Audiobus: Use your music apps together.

What is Audiobus?Audiobus is an award-winning music app for iPhone and iPad which lets you use your other music apps together. Chain effects on your favourite synth, run the output of apps or Audio Units into an app like GarageBand or Loopy, or select a different audio interface output for each app. Route MIDI between apps — drive a synth from a MIDI sequencer, or add an arpeggiator to your MIDI keyboard — or sync with your external MIDI gear. And control your entire setup from a MIDI controller.

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Recommendations for entry-level MPE controller

For a long time I dismissed MPE as a gimmick (and I still dislike some implementation details such as using all 16 channels) but I've been warming up to it as a performance tool. I've been using KB-1 for playing and I'd like to try out a physical controller.

I know that the Seabord Block and Sensel Morph exist, but not much else, like how do they compare against more expensive offerings like the LinnStrument or ROLI's own. Do you have any recommendations?

Comments

  • edited January 8

    It depends a bit on whether you prefer a keyboard, guitar, or pad paradigm, but I do completely agree that a hardware controller really makes MPE sing. Coming from a guitar background, I'm a big fan of the Artiphon Instrument 1, which is essentially a highly configurable touch-sensitive guitar fingerboard with some additional multi-angle button controllers that can vaguely emulate the effect of strummable strings (among other things). I also have a Seaboard Block, which I do like and is pleasingly tactile, but I find the Artiphon more sensitive and expressive to delicate touches. It's really a tap instrument – a one-handed MPE keyboard in the layout of a guitar fingerboard – but can also be strummed or played as pads flat on a table or lap.

    Artiphon also have a new compact Bluetooth MPE controller on Kickstarter (campaign ends Monday) called the Orba, which will be the cheapest MPE controller on the market when it arrives (supposedly in April) and includes a built-in synth, speaker, and looper; it looks very promising in terms of functionality, but it remains to be seen whether the half-grapefruit shape is something musoes have been looking for in a control surface without realising.

    Roger Linn has a useful page you've probably already seen. (Not sure what he's got against the Sensel Morph…) One advantage to ROLI gear worth mentioning is that it all comes bundled with a lot of desktop freebies and discounts – ROLI Studio Player, upgrade discount on Equator and the FXpansion synths, Max subscription, and I forget what else, but a Lightpad can basically pay for itself if you take advantage of enough of the desktop deals. Equator in particular is an absolute die-for, the god-king of MPE synths and a masterclass in MPE sound design with a crazy quantity of presets. The ROLI hardware is also the only way to get SWAM instruments on iPad (as IAPs in the standalone version of Noise; they don't work in the AUv3).

  • edited January 8

    I was given a roli seaboard and its excellent however i only use it in specific cases and not often. I definitely wouldn't sell it but it is worth thinking about how much use you will get out if it and if that is ok.

  • @jipumarino said:
    For a long time I dismissed MPE as a gimmick (and I still dislike some implementation details such as using all 16 channels) but I've been warming up to it as a performance tool. I've been using KB-1 for playing and I'd like to try out a physical controller.

    I know that the Seabord Block and Sensel Morph exist, but not much else, like how do they compare against more expensive offerings like the LinnStrument or ROLI's own. Do you have any recommendations?

    You don't need to use all 16 channels at once, only one common (usually 1 or 16) and one pr voice. I've played Madrona Labs Aalto using only 5 channels (it only has 4 voices).

    I'd say as @Masanga that it depends on your background. I usually see resistance towards the Linnstrument by keyboard players. I ended up with it because I'm not a keyboard player.

    Sensel Morph is affordable and there is a great community behind.

    Expressive E is another MPE keyboard in the make, by the people who made the Touché: https://www.expressivee.com

    There seem to be some issues with velocity in the Joué. Affordable but... I don't know.

    ContinuumMini, I would only purchase for the built in synth.

    If I had to buy my first MPE controller, given my background with bass, I would go for the small Linnstrument. Otherwise I would try the Seaboard Block.

    As far as I know, the only MPE controller that gives you the possibility of tweaking it without computer is the Linnstrument, so you can access splits, voices, channels, tunings and so on while you're playing.

    There is a good MPE community here: https://community.polyexpression.com

  • What about your iOS device -
    https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/26614/which-ios-synths-have-mpe-part-two

    Although, if I could get a new piece of gear, I'm currently bouncing between the Sensel Morph and Ableton Push. Or an Arturia Minilab keyboard simply for Analog Lab.

  • Thank you all for your input, this is really helpful! I definitely feel more comfortable with something like or at least derived from a piano layout, rather than a guitar.

