Unboxing the Lemur, (CC) Bjarke Bech.

Before the iPhone, before HP computers and Windows 7 touch features and Apple trackpad gestures, the Jazz Mutant Lemur multi-touch interface was ahead of its time. Today, it’s still unique, in that it’s one of the few commercially-available devices to support OpenSoundControl, it’s a luxuriously-large multi-touch screen, and it has exceptional precision and low latency with its tracking. Of course, it has also been subject to two primary complaints: one, that the software options for creating onscreen interfaces is two simple, and two, that it costs too much.

Well, the Lemur and its more conventional DAW-controlling Dexter sibling address each of those. The Lemur has gotten a significant software upgrade, and both have gotten a steep price cut.

First, Lemur V2 is the biggest set of improvements since the Lemur’s unveiling. New in the upgraded firmware:

  • Tabs for containers
  • Breakpoint object for envelopes
  • Alias controllers to save memory and (your) time
  • Control the mouse cursor or keyboard shortcuts directly (that’s actually a huge deal right there)
  • Pinch, rotate, trace gestures
  • Pop-up menu object
  • New JazzEditor, scripting powers, and instant Ableton Live reactivity – yep, doing stuff even the new Akai APC can’t.

The only bad news is, even with price drops, these devices aren’t cheap, though arguably they can make up for that with longevity. The Dexter has undergone a permanent price drop to a much more competitive US$1519. The Lemur has temporarily dropped to US$1769 for a 60-day promotion. No official word yet on what happens after that offer expires mid-March; stay tuned.

I do think this makes a pretty significant adjustment on value. I’m a big fan of the iPhone/iPod touch apps, but the input area is extremely small; there’s no real comparison.

Lemur V2
Jazz Mutant

And even if you decide not to get a Lemur yourself or can’t afford them, they remain a compelling example of what’s possible in the future of music hardware – and how powerful OSC can be. Look for a hands-on with Lemur V2 and more on OSC in other applications (many completely free) over the coming months.

To close out, here’s a nice, if simple, video demo of a Max/MSP step sequencer controller with the Lemur. What’s lovely about this is that it shows how building both software and hardware interface from the ground up can really give you control over how you’re playing. (Meaning, even if you hate this, you can go create something for youself that’s exactly what you love.)

this is a sequencer i programmed in max using the lemur as a control interface. it sends midi info to whatever program you use. i also forgot to mention that each track can have independent timings, so varitions can span longer than just 1 bar of music.

lemur users can download it off the jazzmutant website. user name – Andrew Graham

Got Lemur creations of your own? We’d love to see them. (I really appreciated seeing the amazing work Bryant Place was doing with LemurV2 and Ableton Live while I was out in LA.)

  • If it wasn't for the recession, I'd be able to take advantage of the recession-special price drop. Irony!

  • I've been on the fence about getting one of these for a while; while I'm happy with the new pricing, parts of me keeps thinking that we may see multitouch netbooks running windows 7 later this year, and lemur like apps for them not much later

  • Justin

    I used the original Lemur for a while and it worked pretty well for controlling things in Live and Reaktor. My main gripe with it was the internal clock wasn't accurate enough if you built a sequencer to send midi note data to Battery. I don't know if that was a fault of the hardware or the original software and firmware.

  • Paul Norheim

    I`m all for such enterprises, but don`t you think we`ll get similar devices in three to five years for, say 300-500 US dollars due to development and widespread distribution of multi-touch technology?

  • tim

    I'll buy a dual boot lemur/dexter the day they support protools… seems crazy someone has achieved this with an iphone yet the dexter still doesnt offer much to protools users…. for surround panning the touchscreen would be perfect, or should i say could be….

  • Given the price of multitouch LCD screens for phones, I really do expect M-Audio or Novation or somebody to come out with a similar, maybe smaller, gadget in the $300 range soon. Or at least I want one. 🙂

  • Well, I'll say what I said when I reviewed this thing before — yes, yes I do think more of this tech is coming out at lower prices. But it may well be a little bit out, because of musicians' greater need for control, accuracy, low latency. I'm sure we'll get ten-finger tracking on commodity devices; it's just not entirely clear when, exactly. And this is an integrated solution.

    Put it this way – it's worth looking at this, either way. I hope to cover both the Lemur route and the DIY route in 2009. So I won't ignore either one. Both are feasible. 😉

  • jono

    I don't work for Lemur, but I've been involved with hardware development, and some of the comments here indicate that people really aren't informed about the real costs of developing/manufacturing/selling a device like the Lemur. Sure it may be 500 bucks in a few years, but only because it will done by a giant company that can afford to make many thousands of them to bring down costs.

