In the unlikely event of a water landing, use the Tenori-On to triangulate the mysterious radio broadcast coming from the French woman on the desert island. Erm, sorry — yeah, I finally got DVDs to watch Lost. Random Mode in the Tenori-On manual; image (C)2007 Yamaha Corporation.

Here’s the good news: the Tenori-On is really going on sale here in America. It’s about the same price as in the UK, as expected. (GBP600 = about US$1200.)

The bad news? If you want to buy one, good luck. Yamaha says initially only about 100 units a month will be available. (We also heard “1000 units” for the whole year, which would mean they stop doing 100 units each month after September, if that’s right.) To put this in perspective, the Monome 64, with zero press behind its launch, sold out a 100-unit run in 120 seconds. After getting hands-on with the Monome, I want to reemphasize that a square grid of buttons are the only things these two designs have in common — but you can bet ravenous demand will be one other common feature. (Another example: the permanently-backordered x0xb0x.)  Heck, even the Arduino board, a USB kit for electronics makers, has 500 units on-hand at one vendor alone, and they typically sell out when a new semester begins.

That means that Tenori-On is getting the same cautious launch it got in the UK, even though the UK is a much smaller market than the US. (We may not be as electronically-savvy, but there are five times as many of us Yankees.) And there’s the US press blow-out likely to happen (Gizmodo and Engadget were on-hand at the press event last night; Friday the launch hits San Francisco.) And there’s a full half year of buzz. We didn’t even hear word that Tenori-On would be available in record shops in the US as in the UK; word was distribution will be exclusively online, via Keyfax. (Updated: There’s nothing on the Keyfax site, so head to www.tenori-on-tour.com.)

It’s not for lack of manufacturing capability; the Tenori-On is expensive to produce, with its unusual, rounded magnesium frame, but Yamaha literally has robots for that. (They had pictures of what would look like mass production, but isn’t.)

It was curious to hear people muttering "too expensive" in association with the unit, because I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Anyone wanting one, plan to have a party by your mouse the night before 5/1.

Benny Goldman has an early review at Gizmodo. That’s actually my voice you hear in the video, talking to Yamaha about when the "experimental" limited run will end and the Tenori-On will become a mass-market product. I’ll have to see if I screwed up Engadget’s sound, too.

Of course, the best way to get a Tenori-On in the US is to build a sophisticated interactive table and win over a crowd of people, but that’s been done already, and there is the danger of winding up with just a hat. More on that later today.

  • Tenori-On looks really cool and fun to play with, but it's hard to really want it at that price point.

    If I was going to spend that kind of money on an alternative interface thing, I'd be pretty butt-cised for the Axis-64, which looks a lot more intuitive to me.

    Damn, I wish Yamaha or Akai or someone would work out a deal to manufacture those.

  • @plurgid — I should add, the price is definitely going to be an issue for a lot of people; I just still think there's enough demand (especially given the way it sold in the UK) that that won't help availability much. 😉

    And, of course, it's not really about whether something is worth the money, it's whether it's worth the money to you, and whether it's in your budget. I absolutely understand that personally.

    There's also the Tenori-On from a pure design perspective, which is another interesting discussion … stay tuned.

  • I had earmarked my tax refund check to go towards one of these but with only 100 available a month, it doesn't seem likely 🙁

  • I was waiting for the Tenori-On to come out, and now I don't really care anymore.

    In my opinion (and please tell me if you think it sucks), the Tenori-On just looks like a flashier version of the Monome for over double the price of the latter. I guess a plus for the tenori-on is that it includes 'professional' software. (right?)

    Just my 2 cents.


  • Sizzurp Sippa


    The benefit of the Tenori-On is that it is a stand alone device, not just a midi controller. That makes things much more convenient. And the Monome isn't even a proper midi controller, as you can only use it via USB, so you can't connect it to your hardware gear. (not all of us are laptop musicians).

    Of course, I am so sick of companies doing "limited releases", so that they can show how fast it sold out etc. when you know damn well that they intend to mass-market the product. Yamaha can fuck off with that! Whatever brownie points you scored building really cool hardware, you totally squandered with that exploitive marketing tactic! It should be a privilege for them to sell me stuff, not for me to buy your stuff. No thanks Yamaha, I am not going to be another fanboy, no matter how cool the Tenori-On is!

  • I really don't get the comparisons of Tenori-On with Monome. Yes, they both have an array of buttons with lights. I think that's pretty much it.

  • I guess the other similarity is that both the Monome and Tenori-On are both perceived as overpriced both will be hard to get a hold of for some time.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Wow, 100 a month is nothing!! I still hope to get one of these in a couple of months from now, if it will even be possible.

  • Sizzurp Sippa

    Wow, 100 a month is nothing!!

