Technology meets tradition in an electronic take on the classic handpan percussion instrument. Can you feel the vibes?
Handpan’s are beautiful instruments. They embody a world of ambient, sonic textures, tripped-out beats and sound baths. But is it the instrument’s acoustic properties that make it awesome or the physicality of the interface? Lumen is betting on the interface being the thing that sparks the creativity and suggesting you could use it in a myriad of places beyond the playful, gong-like sounds.
As an electronic instrument, the shape does pull you into wanting to touch it. It has 9 pressure-sensitive sensor pads set around the top face. Around the centre pad is a circular touch-strip control that gets to all the important stuff, like changing sounds, scales and tunings. Within the device is a sound engine with 4GB of samples. There are plenty of traditional sounds in there, including Hang, Halo, Marimba, Mbira and Gamelan. But you could also be tapping out flutes, pianos, breakbeats, sound effects, orchestral stabs or vocal performances. Don’t let the aesthetic fool you; it’s an electronic instrument that can play anything.
Inside the spun aluminium shell there’s a 16-core audio processor with 4GB of NAND memory. It’s 19 inches in diameter and weighs 9kgs. It has an inbuilt 30w RMS driver directing sound out of Lumen in every direction. Provided it’s charged you can pick it up and play it as a regular handpan for around 4 hours before it needs more power. Out the bottom, there’s a stereo line output, MIDI and USB. I’m assuming it’s going to have to sit off your lap or desktop to be able to accommodate those cables.
A technological win?
This is undoubtedly a beautiful thing. I can’t quite decide whether the additional functionality of sampled sounds, different scales, and MIDI elevates above a decent traditional handpan? Will it feel authentic or more of an approximation? Will the vibe you get from playing it induce more expressive MIDI performances? The price of $1,599 retail (currently 10% off) matches that of a good quality acoustic handpan.
It was actually first funded as a product on Indiegogo back in 2016, but this is the first time it’s been launched commercially.
Lumen did a demo at NAMM that was captured by Sonic State, and it was the best demo I’ve seen of any product for quite some time. From that alone, it looks like a fabulous product.
- Lumen website.
- Lumen Handpan: Lumen
- Lumen Handpan: Lumen