  • Mike

    While I must say that I love my Lemur and the V2 is a big improvement, the features that I consider most valuable (key commands and text controls) are still EXTREMELY BUGGY. While some RAW KEY functions perform as expected, some KEY COMBOS do not work at all. The problem is even more evident when creating KEY COMBOS that contain a modifier attached to a Function Key (ex. Command + F11). While Jazzmutant has declared the V2 software "officially released", it is still very much an early beta.

  • Machines

    I wrestled for over a year on whether or not to purchase a Lemur. I eventually broke down and got one. Returned it a week later.

    No question, the devices are great and are well made but the bottom line for me is that the thing was just too damn complicated. I look forward to the day where there is such a device that is not only deep enough for those who want to get under the hood and create, but also intuitive enough for guys like me who just want to make some music using some alternative controls.

    Simple translation: I was too stupid to figure the thing out.

  • Emil

    Time will eventually force the cheaper copies out on the market, and by then the ones that are easiest to use will be market-leaders, the urge for controlling software in the lemur-way is bigger than the brand-awareness.

  • What's going on after the offer expires?
    New hardware for the lemur ?

  • neu

    @Machines i know what you mean,thats the frist impression when i got my unit.. but when you sit down and learn little by little it becomes more easy to apply to your needs,you can use examples form other templates form other users to learn in how to make your own,theres always people on the lemur forum to help you out also and to share scripts on how to make custom set ups,templates and tips..if you put you sometime to how to learn to program scripts,and make custom midi settings and O.S.C on your spare time,it will take a full potencial on the unit.is not gonna be overnight but in the long run it will..at first i was using it to control one source,now i use it as a multi tasking set up in my studio ,like 3 apple computer link by the ethernet hub,and all my hardware synths and hardware effects at the sametime.its a great tool if you know how to apply it to your needs

  • There is not enough demand from music to cause a significant shift in economies of scale there. It's more that we'd find some way to adapt commodity devices. (But, ironically, I think the musical applications are the most interesting! For general-purpose use, there are real questions about whether multi-touch is that necessary!)

    Anyway, for now, this is a workable solution. And as neu says, a lot of it is about the music-specific implementation and the community around this device.

    I don't believe we're getting a new Lemur — this is the new model. So we'll see what they adjust the prices to at the end of the offer.


  • Chad

    This is stupid. They should just adjust the price permanently at a sustainable figure. I hate the fact that this sale is trying to force people to buy in a short amount of time.

    – c

  • Machines

    @ neu:

    I feel you. At the time I bought mine I just didn't have the time or energy to put into it to make it functional. I had a heck of a time getting it to communicate with Logic for whatever reason. I'd be all over it again when my current album project is finished and I have some down time to mess around with it. Heck, the sequencer shown in the video above is well worth the price of admission.

    It'd be nice to see Jazzmutant release some really nice, comprehensive source material – maybe even something put together by their user base, that can walk new owners through a few simple objects and a step by step way in building some or the more complex stuff. I learn by example so that's just me.

    I was able to make a few pretty cool things with my Lemur, just nothing that was really practical or a replacement for something I already had in a hardware format.

  • Machines

    Just to amend my last comment, it looks like there's a lot more stuff available over at Jazzmutant's site in terms of support materials than there was when I bought mine some time ago. Looks like there is some cool stuff. If they could hit a $1500 pricepoint for a dual boot Lemur/Dexter system, they'd be flying off the shelves. I'd buy one again for that price.

  • Well, if there's anything CDM can provide in addition to JM's support, let me know and I'll be on it once mine arrives!

  • neu

    well i think jazzmutant is always developing in each update and always taking suggestions on the forums by every user to make it better,like peter says ''implementation and the community around this device'' thats what the forum has been a major contributor based on the V.2.firmware by taking ideas and request.

    @ machines
    about the comprenhensive source material? i had suggested to jazzmutant like 2 years ago,to make video tutorials step by step for new users so they dont get lost because is so visual so they can relate to understantd each part of the process,between the objects, interfaces,jazzeditor,etc,they like the idea but i havent seen anything materialized maybe in the near future. also jazzmutant is a small company so we dont know if they had the time or resources to pull it off..maybe i ask them again

  • clark miller

    Way to over priced. You can get a tablet pc and a osc controller and your good to go.

  • Hey, I love tablet PCs … you just have to recognize, these are different interfaces. The tablet has a single touch point, and you have to use it with the conventional interface. The Lemur has multiple touchpoints and is networkable, and the one advantage of the layout schemes is that you may want something simplified for control purposes. Now, in some cases the tablet is actually much *better*, price aside — they're just different, and it depends on your application.

  • Machines

    Peter, you guys do a great job with the Kore noise pages you created. I don't even have Kore yet and I've learned some nice little things about Reaktor along the way. A similar exercise, even if on a smaller scale, with the Lemur would be cool to see.

