The Metaconformer is a modular MIDI processor that can reorganise, reorder and interact with your MIDI hardware. It can split keyboards, translate notes to MIDI CC messages and combine monosynths into polysynths.
This rather utility-looking box has the potential to do some very interesting things to all those synths you’ve got knocking around.
It’s got a couple of the essential MIDI utilities covered. First of all, you can plug in a MIDI controller keyboard and farm that control out to four different destinations via the four MIDI outputs. So, if you lack MIDI Thru on any of your gear, then the Metaconformer is a great solution for accessing multiple synths from one controller. The last MIDI out can also double as a sync output. Secondly, it can merge two MIDI inputs, so you could attach a keyboard and a knob MIDI controller and merge the data to control up to four synths.
I should also point out that it uses TRS MIDI connections and each port as an A/B switch, which means it doesn’t matter what sort of TRS MIDI your synth or your adapters handle, the Metaconformer has it covered. SOMA Labs make another good point which is that you can use the A/B switch as a hardware on/off switch for each MIDI port, which is pretty clever.
That’s all well and good, but the more interesting things happen when you get into Metaconformer’s MIDI processing modes.
The idea of the Combiner mode is that it treats all connected synths as a single polyphonic synthesizer. Just like a polysynth, it chooses which voice will play as the notes come in, but in this case, it will select the independently connected instruments to act as voices. So, you could plug in a handful of little desktop synths and have them play together, inhabiting different notes of a chord or overlapping as you play from a single controller.
You’ve got a fair bit of control over how the voices work. You can change which synth is looked at first for a free voice, and you can use the mute buttons on the top to audition different voices within a chord to find the timbre you’re after.
Splitter mode give you control over the multiple MIDI outputs by splitting the keyboard into zones or ranges. Apparently, you can set up to eight instruments split across your keyboard. SOMA Labs says that they can all be on the same MIDI channel and so you’re restricting the range of notes that are being sent out of each port. These ranges can overlap if you wish. There are multiple transposition options, the ability to invert notes, and you can collapse the entire range into one of the extreme notes of range, although I’m not sure what that means.
The Translator mode converts your keyboard into a continuous controller. So, your keys control knobs as well as notes. It needs to use two MIDI channels so that one channel handles the notes while the other handles the control. The explanation gets a bit shaky here but SOMA seems to suggest that you either use two keyboards or two Metaconformers, but I can’t quite get hold of how it works. It also feels like it would be much easier just to get a keyboard that has some knobs on it. I guess it means that each key press can also action a parameter level, so it could adjust the filter or swap a sample or many other things I haven’t thought of. The demo video shows this happening with a pair of Metaconformers so that a single keyboard plays the notes and the control at the same time.
You will conform
SOMA Labs talk about the interface being intuitive and designed to minimise focused thought. The row of LEDs form an 8-bit display that keeps you abreast of everything. And Metaconformer is intelligent enough to understand what’s being asked of it depending on the scenario. You’ve just got to remember what the LEDs mean.
This could be a wonderfully useful little box. If you’ve got a number of little synths that you struggle to keep connected to your keyboard, then the Metaconformer could really sort you out. The special abilities sound like they could give you a workstation-like approach to your synths, which might be very interesting.
The Metaconformer is available now direct from SOMA Labs for €160 plus tax and delivery. Maybe having more than one is not outside the realm of possibility.
- SOMA Labs Metaconformer: SOMA Labs
- SOMA Labs Metaconformer: SOMA Labs