The dream of a keyboard with expansive expression, not just organ-style key-plunking, now sees a new integrated instrument. And the maker of the Haken Continuum is involved.
Expressive E, who had made single three-dimensional controllers, partnered with Haken Audio in order to make this full keyboard. Each key has three-dimensional control, in a mechanical design they’re calling Augmented Keyboard Action. You can strum, you can add vibrato, more detailed legato, or add layered notes – all this good stuff, minus having to just play keys and twist knobs or turn wheels.
We’ve seen three-dimensional keys before, at least as limited-run (or one-off) inventions. And we’ve seen various touch-style keyboards (like those from ROLI), and pads with multi-axis input (like those from Roger Linn and Polyend).
What we haven’t seen, though, is a mass-produced three-dimensional mechanical keyboard (that is, with individually articulated keys). And we haven’t seen very many instruments with integrated sound engines. The Osmose is both.
Haken’s role here was to contribute their powerful EaganMatrix Sound Engine, which is already designed to be integrated with hardware and is built around three-dimensional expressive control as input. This is the same engine previously found on the Continuum Fingerboard and ContinuuMini. You get physical modeling, additive, subtractive, FM, virtual analog, granular and spectral synthesis models, for various acoustic and electronic sounds, plus loads of presets. (There was a reason I was complaining lately that Roland needs to move its sound engine forward.)
The difference is, if you didn’t much like the undifferentiated ribbon of the Continuum, now you get something with keys on it. So for keyboardists and pianists, you don’t lose the investment of learning to play your instrument – or centuries of music composition.
This custom engineering costs money – the Osmose will be US$/€1799. (Funny, it was only a few years ago when that counted as “mid-range.”) But they’ve found a novel solution to ramping up production. Early bird buyers reserving before December 31, 2019 will get a massive 40% discount, so that it only costs USD/EUR 1079. And you don’t have to put up all of that right away – they’re taking just $299 as deposit. That’s more reasonable than the usual Kickstarter deal.
Specs on this instrument:
- 49 full-sized keys
- MIDI controller, with MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) and MPE+ support
- 24-voice polyphony, layered and split modes
- 8 encoders, 9 buttons, pitch stick/modulation stick
- Color LCD
- 2 continuous pedal inputs (assignable)
- MIDI in, out/thru
- USB type B (okay, actually odd not to see USB-C here on a futuristic instrument but – then again, it doesn’t much matter)
- 24-bit D/A conversion
- Mac/Windows editor for creating and editing EagenMatrix sounds and assign the 3-axis key movements
Here’s how it works as a MIDI controller:
and some artists getting hands on:
From the past – remember this? The Hyperkeys had a similar idea, but seemed never to make it into real production.