SOMA REFLEX: Synthesizer prototype with innovative expression
Out of the labs of SOMA comes a 6-voice polyphonic synthesizer with an unparalleled level of real-time control over both timbre and sound – meet the REFLEX.
It’s the familiar question of how can we give the musician greater expressive control over not just the notes but the sound of the synthesizer? A whole industry has grown up around the concepts of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) to provide more than pitch and velocity for each individual note that’s played on an electronic device. And so we have polyphonic pressure, slide and strike to help us affect synthesis parameters with every stroke of our controller. SOMA LABS does things differently.
While the question is similar the approach from Vlad Kreimer at Soma Labs is always going to be different and remarkable:
REFLEX is the first complex synthesizer where the main goal is to give musicians direct access to the synthesis core, instantly playing dozens of synthesis parameters as artistically and intuitively as we play notes and velocity on, for example, a violin. To make this possible a unique multidimensional sensor-controller was developed.
The sensor-controller has 16 small hemispheres which are arranged to fit comfortably with the fall of the hand and fingers. Each hemisphere contains a tiny high-frequency transmitter-air-receiver chain which is interrupted by the position of your fingers and palm. These 16 points of data are then used to control synthesis parameters.
To make this work fast enough and with enough accuracy he’s developed special synthesis algorithms that he calls “pure math synthesis” that uses dynamical recursive equations to generate sound in response to data from the 16 sensors. It’s a uniquely complex and responsive way of interacting with a musical instrument. He says that the instrument “literally breathes under your fingers”.
The hardware is currently a prototype and is very unique. Each voice is handled by a separate mini computer with its own clock crystal and analog part. Effects are built into each voice rather than globally and becomes part of the synthesis. So each note is like its own monophonic synthesizer.
If you check out the extraordinary demo video you’ll see how the sound if forever changing and morphing from the interaction with his fingers. I wonder what the final device will look like?
This is early days but it’s a fascinating project and appears to offer an amazing amount of control through the manipulation of one hand.
More information from Soma Labs
- Soma Laboratories REFLEX: Soma Laboratories
Wow! This is super cool! (Just when you thought Strega would have the FX come synth thing locked in…