Tenori-On in development

A glimpse into the creation of Tenori-On, Toshio Iwai’s new musical instrument to be produced by Yamaha, from Flickr.

A Last.fm group posting has revealed the pricing of the upcoming Yamaha Tenori-On, an unusual grid-based instrument and MIDI controller, as well as how the product design came together and will be produced. Found via Chris O’Shea (Pixelsumo), the posting has the following revelations:

  • Price will be GBP 599 in the initial run.
  • The initial run will have limited availability in UK record shops and online for the next few months. (This much we knew.)
  • Full production and a price cut are apparently due in the future, full production run, possibly some time next year (this is news).
  • AA batteries are all you need for power.

The price is likely to be a disappointment to many who had hoped for a more affordable product. Ironically, despite the Yamaha name, the initial production run is a practically hand-made affair. It sounds as though Yamaha is being rather conservative with this limited run before jumping in. Mind you, we don’t expect official announcements from Yamaha until next week’s launch event, so stay tuned. I doubt any of this will stop people from snapping up the first run, especially if its numbers are as limited as they sound.

Update: We’ve heard via a source close to Yamaha that, while larger production runs are possible if this UK test is successful, a price cut is not anticipated. That makes sense, honestly. Anyway, price actually sounds as though it’s not hindering enthusiasm for the device. Those of you who can’t afford this sort of thing (unfortunately, I fall into that category at the moment) nonetheless respect the device for its design ingenuity. Those who can afford it and want it will be standing in line, from what we’ve heard, to grab the first units.

Forget about the price for a moment: the best part of this post is the gallery of behind-the-scenes images from the Tenori-On’s design and production. The project remains a DIY affair at this point, and it reveals both the inner life of this instrument, and the potential for other unusual musical creations in the future.

Tenori-On in Development [Flickr Set by Rupert’s Lunch]
Tenori-On Discussions on last.fm

Tenori-On conceptual drawings

The Flickr set also includes fascinating conceptual diagrams illustrating the Tenori-On concept.
  • OUCH! I really want one, but that price is mega harshing my buzz. The bad thing is that it seems a price cut is only forthcoming after its sold for awhile, and I dont know how may those will sell at that price. Seems set up for commercial failure…

  • dead_red_eyes

    So it will probably be $1000 (usd) … that's cool. I'm ready. We've got 2G ready to spend on 2 of these bad boys as soon as we can get them here in the US. SUPER excited!!!

  • dead_red_eyes

    BTW Peter, thanks for all this background info … really cool to see that it's practically a handmade affair.

  • Yeah, it seems weird to base the popularity of something on sales at such a high price, when its mass-market appeal will likely be heavily affected by price.

    If Yamaha does decide to go through with it, I imagine they could probably cut production costs in half if not further. Whether that savings gets passed on to consumers, I don't know.

    The featureless blobby person is something, though. Will likely forevermore fill a space in my brain where the label "Tenori-on user" resides.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Also, take into consideration that the main reason for this high price is because it's practically all handmade. Monome says the same thing about their product, and all it is … is buttons with leds in a casing. That's it. You're supposed to supply everything else for it to play with. The Tenori-On on the other hand has LOTS more inside …

  • Well, the funny thing is, pretty much all prototypes start out in this form. I think unfortunately a lot of the time the design and industrial engineering teams are separated, which divorces parts of the process that would normally be integral. But even some mass-produced items, if the process is integrated, really do have a DIY approach. Hope to bring you more of this stuff soon. 😉

  • dead_red_eyes

    I wonder how many they've actually made so far. As of right now, I just can't see us being able to get a hold of 2 anytime soon. Or at least until Yamaha puts them into production. Which I was wondering something … what if Yamaha doesn't decide to do it? Do you think such a thing could happen? I sure hope not.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Peter, do you know anything about it having a headphone jack or an SD card to save settings & stuff? I'm wondering how you'd go about saving a project on it … if you could even do such a thing.

    I was a little bummed about the AA battery thing at first, but then I realized that I would be able to take it anywhere with me ( and hopefully there's a headphone jack) … rechargeable batteries FTW!

  • emmett

    any news yet on whether yamaha's going to let this thing be open source? i'd hate to think such an innovative interface is going to be tied down to a select few programs…..

  • grigori

    10-15 years from now, people will be clammoring for the original, handmade, first run of the tenori-on – eBay prices will be through the roof.

  • This price is about the same as a Monome 256. Not too bad, if the Tenori-on does cool stuff. The beauty of the Monome is that you can make it do what you want it to do. That's also the problem with the Monome, you have to make it do what you want it to do.

    The Tenori-on will certainly be more fun right out of the box, but will it be as much of an instrument as the Monome can be?

  • I have one in for review, I cant say too much about it, but it does allow saving to the SD card.

    More soon…

  • @Chris: I don't think it'll be open source, no. But it will transmit MIDI, so you can use it as a controller, as with the Monome. You won't get the same bi-directional communication possibilities with a computer as you would with Monome, however. So, while the interface is similar, I think the main thing about the Tenori-On is that it's a self-contained instrument, whereas the main advantage of the Monome is that it's ideally suited to working with software.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Nick, I'm EXTREMELY jealous!!!!