    I have more bowel movements than that in a month!

  • Jersey Jim

    "Richard Lawler

    I really don’t get the comparisons of Tenori-On with Monome. Yes, they both have an array of buttons with lights. I think that’s pretty much it."

    Well, the array of buttons is enough to have a comparison…and for music making…especially when using something like step64, they are alot closer than people seem to want to admit. The advantage of the Monome is that it can be many more things…that's obvious. However, I bet music making is what most people use the Monome series for…so I can see the point of comparison.

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  • I tried it last night at the Tenori-on launch in NYC, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the machine. I just thought the Tenori-on was a simple but extremely limited real-time sequencer, but I have to admit that the 16 X 16 resolution is really great and the fact that you have up to 16 layers to work with AND edit each one individually and independently of the other ones, is an added plus and opens up a lot of options. I like the fact that each layer can work under a set of compositional rules or behaviours. Also the set of presets that come with the Tenori-on are pretty nice and are great for people that like to work with melodic music, but if you don't like them you can upload your own sounds, or for that matter use the Tenori-on as a MIDI controller. What I didn't like was the fact that each layer had a specific behaviour already set, there is no way to say for example, that you want all layers to work around the draw mode. Also I would've loved some to see wi-fi capabilities for different applications and networked performances. Overall I think that the Tenori-on opened the doors to a whole new world of performers and it gives non-musicians a very simple and interesting system to create music, that is if they can afford it.

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  • Is the comparison fair between Monome and Tenori-On? Absolutely. In fact, Toshio Iwai makes an excellent argument for the shape and form of an instrument being fundamental to its significance. They're your two main choices right now if you want a controller that's an array of light-up buttons with some built-in, customizable intelligence. They're also both (in different ways) built to be simultaneously futuristic and timeless, and fabricated in a way that suggests they'll be items you hang onto.

    Are they *contrastable* as well as comparable? Absolutely — in that respect they're basically opposites. Monome is all right angles; Tenori-On is all curves. Monome is USB-powered with OpenSoundControl and has no internal sound; Tenori-On has MIDI, no USB, memory card expansion, and internal sound. Monome has inputs for additional sensors; Tenori-On has no customizable sensors but does add buttons.

    The big difference for me, though, you really need to see by getting hands-on. The Tenori-On isn't just standalone because it has internal sound — it's also got all of these layers and modes, and it's all selectable using the front-panel buttons. The Tenori-On also has a small menu display at the bottom. This makes for *radically* different function than the Monome, even if you're using it as a controller. Now, I think some people will actually like it *less*, not more, because of this design choice. It's really a matter of preference.

    I personally think the direction both devices are going is exciting. I think it'd be crazy not to notice the relationship between the two, even if that relationship accentuates what's different about them.

  • Tenori-on stuff.. I have one, from the first uk run.. My tuppence worth is… is a bit overpriced, and feels plasticky, nice metal and stuff but the battery compartment covers are flimsy plastic, for £500.. I'd like to feel a bit more quality, it probably wouldnt withstand a average small accidental drop. The soundset is mostly bloody awful, contains a few gems but really.. its the cheapest end of GM. Loading samples is clunky but can really make it rock and the built-in speakers make it all worthwhile.. sit about and program beats with nothing else – its standalone portability is great.

    Sample playback is limited – no pitching and no samples longer than a second, so unless you want to use up a whole bank on an instrument (you only get 3), you're best of with drums and quirky stuff.

    As a midi controlling creative device tho it is inspirational – its has limitations, the biggest gripe being that although it syncs to midi clock, it 'continues' rather than re-starting from step 1 (its beginning to grow on me due to the unexected patters it can throw up) but its annoying, especially if you are on any layer other than a "score" layer as you have to go back to a "score" layer to reset the play position.. I'm really hoping for at least one OS update.. It doesnt do controllers, and has a fixed note length per layer.. my next plan is to try some MFX midi plugs to convert notes to controllers…

    I love it tho – its about 3 inches away from my left hand flat on the table.. i put my whole hand on it and input… mice seem clunky afterwards..

    last gripe is the connectors – again flimsy, and at the front.. i'm contemplating hacking together a dock of some sort… its needs one..

    if i had one wish it would be tri-colour leds, like my notron..

  • oh.. that reminds me.. have you seen the genoqs nemo yet… http://www.genoqs.com/index.php?option=com_conten

  • @flunky: the Nemo is … just … beautiful! Had not seen that. Let's see, unlimited budget, and you could just surround yourself with these things, like build a cockpit of blinking sequencing lights and buttons.

    How much is the Nemo, speaking of that?

  • Priced at 1399.- EUR (incl. VAT) :: Available July 1st, 2008 :: Taking preorders now!..

    i'd like to get one.. but i think the notron might sulk…

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