We saw the K-Board Pro 4 MPE compatible controller keyboard at NAMM back in January. It uses the KMI smart fabric to out-express ROLI and their Seaboard controllers and gives us an alternative option for 5 dimesional Multi-dimensional Polyphony Expression (MPE). Rather than coming up with the cash themselves Keith McMillen has returned to Kickstarter as a means of funding like they did with the recent BopPad campaign.
K-Board Pro 4
It’s more deliberately keyboard like than the curvy and alluringly grey ROLI Seaboard, but somehow isn’t anywhere near as sexy. It just looks a bit odd. However, the K-Board Pro 4 offers 4 octaves of MPE control that they claim has “all the nuance and sensitivity that makes an instrument musical.” As with all MPE controllers you get the use of pressure and movement in X and Y dimensions in addition to the usual MIDI controls of pitch and velocity. Commonly you’d use pressure like aftertouch, X side-to-side for pitch bend or vibrato and Y forward/back movement for timbre. So, for example, you can strike a note, apply pressure to increase the reverb, slide left to bend the pitch down and push forward to open the filter. These things can of course be mapped to whatever you like.
The K-Board Pro 4 has some additional controller strips on the top edge of the keyboard. For some extra bonus expression they can also be mapped to whatever you want.
One of the key elements of MPE is that the modulation and expression is per note. Normally things like pitch bend and the mod wheel affect whatever is being played, all at once. There are very few software or hardware instruments that fully support MPE. Also recording the performance can be something of a challenge to your DAW. But hopefully this is starting to change. Notably Bitwig Studio supports MPE recording and playing of it’s internal synthesizer. As more MPE compatibility arrives then keyboards such as the K-Board Pro 4 will become very useful indeed.
If you’d like to support KMI in the development and production of the K-Board Pro 4 and snag yourself an early bird bargain then head over to the Kickstarter page where you can preorder one for $400 which is $200 off the suggested retail price (get in quick, not many left at that price!). They estimate shipping in September 2017.