  • Adrian Anders

    I hope the second run in the states sees a drop in price to the $500-750 range. Most people couldn't afford $1000 for such a (admittedly great but) esoteric instrument. At $500 I can see a whole lot more people wanting to get one as either a novelty or as a legitimate piece of kit.

    Obviously we would all like it down to game console prices, but that's not likely unless they start shipping DX7 quantities.


  • Tenori-Off

    Yamaha have always priced their gear according to a country's "dollar unit" currency. Yamaha gear that costs $500 USD is almost always $500 CDN, but for some strange reason, it's also almost always 500 GBP. My guess is Yamaha are making this desirable item only available in the UK first so that desperate musicians from other parts of the world will pay double the price for the first 12 or so months.

    Yamaha are really shooting themselves in the foot. I feel bad for Iwai san because he truly has created something revolutionary. I only wish Yamaha were %100 commited to the product's success. Perhaps a cheaper model without the sound engine could have also been on offer?

    While the Tenori-On is very appealing me as a sequencer and live performance instrument, I wouldn't want to spend over $1000 USD on something based on a ROMpler (Motif) sound engine.

    I guess I'll just have wait until these are reaonably priced and then buy one so I can use t to control a synth I like.

  • Tenori-Off

    "The featureless blobby person is something, though. Will likely forevermore fill a space in my brain where the label “Tenori-on user” resides."

    It's Pit-Pat!


  • It strikes me reading these comments even savvy people are very wary of spending money on tech..

    £2000uk on a mass produced guitar based on a 65 year old design? No probs…

    Virtually hand made electronics?

    Has to be cheaper than a McDonald's before it's even looked at twice.

    I'm putting together a Midibox at the moment and frankly when I'm done if someone tries to offer me £500uk for it I'd punch them in the face (ok… maybe not but I'd want to) so in that regard £500uk is cheap for such a small run of something with such a huge R&D cost.

    Those who think £500 is a lot of money for something like this needs to build something themselves for once and get a feel for what it's like to put something together and inhale all those solder fumes and wonder if you'd do that 50 times a day for a dollar…

  • 4lefts

    stef – very good points. the price is totally fair and i have no issue with it. except this – i want one, and i can't afford it. thats it. i can't afford to spend 600 quid on a guitar either, though. though like someone said, the "original, first run tenori-on"s will be worth proper money one day.

  • Sure Not

    i would not pay for it more 150 pounds.

    i played tenori-on about 30 minutes in a gallery on 182 brick lane.

    i wrote "played" because in fact it is a toy with massive marketing hype. not really an instument.

    the built in sounds suck, they are not really useful. i found the sequencer modes are also limited.

    but would like to see a similar software on a touch screen laptop.

    well, it is just my opinion, londoners can go and try it.

  • Sure Not

    (sorry about some mistyping i made)

    so what i meant is i wouldn't pay more THAN 150 pounds for it as it's just a big toy.

    but good fun, but for this amount of money i expect an advanced sound editing feature as well. the songs that will be created on this unit will sound just too similar to each other.

    the bouncing mode is fun, but i think it also has quite limited creative features, but a future software update can improve it.

  • hmza

    I have one

    its fantastic

    Batteries and wall plug

    head phonejack

    Small midi input (small as in the rme fireface400)

    Sd card

    editing mac software

    can do midi sincro

  • need one now. too stupid I am not in UK.

  • joao

    Sampling: 3 voices

    (Raw audio with a maximum length of 0.97 sec., up to 16 samples per voice)

    Only 0.97 seconds???

  • vanceg

    So… is there any way to order these from outside the UK right now? Anyone?

  • @dead_red_eyes:

    you seem to have the a distorted idea of what we do, in addition to a quite a few (loud) factual mistakes. come chat at our forum, it's a really friendly place. http://forum.monome.org

    reading: http://monome.org/articles/2007/08/30/towards-a-c

    ps. daedelus started touring worldwide with my 16×16 prototype early 2003. not that it matters. everyone is correct– it's just a grid. the tenori is nothing like our designs. it's a wonderful device all on its own.

  • tomori-on

    Some fair points about the high price but consider this; I don't want a tenori-on because it is hand made or housed in a magnesium chassis or whatever. I want one because it looks hella fun to play with.

    I for one would be a lot happier if it was made of plastic and mass-produced by the thousands.

    In essence it is a novelty, hardware step sequencer, and when thought of in such utilitarian terms, a £600 price tag is easily enough to put me off.

    I don't mind paying over the odds for bleeding edge, next gen tech, but this doesn't even come close.

    Also, when I consider that 2 years ago I paid less than £400 for a very nice, lightweight Virtual Reality unit that is manufactured in very small numbers, the Tenori's price tag begins to look even more tenuous.

    Let's just hope Yamaha's people overlook what will undoubtedly be a limited sales bubble and roll the dice on this cute piece of kit anyway.

  • lord83

    Gotta get me one a dose mos deff put u gotta cut down dose prices…….at least 700Dlls

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