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