Video: Exploring 4 New-School MIDI Controllers from ROLI, Sensel, and Keith McMillen

As MIDI technology continues to advance and become more dynamic, it's no surprise that forward-thinking companies have been making creative hardware to take advantage of new developments in the protocol. One such development, MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE), allows multidimensional movement to control different MIDI parameters—for example, hitting a pad to trigger a note, moving your finger across that same pad to change the pitch, and pushing down harder to control an effect.

We brought in Chicago-based artist and musician Music Reloaded to check out four innovative MIDI controllers from ROLI, Keith McMillen Instruments, and Sensel, and to show off just a little of what they can do.

Music Reloaded first checks out ROLI's Seaboard Rise 25—an MPE-enabled MIDI controller with a squishy keybed that allows for more dynamic expression than traditional controllers. Just by dragging your finger across the instrument's rubbery surface in different directions or by applying different sorts of pressure, the Seaboard Rise will respond with effects like vibrato, slides, polyphonic pitch-bending, tonal changes, and more.

Music Reloaded also looked at the Lightpad Block from ROLI, which uses the same kind of technology as the Rise, but in a much smaller package. The Block is a multi-touch controller that interfaces with your smartphone, iPad, or your DAW. It's become a popular accessory for producers' live shows because of its portability and expression controls.

Lastly, Music Reloaded looked at the Sensel Morph and the Keith McMillen Instruments 12 Step. The Morph is a new, interchangeable interface with a responsive pressure grid on its face that can be mapped to work as a piano, drum pad, or sampler in combination with one of its companion production pads. The 12 Step, meanwhile, is a portable, MIDI-based foot controller for triggering notes, tracks, and samples or for controlling parameters like volume and pitch.

Be sure to check out the full video above, and let us know what you think of the new-school controllers in the comments.

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