NAMM 2014: Roli Seaboard Multidimensional Controller

Poly aftertouch and poly pitchbend      23/01/14

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The Roli Seaboard is a new controller. Its an extremely expressive instrument/controller which allows poly pressure and poly pitch. Its not a low cost option but it does offer a large amount of expression to the keyboard player who needs that extra dimension.

They say:

The Seaboard GRAND, dubbed "The Piano of the Future" by CNN, reimagines the piano keyboard as a soft, continuous, pressure-sensitive surface. For the first time ever, you can perform on a standard musical keyboard layout while controlling pitch, volume, timbre and more - all in real time - without ever having to reach for a dial, wheel or knob. The Seaboard's polyphonic pitch bend, vibrato and per-note dynamic changes are all available at your fingertips, combining the intuitiveness of playing a traditional instrument with the versatility offered by digital technology.

We looked at the Seaboard Grand which is the most expensive model, but there are smaller units planned at more affordable prices, though again still not in the standard MIDI controller price range.

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19 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
The Guvnor    Said...

Great questions. It looks like a solution in search of a problem. I don't see too many software instruments supporting poly-pitch and poly aftertouch (and some daws don't even support it). An expensive flop, in my mind. Jordan Rudess will no doubt endorse it though.

24-Jan-14 12:09 AM


Studio 139    Said...

It is cool looking, it seems like it could have some expressive advantages, but it is very expensive, and it's selling point could also be it's biggest draw back. If you strike the note in the wrong spot or the wrong angle you are off pitch... not something you want in a keyboard normally. Add to this the unknown life of the contacts it seems a bit of a high risk instrument. For that price, it should light up as well. Looking forward to the data log jams.

24-Jan-14 01:41 AM


angus_fx    Said...

@Studio139 it's contactless, they're using a pressure sensor of some kind (don't know if piezo or force sensing resistor). The pitch response on the keys can be dialled in, they've thought of that.. it's somewhere between a guitar string (discrete pitch with bend) and a violin string (continuous pitch), you can set it up so that the keys are more-or-less discrete but the bend is continuous.

24-Jan-14 05:44 AM


Kevin Nolan    Said...

@The Guvnor: Virtually all current plugin synths (and many hardware synths) accept poly aftertouch!

No doubt a stunning controller here - but - like all other small companies without backup support from a major music company, this will remain completely out of reach to all but a few wealthy musicians, will never reach a mass market and even if it did would surely be unsupportable when it goes wrong?

so with respect to this designer, there are a million good ideas sitting in garages (and minds) across the planet - and something like this is not, to me, an actual product that exists in any meaningful way, so far.

I have a dozen or more innovative concepts for controllers and synths; but they mean no more than every pet theory of every drunk sitting in a pub "solving the worlds problems" on a Friday evening. In like fashion, I suggest this is not a meaningful product to 99.9999 % of the worlds musicians who could use it. Sure it's good to see innovative prototyping like this, but that's all it is in any meaningful way.

I strongly suggest getting a major manufacturer like Korg or Yamaha behind it, and plan to sell it for a 1000 Euro, and then you might have something worth promoting.

24-Jan-14 06:07 AM


T    Said...

Pretty please Nick, get yourself a mic :-/

24-Jan-14 06:30 AM


gst1    Said...

They might sell one or two and Jordan Rudess will get one for free.

24-Jan-14 08:29 AM


Robin Parry    Said...

As always, to archive something great YOU have to put effort, and some savings in. As usual those who are too lazy to expend the effort, won't . Having spent 3 years learning the amazing control the Haken continuum offers, I look forward to my seaboard when it arrives, and yes I'm saving, just as I did 40, years ago when I saved for a brand new micro moog.

24-Jan-14 08:58 AM


Minimal6    Said...

Peruse their website and they already have Jordan "whore" Rudess on the payroll. Yet their real problem is that they have not effectively addressed and or shown the benefits of such an instrument. It would have helped had they demonstrated why this is superior.

Furthermore they are very top heavy, I have never seen such a small company with such layered management except those destined to fail!

24-Jan-14 10:33 AM


Kevin Nolan    Said...

@Robin: with respect, you come across as quite elitist. Tell you what - post some of your music on Soundcloud and let's hear how these controllers have allowed you to produce revolutionary music.

the point is: It's not about you, or me. It's about making innovative instruments available to everybody. Otherwise what's the point? Unless widely distributed, only a handful of people will ever get to use it, and most likely not the musicians who could be most innovative on it.

I'd sooner listen to some young kid creating new and innovative music banging on a Pringles Tin than some boring old fart playing Burt Bacharach songs this controller (love Burt Bacharach by the way!).

The thing is - this will never exist for most of society. The Minimoog did (or any other moog)- it changed music.

Moog not only invented astounding instruments, he worked his socks off to make them widely distributed and available to all musicians.

Companies like this - and Haken - can't be bothered, that;s the only reason. So the wheel out their very clever devices at shows like this with no intention of working hard to make them actually available to real musicians.

What are they looking for, a pat on the back for how clever they are. If anyone is lazy here, its companies like this. By contrast, the Korgs of this world produce relevant advances that we can all share in.

Have to be honest with you - I'm sick and tired of this company, and Schmidt Poly, and Haken wheeling their products out every year when they basically mean nothing. there are a thousand better ideas in the minds of a thousand engineers across the globe - why don't we pay for them to come to NAMM and give them a soap box and tell us how great their new controller would be if only they had the money. Is that worth doing??

24-Jan-14 10:41 AM


gst2    Said...

I saw a SuperSport Motorcycle racer say that if you want a faster bike, just learn how to ride your current bike because it can go faster than you can ride it.

