The Roli “Seaboard” Keyboard
Once in a while, there’s that one new product on the market that tackles our usual ways of dealing with music production. Just as software influences the way we approach music and its basic architecture, hardware creates ways to bring some special or even unexpected minutiae to the mix as well. I believe that the Roli Seabord transcends its primary function as a midi controlled instrument, which is just meant to be played.
Consequently, we can state that the interface of our music-production environment defines the peculiarities of our sound as a final product. It is evident that if your synthesizer casing features a big filter section with a distinct or rather big knob that regulates the cutoff, this will be a precise predictor of frequency shifts in the synth’s signal in your songs because you’re prone to using the filter cutoff more often.
So then let’s look into the actual design of the Seaboard. Instead of separate keys, there are keywaves that merge into each other, thus suggesting that there is a very “fuzzy” boundary between notes. Subsequently, they decided to use the “water” metaphor as a method of grounding for the concept. The keywaves react to different types of mechanic behavior such as striking, gliding, pressing and lifting, that modulate various parameters of the output signal.
The Seaboard Rise features a series of standard controller versions such as 25 and 49 keys. The bigger versions are the in the Grand Stage category, which displays an absolute lack of buttons or knobs, and is a fantastic example of a “less is more” perspective. This almost ascetic design ensures that all of your attention resources will be directed towards the instrument you’re playing and not having to permanently peak at the screen of your computer. The latter has been a common tendency for the last few years, as the design of controllers continuously morphed into a more self-centered instrument, the Seaboard has taken this model to its superlative. It is not a surprise that this product has won a few awards, such as the London’s Design Museum Design of the Year 2014 Prize and People’s Choice Award and Best instrument 2013 at the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition.
The instrument comes with an in-house software. The Equator is a versatile sound design engine that is capable of extracting entrancing signals and has been crafted for the needs and expectations of a Seaboard user and the instrument’s design.
There is a chance that this bold and innovative controller will not make it, in terms of shaping the future of music, due to its pricing. However, I find that the Seaboard itself if a milestone of some sort in the music hardware business. Let’s hope that not only will the people at ROLI continue putting out such satisfying and pleasantly odd products.
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