Roli Seaboard Rise 2 evaluation: I want I had a horror film to attain

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I’m, primarily, a guitarist. Dabbling in keys and synths has all the time felt a bit unnatural from a bodily standpoint. A keyboard doesn’t reply the best way a fretted instrument does. This isn’t shocking, neither is it a nasty factor. It’s simply not what I’m used to. The higher a part of a decade into my journey with synthesizers, I nonetheless discover myself wiggling my fingers as if it’s going to create vibrato, or making an attempt to “bend” one observe whereas preserving the opposite rooted to create shifting harmonies.

I’ve tried my share of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) controllers, which might seize a few of that nuance. However the Roli Seaboard Rise 2 is the primary I’ve performed that manages to ship all of that expressiveness with out additionally being an unmitigated headache ultimately. It’s in all probability my new favourite MIDI controller. However, I nonetheless have a tough time recommending it to most individuals.

The instantly apparent situation is the value. $1,399 is quite a bit of cash for a MIDI controller. There are some MIDI controllers that come shut, however they often have extra beneficiant software program bundles; extra intensive controls (together with faders, knobs and pads); transport controls in your DAW; built-in arpeggiators or sequencers; and screens for viewing parameters and searching presets.

After all, what these controllers often lack is MPE performance. And it’s not just like the Seaboard Rise 2 isn’t a premium gadget. It’s constructed virtually fully from steel, save for the silicone keybed and the small number of controls to its left. It feels extraordinarily sturdy, and I’m fairly certain I’d need to exit of my solution to do any vital injury to it. Regardless of that, it’s additionally surprisingly skinny and light-weight. At roughly 33 inches, it’s barely longer than your common 49-key controller, however it’s lower than an inch thick and solely a hair over 12 kilos. And that’s regardless of having a battery that may final eight hours when related over Bluetooth. For comparability, Arturia’s batteryless Keylab 49 MKII is sort of three inches thick and suggestions the scales at 14 kilos.

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I’d cease shy of calling it transportable, however it’s actually luggable. I’ve moved it round my residence studio fairly a bit and it appears straightforward sufficient to tug to a gig, particularly when you decide up the $100 gentle case.

You’re not shopping for the Seaboard Rise 2 for the portability, although. You’re right here for the continual “Keywave2” floor. And let me let you know, when you recover from how unusual it feels it’s fairly unimaginable.

It’s essential to notice that I’ve by no means performed the unique Seaboard Rise. However I’ve used many different MPE controllers, together with Roli’s Blocks lineup. They’ve all had some type of vital shortcoming, and the Roli Blocks have been borderline unusable. Virtually every little thing I’ve tried has felt both like a novelty or a prototype, somewhat than a consumer-ready product. (The 2 exceptions to this being the most recent Ableton Push and the Expressive E Osmose, although they’re very completely different gadgets with drawbacks of their very own.) So, whereas I’m fascinated with MPE and assume there’s a variety of potential within the expertise, I got here into this evaluation with fairly low expectations.

The undulating and squishy
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However, the Seaboard Rise 2 looks like the primary time an organization has gotten virtually every little thing proper in a standalone MPE MIDI controller. The delicate “Precision Frets” make feeling your method across the keyboard a lot simpler. I’m not a talented pianist or keyboard participant who’s doing lightning-quick scale runs primarily based fully on muscle reminiscence. Nonetheless, I welcomed their addition. They made it much more apparent after I ought to cease a slide and helped me be certain my strikes have been centered on the keys so I didn’t find yourself sounding out of tune.

The squishy silicone keybed additionally supplies glorious suggestions. Most different MPE gadgets I’ve used have little or no journey, if any in any respect. You may as properly be making an attempt to play on a espresso desk. Not the Seaboard. The “keys” (when you can actually name them that) jut up, providing you with a way for the place to place your fingers. The floor gently resists and bunches up beneath your finger whenever you’re performing slides, delivering a lot wanted tactile suggestions. There’s a variety of depth to the floor, too; this isn’t only a skinny silicone pores and skin laid excessive of some sensors. It’s not fairly as satisfying as feeling a key backside out beneath your fingers, however it’s truly simpler to coax nuance out of the rate and aftertouch than on extra conventional controllers.