    @musgo you’re right, I was referring to the fact that it requires one channel per voice

  • @Samflash3 said:
    What about your iOS device -
    https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/26614/which-ios-synths-have-mpe-part-two

    Although, if I could get a new piece of gear, I'm currently bouncing between the Sensel Morph and Ableton Push. Or an Arturia Minilab keyboard simply for Analog Lab.

    I’m a bit confused: I am looking to control iOS synths with this; I’ve been using KB-1 to do it and I’m just looking for an affordable piece of hardware that provides something more tactile.

  • wimwim
    edited January 9

    Well, I can’t provide any comparison info, but I can comment a little bit on the Morph. It’s a good controller and pretty flexible. Not as flexible as I’d hoped, but good enough. The biggest downside is having to hook up to a PC or Mac every time you want to make a change. The other thing to be aware of is you really need to hook up via USB if you want to do MPE with it. Bluetooth just can’t handle it. Bluetooth is fine in normal mode though.

    I even made a guitar fretboard layout somewhat like GeoShred using the designer overlay. It worked out pretty well. I’m thinking of getting it 3D printed if I end up using it regularly.

    I got my Morph in their Holiday Sale back in November. I just checked their web site and the sale appears to still be in place.

    (If you do get one, avoid the QWERTY keyboard overlay. It’s pretty much useless in iOS.)

  • @jipumarino said:

    @Samflash3 said:
    What about your iOS device -
    https://forum.audiob.us/discussion/26614/which-ios-synths-have-mpe-part-two

    Although, if I could get a new piece of gear, I'm currently bouncing between the Sensel Morph and Ableton Push. Or an Arturia Minilab keyboard simply for Analog Lab.

    I’m a bit confused: I am looking to control iOS synths with this; I’ve been using KB-1 to do it and I’m just looking for an affordable piece of hardware that provides something more tactile.

    My bad. I misunderstood the question. I meant using the iOS device as the actual controller via KB-1 and apps like Geoshred, Gestrument, and the listed apps but seems like you're already using it (KB-1 at least).

    ROLI currently seems to be the best recommendation, although I do like the conceptual design of the Sensel Morph as an iPad attachment.

    I've always wondered if getting a Matte screen protector like Paperlike would give me the tactile experience when I'm sliding over my iPad but I've been too cheap to try it.

  • sensel morph is excellent , but i’d recomend having a desktop computer to plugin to setup custom your layout for ipad. Sensel does not have an ios app yet for assigning parameters to it. But i am told it is i. the works. they are very cool, and very touch sensitive. i love mine

  • @jipumarino said:
    Thank you all for your input, this is really helpful! I definitely feel more comfortable with something like or at least derived from a piano layout, rather than a guitar.

    @musgo you’re right, I was referring to the fact that it requires one channel per voice

    Then I’d go for a seaboard, specially if it is for controlling iPad synths. and consider ExpressiveE in the long term.

    I’ve never worried about midi channels because I treat my Linnstrument as I would a guitar, bass... I like to be immersed and limited by my fingers. Usually left hand on Linnstrument and right moving a knob her and there.

    And then again, midi 2 is coming. What will it bring?

    By the way it takes half a second And two fingers to switch from MPE to regular midi on the Linnstrument.

    Just saying 😉

  • @wim thanks for mentioning the bandwidth limits with bluetooth and MPE, I wasn't aware of that
    @eross thanks, I do have a desktop computer, I sure hope that if I go for the Morph I don't spend most time tinkering with its setup instead of, you know, using it (I know myself)
    @musgo at this point it looks like I just need to try both the Morph and the Seabord Block as the feel of the playing surface would probably be a deciding factor. The Linnstrument does seem cool, but it's way above the "entry-level" price I'm looking for.

  • @jipumarino said:
    @wim thanks for mentioning the bandwidth limits with bluetooth and MPE, I wasn't aware of that
    @eross thanks, I do have a desktop computer, I sure hope that if I go for the Morph I don't spend most time tinkering with its setup instead of, you know, using it (I know myself)
    @musgo at this point it looks like I just need to try both the Morph and the Seabord Block as the feel of the playing surface would probably be a deciding factor. The Linnstrument does seem cool, but it's way above the "entry-level" price I'm looking for.

    I had a seaboard block before the Morph. It was ok and an entry to mpe. but i found the software not deep enough and a pain to setup. I bought a morph and it clicked instantly. the touch sensitivity i way more sensitive and setup it super simple, but can go deep if needed. and the option of being able to quickly change from mic type controller to piano to drum kit, etc. so fast. no need to stop a creative flow and setup the controller. very cool.