So very true for playing an instrument. If you want to make more expressive music, you should learn how to play your instrument, or learn more about the existing gear in your setup.

24-Jan-14 11:30 AM


The Guvnor    Said...

@Kevin: My Casio VL Tone doesn't support poly aftertouch. Thats all that matters ;) And yes, you are right about the companies wheeling their elitist products in to show off. Especially those that will only be in business a couple of years after that.

24-Jan-14 03:50 PM


Synth Ubeengon    Said...

Good grief, why so much bitterness around here?

should we not be pleased that new designs are being produced and tried out? so what if only a small number of people get to play it? should we rubbish a stradivarius because it is 'elitist' and only available to the few? if innovative instruments are only allowed on condition that they are available to everyone, i.e. low cost, then you end up with nil innovation.

FWIW i think that the seaboard will inspire a generation of similar products. it's just too tactile and involving not to engage musical minds.

25-Jan-14 10:45 AM


The Guvnor    Said...

My Qunexus has poly aftertouch & poly pitch bend and it only cost me $140. I can play it faster than a normal keyboard because of the nature of the pads, and it will not be out of tune when I hit the keys at different spots.

25-Jan-14 05:08 PM


K. Hunt    Said...

well done, The Guvnor!

you have excelled at purchasing that small plastic keyboard.

i am likely to buy one meself.

but in terms of involvement and expression it is not similar to the seaboard. let's be sensible here.

goodbye!

25-Jan-14 07:05 PM


wibblyeyes    Said...

Forget mastering that thing; I want to play it all wibbledy wobbledy like.

That said, I can imagine storing it away for a few years and coming back to a gooey, rotten mess of degraded foam and gel. Gross!

26-Jan-14 12:25 PM


Ed Eagan    Said...

Kevin Nolan, I don't understand your comments about Bob Moog and the MiniMoog. As far as I can tell, a MiniMoog in 1975 retailed for $1495 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimoog). Using this inflation calculator: http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ that's the equivalent of $6292.50 in 2012. A full zied Continuum is $5290. A full sized Seaboard is $8888.88 (the special edition) and the regular 61 key version is $2999.00. So how are Haken Audio and Roli being elitist?

27-Jan-14 10:52 AM


Kevin Nolan    Said...

@Ed - I didn't say the companies were elitist - I suggested the previous poster was elitist in his attitude.

Look, this is amazing technology, but my basic point is that at NAMM after NAMM such small (and unsustainable) companies come along and skew the perspective on developments. This is not development - it's not sustainable and virtually every musician who would like one or use one well will never own one.

These items are for a very few. If they were affordable - half affordable - I would be the first to buy them (I use the CS80 and adore polyphonic aftertouch).

The problem is - if I or any other ordinary person buy one of these, not only will it break the bank, its also not a long term proposition. When it wears out, it will be too expensive to service, and the company will likely be gone under in any case.

So I'm not sure what there is to be enthusiastic about.

What I want to see is true development - where companies like this do their prototyping and then develop a sustainable, long term development plan where larger scale manufacturing allows costs to come down, servicing to exist and for the company (or partner) to have some chance of longevity.

Otherwise - as is the case here - we're just looking at the pet projects of (admittedly) talented designers. But its going nowhere.

And at this stage, these products are contributing to a new phenomenon that has well and truly caught on - that good and innovative controllers are for the rich only and must cost a fortune. They are doing more damage than good for the long term development and sustainability of new technological instruments and their widespread use.

There is no argument on the wonder of these amazing 'entities' - that's not my beef - my beef is them being rolled out at every NAMM and MESSE fair as if they are making some big advance, when in reality they are the unsustainable toys for the wealthy only.

Why can't this developer negotiate with Arturia, for example? An Arturia controller has as many parts, probably more, that this. There's nothing inherently expensive about it other than the business model (or lack there of) that underpins it; and I'm sorry but I do not see that as a development, I see it as lazy, business wise; and damaging to any prospect of controllers like this every reaching a realistic market penetration. This developer has none of those intentions.

to the other poster wondering if there is hostility - it's frustration of seeing these devices wheeled out fair after fair - it's tiresome!

29-Jan-14 03:27 PM


Vanni    Said...

@Kevin Yes, it's expensive. Yes, at this price a very small percentage of musicians will be able to afford it.

But that's all that you can say: for the rest, you make tons of assumptions based on very personal opinions. That the company will go bankrupt, that it will fail. etc. etc. You just don't know.

How do you think you strike a deal with a big company? Do you think you walk there, ask for the CEO, and say "hey i have a great idea, let's make 50/50". No. You go into your garage, do something like they did, and cross fingers.

The synth in itself has a huge potential of use: anyone scoring orchestral would buy it in a second the moment he can afford it. This can seriously save countless hours of scripting in-Daw and deliver 100% natural results. At those prices, they don't need to sell many to not bankrupt. It's a dream come true for many instruments emulations, let alone creative stuff with new sounds.

Obviously IF IT WORKS. It's still to be seen if it comes to the market and how it arrives (maybe it will be the "Korg WaveBoard").

The one thing i'm sure is that they totally missed the NAMM opportunity with the guy demoing the instrument. I'm quite sure he's a great piano player, but he's obviously not able to speak in front of a camera and basically managed not to show 10% of what the instrument can do, he even used horrible sounding patches!!!

31-Jan-14 03:30 AM


JP    Said...

any classic analog synth cost far more back in the 70's than these do now. as for haken, they've been around a really long time, so much for going out of business within a couple of years

16-Mar-14 06:40 AM


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