That means to get delicate shifts in timbre, tone and pitch are what make MPE, and the Seaboard particularly, particular. With the suitable mixture of {hardware} or software program, every observe performed can have its personal distinctive expression. A primary instance of this being controlling the filter cutoff of a synth patch with the slide parameter on the Seaboard. Meaning as you progress your finger from the underside of the management floor to the highest, the filter opens as much as create a brighter sound. However on this case you’ll be able to elevate the cutoff on the upper notes solely to emphasise the melody, whereas preserving the decrease register muted and droning.

The XY pad and touch sliders on the side of the Roli Seaboard Rise 2.
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Giving every observe its personal distinctive velocity, cutoff, et cetera can add unimaginable depth to even essentially the most simplistic efficiency. In a extra superior instance of how this may work, think about a software program instrument primarily based on orchestral strings. On one thing just like the Seaboard Rise 2, shortly tapping the keys and instantly pulling off may very well be used to play pizzicato for stabbing chords. However evenly urgent into the silicone floor would produce a slower assault, permitting you to play languid melodies excessive of sharp harmonies. Sliding your finger as much as the highest might add mild vibrato to emphasise specific notes, and dragging it left or proper would produce reasonable glides which can be usually solely potential on an unfretted, stringed instrument, not a keyboard.

I spotlight that instance as a result of the Seaboard appears particularly suited to scoring work. Whereas it’s superb for taking part in your typical lead and bass patches, it separates itself from the pack when you begin exploring sounds which can be slower and have extra evolution. The slight dissonance I might introduce by shifting one finger simply barely off the middle of a key created this spooky ambiance that I stored getting misplaced in. Possibly it was simply the season I used to be doing most of my testing throughout, however all I stored serious about was how a lot I wished to attain a horror film.

The
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Clearly Roli is aware of it is a power, as a result of a variety of the presets in its Equator 2 softsynth appear geared towards soundtrack work. Usually, the plugin prices $249, however fortunately it’s included at no cost with the Seaboard Rise 2. It simply does the most effective job of showcasing the controller’s numerous powers. The unlucky factor is, solely a bit over a 3rd of the presets are MPE-compatible. And whereas it’s actually a robust instrument, Equator 2 has quite a lot of quirks that maintain it from feeling totally polished.

Maybe the largest of these points is that, whenever you first set up it, most of the manufacturing facility presets are fully damaged and nonfunctional. That’s as a result of there are two extra libraries it’s worthwhile to set up. However these are in a drop-down record, and there’s zero indication that the rest is required till you truly open the app and it repeatedly tells you that information are lacking. I uninstalled and reinstalled Equator and all its preset packs, hoping that will repair the problem. It was solely after some Googling that I found there have been extra required downloads hiding proper contained in the Roli Join app.

The Roli Dashboard at the very least feels rather less slapdash, and it’s arguably a extra important a part of the expertise. That is the place you’ll do all the mandatory configuring, like selecting whether or not the Seaboard is in MPE mode or normal MIDI, deciding on what MIDI CCs the XY pad controls and setting the sensitivity ranges of issues like glide and slide. You’ll mainly all the time wish to have the Dashboard open as a result of, the unlucky reality is, MPE continues to be form of messy. Non-MPE-compatible devices and plugins won’t work proper when you don’t swap the Rise to single channel mode. I’ve discovered getting MPE-enabled plugins to work correctly in Ableton Reside 11 a bit difficult.

Roli Seaboard Rise 2

Even whenever you do get an MPE-enabled instrument ({hardware} or software program) paired up with a controller just like the Seaboard Rise, you’ll in all probability must do some finetuning to get them fully in sync. For instance, you’ll have to verify the pitch bend vary in each the Dashboard and no matter you’re controlling match up. If the Seaboard is ready for a 48-note vary, however, let’s say, Pigments is ready for less than two, slides won’t ever land the place you anticipate them and even narrowly lacking the deadcenter of a key will end in chords which can be painfully out of tune.

When every little thing works, although, it’s fairly particular. The Seaboard Rise 2 is less complicated to play and extra versatile than another MPE MIDI controller I’ve tried. It’s in all probability essentially the most profitable showcase of what’s potential with the expertise.

Certain, it’s costly, might be finicky to configure, and there are restricted choices for devices that reap the benefits of its full expressive capabilities. However MPE-capable softsynths are probably solely going to develop in reputation over the subsequent few years. Most individuals ought to in all probability maintain out and see what the consensus from reviewers is on the extra inexpensive Seaboard Block M. However when you simply need the most effective MPE MIDI controller you’ll be able to at the moment purchase and don’t thoughts shelling out for a premium gadget, the Roli Seaboard Rise 2 is it.

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