Blocks party!

Roli’s en­try-level MPE sys­tem gets new hard­ware and some vi­tal soft­ware tweaks

Future Music - - FILTER -

When we re­viewed Blocks, Roli’s en­try-level range of ‘mul­ti­di­men­sional’ con­trollers, we had a few reser­va­tions, es­pe­cially with their iOS app Noise, on which the whole sys­tem hinged.

Now, in a sig­nif­i­cant up­date to the Blocks sys­tem, Roli have un­veiled new hard­ware de­vices and – cru­cially – some ad­just­ments to Blocks that be­gin to ad­dress our main crit­i­cisms.

The big news on the hard­ware front is the ar­rival of the Seaboard Block, a con­sid­er­ably more af­ford­able take on Roli’s flag­ship key­board range. It’s based on the same tech­nol­ogy as the larger mod­els, fea­tur­ing 24 ‘key­waves’ – the multi-ex­pres­sive, rub­bery keys that al­low for string-like mod­u­la­tion and pitch­bends. At £279, it’s over £300 cheaper than the cur­rent Seaboard en­try point, the Rise 25, giv­ing play­ers who want to buy into the ex­pres­sive key­board con­troller a far more wal­let-friendly op­tion. You can also slot mul­ti­ple units to­gether to cre­ate larger key­board set­ups.

As with the rest of the Blocks range, the Se­abord Block is wire­less and com­mu­ni­cates with iOS and desk­top de­vices via Blue­tooth. It can be used along­side the ex­ist­ing Light­pad, Live and Loop Blocks, along with an­other new hard­ware ad­di­tion, the Touch Block, which mir­rors the but­ton­based for­mat of the Live and Loop Blocks and en­ables you to ad­just the sen­si­tiv­ity and be­hav­iour of the Seaboard and Light­pad Blocks.


Of par­tic­u­lar note is the fact that this new hard­ware Block brings with it a new soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tion, Equa­tor Player – a desk­top tool based on Roli’s im­pres­sive Equa­tor sound en­gine. The player will come stocked with 100 pre­set sounds, all de­signed to make the most of the MPE for­mat ei­ther as a stand­alone ap­pli­ca­tion or as a plugin with a DAW. This is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause it fi­nally means that users can make the most of Blocks’ mul­ti­di­men­sional ex­pres­sion in a stu­dio set­ting with­out be­ing shack­led to the re­stric­tive Noise app.

This fol­lows in the wake of an up­date for Noise it­self, bring­ing the im­por­tant ad­di­tion of au­dio ex­port, along with a work-in-progress An­droid ver­sion. We’re told by Roli to ex­pect more devel­op­ment and up­dates from Dash­board, the ap­pli­ca­tion de­signed to bridge the gap between Blocks and third-party soft­ware. On this front, we’ve al­ready seen the re­cent re­lease of In­stant De­lay from Un­fil­tered Au­dio – an ef­fect de­signed to be used with the Light­pad Block, which is free to down­load for Light­pad own­ers.

It’s early days still, but it looks like the Blocks sys­tem might be on the road to achiev­ing its full po­ten­tial.

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