moving it around. In my view I think that with practice I could limit a lot of that slippage on the screen and end up being quite deft with these, but that would take a little time, and would be time well spent.

A quick try with the old Tuna DJ knobs

As I had mentioned them earlier I thought I’d give these older knobs a try out on the ROTOR app. Sadly they didn’t work at all which reminded me that I’d had trouble getting them to work originally. I can’t remember how much they cost so I can’t compare them to the ROTOR controllers.

My verdict …

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get an experience a little more like the full scale Reactable then the ROTOR controllers are worth it in my view as they cost less than 1% of the full device, and with a little time and practice I think they’ll be really useful.

If you think you’re going to get that full experience for 39€ then that’s a bit unrealistic and you probably shouldn’t bother.

Reactable’s controllers are on sale here, as is the ROTOR app itself:

Reactable’s ROTOR (Tangible Modular Music Synth) gets full controller support now

Reactable has brought together the best aspects of both of their offerings with ROTOR controllers. This is something of a big step forward. When Reactable released the ROTOR app they promised the tangible controllers and now they’re delivering. Controllers are available on their site right now, and I can’t wait to try them out.

Also the app’s been updated at the same time to take advantage of the new hardware. Here’s what’s new:

  • Full ROTOR controllers support! Use the optional rotors to enhance the interaction with any of the modules; try our unique 3D control on 2D panels when using them
  • Play with Bluetooth MIDI enabled devices

Improvements:

  • Improved Virtual Keyboard control in the synth module
  • Improved MIDI IN ports selection
  • Major performance optimization and bug fixes

A first look at BLOCKS from Roli

Last week I spent a very pleasant couple of hours at Roli HQ in East London. You might remember Roli  as the maker of the expressive keyboard, the Seaboard, and more recently the Seaboard Rise. The technology behind these products is very interesting in its own right, but for the purposes of this piece I’m only really going to explore it from the perspective of their most recent product BLOCKS.

However, before we get into the detail of BLOCKS I think it’s worth understanding how Roli got here and the pieces that they’ve put together to make this happen. So I’m going to spend a little time in exploring some of the work that Roli have been involved in to get to BLOCKS. I hope you’ll find it useful.

Understanding the jigsaw, seeing the picture

Over the last few years Roli have made a series of acquisitions which, up until very recently, hadn’t made any sense to me at all. However, with the release of BLOCKS things start to come into focus a lot more. For example, Roli acquired JUCE back in late 2014. JUCE is a cross-platform C++ library used in a lot of music apps. This gave Roli a real advantage in building the iOS apps that they have on the store now. But JUCE isn’t something that they’re keeping to themselves. Roli have an annual JUCE event, The Audio Developers Conference. The last of these was held at the beginning of November and had around 250 delegates attending.

Just under a year later Roli acquired Blend.io, a collaborative music network which allows artists to share work and involve other artists in tracks. This of course gives Roli its own platform for sharing and collaboration.

Finally, and most recently Roli acquired FXpansion, makers of very high quality VST instruments and FX. Given the above and also Roli’s direction with BLOCKS this makes perfect sense.

When you connect all of these pieces together with their existing technology that powers the Seaboard it all starts to fit together, and when you get to use BLOCKS you can see exactly where this is heading.

From Seaboard to Noise

Just over a year ago Roli brought out their first app, NOISE 5D which enabled a user to take advantage of the brand new 3D Touch features in the iPhone 6S and 6S+. Releasing this as a free app gave Roli a great platform to show just what could be done with this kind of expressive technology.

The app also had the whole Seaboard sound engine (Equator) inside it. The app could pair with the Seaboard Rise using BLE and worked like a dream.

As an aside I’m still somewhat confused as to why more apps don’t make use of the 3D Touch functionality inside the 6S and up. It’s confused me for about a year now and as far as I know there are only a tiny handful of apps that have incorporated it, and two of those are from Roli themselves.

Let’s talk about BLOCKS itself

If you’ve seen photos or video of BLOCKS then you’ll already know that it’s a modular music studio that uses the same hardware technology that is in Roli’s Seabaord but in a smaller, more accessible, and affordable format. The basic hardware unit is the Lightpad which retails for £170. You can do a lot with just this unit, but of course you can scale up too, add more units and expand your set up. That’s the idea of course, and I think that when artists start to get to grips with the hardware they may well just do that. Whatever you buy you’re going to use their iOS app NOISE as that is what powers this stuff.

The Lightpad does just about everything that you can do in the app but with a much deeper layer of expression available to it by virtue of its pressure sensitive surface. The interaction with the app is seamless. When you press down on the Lightpad you can see what happens in the NOISE app. You can see what I mean in this short clip which shows the ‘learn’ function.

Every instrument in NOISE has a learn mode which shows you what the instrument does and how it works. When you’re running NOISE with a Lightpad this works even better, and as you can see from this short clip you can quite clearly see what you’re doing on the Lightpad from your iOS screen, and this includes pressure data too.

The Lightpad is paired directly with the iOS device, and pairs quickly and without issues, which is more than I can say for other BLE devices I’ve used. However, when you have two Lightpad units together you don’t need to form a second pairing (although you can and I’ll explain that later).

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Above you can see two Lightpads working together with the iOS device. When you magnetically clip one lightpad to another the connect over what Roli call DNA connectors. You can see these connectors around the sides of the device, and clipping them together means that are instantly sharing data and useable as a part of your set up. The connection to the iOS device is made via a single BLE pairing.

If you wanted to use multiple Lightpads over different pairings that is possible too, but the point I’m making is that you don’t need to worry about that if you’re working on something on your own. This makes for very flexible hardware configurations.

