ROLI, the company behind the unique Seaboard RISE touch keyboards, rolled out a new product line today: BLOCKS. Theyâ€™re modular control surfaces, quickly attached together to expand from a single touch pad to full array of modules. Keep reading to get a sense of BLOCKS and how they work with ROLIâ€™s free iOS music creation app.
These new devices are built for ROLIâ€™s own iOS app, NOISE. The basic idea is a streamlined music creation app â€“ something that sits comfortably between a DAW and a Kaossilator. The app has been out for a while â€“ but until now it was focused on the on-screen experience.
With the new BLOCKS hardware, NOISE is gaining a system of control thatâ€™s unprecedented on iOS when it comes to music creation apps. Itâ€™s no surprise that one of the few places youâ€™ll be able to buy any of the three control surfaces will be in Apple Stores around the world â€“ these devices are aiming to be the ultimate music-creation accessory.
Lightpad, Live, Loop Blocks
There are three different pieces of hardware that are a part of the BLOCKS family: Lightpad, Live, and Loop. The Lightpad Block is the primary unit that a new user would start with. It will run $180, has 225 LEDs across its multi-touch surface that has some familiar power features as other ROLI touch products:
The Lightpad Block has a number of grid modes, each of which display a different colored grid of notes that helps guide process of writing melodies, playing drums, etc.
It sends MIDI over Bluetooth â€“ so we suspect there will be a healthy community of people who get a Lightpad for their own setups that donâ€™t use NOISE. But the intuitive control over the iOS app is likely to be the most attractive option for most consumers.
Lightpad also is advertised as â€ś5Dâ€ť touch â€“ by which ROLI means there are five different ways you can touch the surface to create sounds:
â€śStrike the surface to sound a note, as you would on a piano key or a drum. Glide your fingers from side to side to bend the pitch, as violinists do. Slide up and down to modulate the sound. Press into the surface to deepen sounds, like a saxophone player does by breathing more. Lift off the surface at different speeds to change a sound?s resonance.â€ť
Itâ€™s all designed to be intuitive, instead of terrifying (something that a lot of first-time producers feel when they open Ableton and have no idea what theyâ€™re doing). The Lightpad adjusts to what you see on the iOS app, and even has a Learn Mode that visually suggest different types of gestures to craft musical ideas. As expected, all the input functions can be quantized and scale locked â€“ ideal to always stay in tune with a project.
You can add a second Lightpad Block to the first to expand the playable space (see more about BLOCKSâ€™ modular connections below). Alternatively, adding one of the two other Blocks (each of which are $80) allows even more secondary control:
This secondary Live Block controller is designed for performing â€“ allowing live producers to quickly â€śswitch scales and octaves, trigger chords and arpeggios, and sustain notes in real time.â€ť
The Loop Block is, as you might expect, more oriented for loop-based production work. You can quickly record loops / sequences, turn on the metronome, adjust BPM, quantize input, undo your last input, and more.
Modular BLOCKS: Keep Adding More
ROLI has thought the modularity of the BLOCKS through â€“ with the ability to quickly connect each of the devices together. The Lightpad Blocks have magnetic â€śBLOCKS DNA connectorsâ€ť on all four sides, meaning you can attach other Blocks however best suits your setup.
ROLIâ€™s new BLOCKS are available now on their store â€“ and soon, in Apple Stores as well. You can download the NOISE app for free on the App Store, and yes, it works without owning any of the Blocks or a Seaboard.