  • @eross said:
    I had a seaboard block before the Morph. It was ok and an entry to mpe. but i found the software not deep enough and a pain to setup. I bought a morph and it clicked instantly. the touch sensitivity i way more sensitive and setup it super simple, but can go deep if needed. and the option of being able to quickly change from mic type controller to piano to drum kit, etc. so fast. no need to stop a creative flow and setup the controller. very cool.

    Are you using the Morph with bluetooth? Have you run into the same bandwidth limitations as @wim did with the Seabord? (BT is definitely not a must for me, but I'd like to be aware of these things)

  • i use both. mostly i’m connect via usb into my macbook and then midi channel out to my ipad via iconnect midi2+. no latency. i’ve used it with my iphone and ipad via bluetooth,but that was when i first bought it. but don’t remember it having any noticeable latency. which i am pretty picky about any latency. i think it would have been noteworthy if it was an issue.

  • @eross said:
    i use both. mostly i’m connect via usb into my macbook and then midi channel out to my ipad via iconnect midi2+. no latency. i’ve used it with my iphone and ipad via bluetooth,but that was when i first bought it. but don’t remember it having any noticeable latency. which i am pretty picky about any latency. i think it would have been noteworthy if it was an issue.

    Latency isn't as much the issue with MPE over Bluetooth as lost messages/stuck notes, etc. I get stuck notes all over the place with MPE unless I go USB.

    The Morph requires power on the Apple CCK by default when using USB. But, the most recent firmware includes a low power setting that allows it to be used without power. The downside to that is s l o w charging, but that's not a huge problem since the battery on the Morph lasts a good long time.

    Unless you get heavily into making custom overlays, I wouldn't worry too much about getting lost in tweaking the Morph. There's only so much you can do.

  • Great, all of this helps a bunch. Once again, thank you!

  • I wanted to play with mpe in a cheap way, so about a year ago I bought a roli block. I really love it. On iOS I use Roland zenbeats as DAW, it supports mpe. My last buy moog model d also supports mpe, is awesome.

  • edited January 11

    Sensel Morph with Thunder overlay is pretty nice. I had been neglecting my morph but the Thunder renewed my interest. In general, I think the morph is a little fidgety and expensive, so you will need to be forgiving.

    I wonder about the KMI K-Board Pro 4.

    Is pro entry level? :)

  • wimwim
    edited January 11

    The Thunder overlay has one significant advantage over all others. You can have multiple programs for it and switch between them on-board. So, you can have controls assigned for different things and be able to hit a button to change to that setup.

    All the other overlays have only one configuration at a time per overlay, and the only way to switch the functionality of an overlay is to hook up to a desktop and download the map to the device.

    I returned the QWERTY overlay since it’s basically useless for iOS, and may pick up the Thunder overlay when the refund comes. Or the video production overlay. I haven’t decided.

  • The best entry level MPE controller by far is an iPhone 6 or better on eBay ... a pressure sensitive screen coupled with say Roli Noise or Thumbjam and you've got a responsive little controller.

    I'd avoid anything to do with Blocks or the dwarf seaboards ... save up for a Rise 25.

    But if you want some serious fun try a Joue ... Roli on acid.

  • @Soundscaper said:
    The best entry level MPE controller by far is an iPhone 6 or better on eBay ... a pressure sensitive screen coupled with say Roli Noise or Thumbjam and you've got a responsive little controller.

    Do either Noise or Thumbjam export an MPE MIDI stream? A controller should export and
    I think these 2 are In App only for an MPE experience. Roli really wants to see a hardware instance and Thumbjam is just somewhat dormant and didn't expect there to be other MPE capable apps when written.

    Still, iPhone 6 is cool with the 3D Touch feature, I read.

  • GeoShred Control is a fine MPE controller app.

  • @mojozart said:
    GeoShred Control is a fine MPE controller app.

    Good call... I just remembered Kai Aras of Numercial Audio sells a KB-1 and it outputs MPE too.

    Both GeoShred Control and KB-1 are $10.
    GeoShed Pro does have MIDI IN/OUT and MPE support, I checked. It's $25.

  • Yep not exactly the full 5D experience - but 3D is pretty good for $60 - and it takes photos! Gives you an idea of the extra expression on offer from an increasing number of apps.

    MPE is so interesting it's worth saving up for a good input gadget I reckon.

  • @Soundscaper said:
    MPE is so interesting it's worth saving up for a good input gadget I reckon.

    This is my takeaway from this thread as well; I think I’ll continue to explore with KB-1 and maybe give a try to other layouts with Geoshred or Velocity Keyboard and postpone any hardware purchases.

  • i bet we are going to see a whole lot of new mpe controllers this year

  • @wellingtonCres said:
    i bet we are going to see a whole lot of new mpe controllers this year

    Just in time for MIDI 2.0 to start to take hold. :D

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