  • @ chad – isn't that sort of the idea/definition of a sale?

    as sexy as this thing is, i still like the monome better. i just feel closer to the interface/music somehow. maybe it's the real buttons, or maybe it's the simplicity/limitations of it.

    when controlling stuff like maxMSP, i generally find that a more limited interface is usually better. too many blank slates are overload for me.

  • Chad


    You're totally right, it's the definition of a sale.

    I just think they should publish the normal price, so we have a sense for how much of a reduction this sale affords.

    They're leaving it a mystery, and I find that to be a little manipulative.

    – c

  • When I was trying to figure out how to bring my particular brand of music to the stage, being able to perform with tons of automation channels, I looked at the OpenLabs Neko and the Lemur. I settled on a touchscreen and a tower PC. My new touchscreen was 12" for $65 on eBay. I got lucky.

    Aside from latency (which can be solved with a nicer touchscreen) using a little LCD touchscreen and Sensomusic's Usine DAW with it's touchscreen user-buildable GUI (looks like a cross between an iPhone and a Lemur) you get the most control for by far the cheapest price. Which is sad: I think the Lemur is an incredible idea, and it's certainly not their fault the thing costs so much. I've researched how to get multitouch for cheap for a few years now and it's just not possible – even the laptops that are already multitouch pre-Win7 have the terrible problem of finicky drivers and pathetic CPUs (I'm rockin' an overclocked intel dual core 3.0Ghz and it's still not enough, not by a long shot).

    I'm not real sure what Apple is up to with their multitouch capabilities but it seems quite odd that they've not put aything on the store shelves.

  • Hey. I own a Lemur now for half a year. And the decission to buy one took me nearly a year…. But i have no regrets in my decision 🙂

    I also have videochannel where i show some performances and talk about how the controls are build: http://www.youtube.com/tonvibration

    Of course, working with the Lemur is time consuming. The more possibilities you have the more decissions and programming you have to do. Just addding a fader and route it directly to midi is really easy with the jazzeditor. But building more complex controls – and that is where the fun is going on another dimension – migth take time. And i agree: there could/should be more tutorials! But you grow with your projects…

    The tool you use alway influence your outcome. For me: i´m working more with detailed effect controls (like delay timing, startpoint of beatrepeat) since owning the lemur, cause now i can see the values… and control becomes more precise.

    Well – i don´t think that the lemur is compareable to the i-phone apps. Beneath "multitouch on a stamp" the control-configuration is not as flexible as on the lemur. But anyway – they are nice gadgets! And i wonder about all that "touchscreen is coming for everybody", cause this was also the saying one year ago, but till now…..? After 5 years on the market the lemur is still unique….

    We will see what the future brings….

  • Chad

    Why don't they publish the price after the sale? That would give people an idea of how much they are saving.

    I don't see what the harm in that would be.

    – c

  • Micah

    I am sorry.. this is more than my computer and my software… even after the price drop.. it is still insane for a controller…. They will be out of luck when the new touch screens come out in a few years.. and that makes their product irrelevant.. (maybe then they will move to software development rather than the hardware end)… but I mean seriously..especially with the APC 40 comming out… I mean honestly … even if I had the money for the Lemur I still couldn't justify spending that much on a controller/Computer.

  • want

  • @Micah: I really don't see the APC as competition. Physical controls are just a totally different game — better, without question, as far as tangible feedback, but also less flexible (which could *also* be better — just depends on how you think about it).

    I think if you want something on a budget, you want either a separate display or a multi-touch overlay and a DIY approach. And if I went that route, I wouldn't even emulate the Lemur — I'd think about trying something very different (like some other custom 2D UI).

  • I know there has already been discussion on just using a multi-touch laptop instead of a Lemur, I just saw this on Gizmodo and thought it was rather relevent:
    <a href="http://i.gizmodo.com/5150288/12+inch-multitouch-tablet-convertible-dell-latitude-xt2-now-out&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://i.gizmodo.com/5150288/12+inch-multitouch-tablet-convertible-dell-latitude-xt2-now-out” target=”_blank”>;http://i.gizmodo.com/5150288/12+inch-multitouch-tablet-convertible-dell-latitude-xt2-now-out

    Although I love Jazz Mutant's concept and the Lemur/Dexter units are very slick, it just seems like an infinitely better idea to start building similar systems like this Dell one to me. Throw on a couple high-end A/D's and D/A's, tweak it for audio, customize the screen and latches for durability and sell it for $3k. I'd be much more likely to spring for that then drop $1800 for a controller alone.

    When the Lemur first came out it enthralled me, but with more and more multi-touch things on the market it's getting outdated on a daily basis.

  • WhiteNoise

    If Jazzmutant created something like Novation automap where all controls automatically show up on the Lemur then they could reach a much larger audience. Right now this thing is definitely targeted to experimental music, not general music production.