Some thoughts …

I have to say that the time I’ve spent playing with BLOCKS has been really enjoyable, and I think that the main reason for that is the level of expression that you can achieve with the surface. For many, myself included, having this degree of expressivity from a mobile device / set up will be quite a new experience, and I think that this is something that will distinguish BLOCKS for users.

It’s important to remember that Roli has only just released BLOCKS. It is perhaps a month old now, and in many ways is only at the start of its journey. Roli have made a very good start with the hardware, with the app, and, most importantly, with how the two work together. Which is critical in my opinion.

What’s next

When I was with Roli last week we did talk about the future. Of course they were cautious about talking future plans. That’s understandable. But we also talked about the community and how they’re responding to users. I think that the fact that they brought the original NOISE functionality back in a new app (see this post) can only be taken as a clear signal that they are listening, and that’s very positive.

They also have an API for BLOCKS, which I haven’t investigated so far, but could be a massive hook to increase adoption of the platform. More about that another time I think. For now I’m impressed with what Roli have brought out. It really is an accessible and affordable music platform. I think that Roli have made an excellent start. Where they go next with BLOCKS and with NOISE will be critical to making it a big success.

Remember the AC Sabre, well you need to see this

When the AC Sabre came out I raved about it, and I haven’t changed my mind about the app at all since then, it is amazing. It gives a performer incredible gestural control using just an iPhone. The range of expression that is possible using the AC Sabre is phenomenal. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at this video which shows Hari demonstrating just a tiny part of what Sabre can do.

Sabre has also recently been update …

“Hey! Nice to see you. We’ve fixed that annoying bug where the QuickPanels gets stuck halfway open. We also fixed an issues involving the Ribbons and MIDI Channel not acting properly. And we’ve updated for iOS10. More to come soon. In the meantime, might you help us with a nice rating?? Cheers! Hari Karam Singh, AC Sabre inventor”

It’s on the app store for only $12.99, and considering how useful this app is, and how much you’d have to pay for a gestural controller, it’s more than a bargain.

Roli reacts to app users and brings back original Noise functionality in a new app

This is when you know that users matter and that developers listen. Roli is one such developer and they’ve done what lots of you have been asking for, bringing back what was lost from their Noise app. They’ve put it out in a new app called SEABOARD 5D. Here are all the details:

SEABOARD 5D: THE iPHONE and iPAD LIKE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD THEM BEFORE

Seaboard 5D unlocks the extraordinary potential of your iOS device as a touch-responsive surface for making music. It recreates the expressive possibilities of the Seaboard RISE, the award-winning instrument from ROLI. Shape sounds on-screen through the Five Dimensions of Touch: Strike, Glide, Slide, Press and Lift. You’ll discover the power and fun of Seaboard 5D as soon as you touch the screen. Seaboard 5D not only turns your iOS device into a powerfully expressive musical instrument, it is also the ultimate portable sound engine for your favorite MIDI controller.

ADD NEW DIMENSIONS
Play a gentle woodwind melody, a rich textured pad or a killer synth lead. Players of any ability can pick up Seaboard 5D, make some tunes — and put the instrument back in their pockets.

The unique playing surface of Seaboard 5D is laid out like a piano keyboard from the future. Instead of white and black piano keys you now have a continuous set of “keywaves” — just like the Seaboard RISE. You can bend the pitch by gliding your fingers from side to side, modulate a sound by moving up and down a keywave, and — on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 — deepen sounds by pressing into the surface. You can create an astonishing variety of sounds and effects through the Five Dimensions of Touch.

FIND YOUR SOUND
Seaboard 5D comes with the Fundamentals Soundpack, which offers 25 diverse, custom-crafted sounds. Polyrhythmic Loops morphs as you play up and down the keywaves. Breath Flute lets you simulate breath control on a wind instrument through pressure. Smoky Rhodes is a cool, modern reinterpretation of the Fender Rhodes.
Expand your collection with additional Soundpacks. Hybrid Acoustic comes with over 500MB of unique samples. Expressive Electronic includes both vintage synths and contemporary pads. Synthetic Leads is for when you really just need to shred!

POWER YOUR KIT
Seaboard 5D is also the ultimate mobile sound engine for a range of MIDI controllers. Using MIDI over Bluetooth, the app lets you make music wirelessly — with just a mobile device and a MIDI controller — wherever you want.
It is also one of the first apps with MPE (Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression) Mode, and it works plug-and-play with any MPE-compatible controller.
To get the most out of Seaboard 5D, try it with our own Seaboard RISE, the multi-award-winning MIDI controller hailed as “the future of the keyboard” (MusicRadar). The Seaboard RISE and Seaboard 5D are the ultimate tools for making music on the go.

THE WORLD OF ROLI
At ROLI, we are creating a set of connected tools for modern music creation. The Seaboard RISE, Seaboard GRAND, and ROLI BLOCKS are part of our family of beautifully designed, technologically cutting-edge products. Learn more at http://www.roli.com.

KEY FEATURES

  • Tweak your sounds with onscreen macro controls and XY Touchpad
  • Vary the size of the onscreen keywave surface to suit your screen and preferences
  • Octave shift buttons and an onscreen sustain pedal add depth to real-time performance
  • Control Five Dimensions of Touch: Strike, Press, Glide, Slide and Lift
  • Purchase Soundpacks in-app and build your collection of sounds
  • Recreate the Seaboard RISE experience on the iPhone 6s and make the most of its new 3D Touch feature

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
Seaboard 5D is designed for:

  • iPhone 5c and above
  • iPad Pro
  • iPad Air 2 and above
  • iPad Mini 2 and above
  • Please note that while Seaboard 5D works well as a sound engine on all supported iPhones and iPads, you will only be able to use all of the Five Dimensions of Touch with an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7

Seaboard 5D from Roli is free on the app store with IAPs, many of which are free:

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