ROLI have released a super-cute, compact and Blocks-compatible expressive controller keyboard. It’s called the Seaboard Block and can run by itself or magnetically latched up to other bits of Block hardware. It’s the same Seaboard technology but at a price that might well appeal to the mainstream.
I’ve always enjoyed the idea of the ROLI Seaboard controllers but the price tends to have placed them as a bit too premium for something I just want to experiment with. The Blocks too have been interesting but somehow come across a bit too toy-like. But somehow ROLI have come up with something that could just pull these two technologies together in interesting and musical ways.
The Seaboard Block is 100% Seaboard. It’s made from the same weird silicone material, offering those 5 dimensions of expressive control over MPE compatible synthesizers. But it’s also 100% Blocks meaning that you can butt it up against other Block hardware via their magnetic DNA connectors. So you can expand your control and expressive capability or extend your playing surface by chaining Seaboard Blocks together. It’s very modular and now, for me, with this keyboard in the mix – very musical.
It’s also wireless, operating over Bluetooth, and really very small. I guess it’s like the mini-keyed version of the Seaboard. And because these are not trying to be mechanical piano keyboards then the size of the melodic rises on the surface is probably less important. Combined with the odd Lightpad or Live Block you’ve got quite a serious controller setup that’ll fit in your laptop bag.
Along with the Seaboard Block they’ve also released the Touch Block. This gives hardware control over the expressive behaviour of the Seaboard or Lightpad Block. Change the responsiveness, depth of touch, pitch-bend, that sort of thing.
At £279 the Seaboard Block is still expensive when compared to any other regular MIDI controller keyboard, but for an MPE expressive controller it really can’t be beaten. The Touch Block is a bit more of a slap at £69.95 because, really, it should come in the box with the Seaboard Block. What you do get in the box is a software bundle of NOISE, Equator Player, BLOCKS Dashboard and MaxMSP with over 100 sounds ready to play.
With every movement and improvement ROLI makes to the Blocks I find my more intrigued. Maybe the Seaboard Block is enough to push me over the edge into giving it a go.
More information on the ROLI website.