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Roli Seaboard Block vs Seaboard Rise


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A bit more than a year ago, i almost bought a Roli Rise; but no, family finance oblige, i had to temporary give up and later i got a Roli Seaboard Block.

 

The Block have some obvious limit, in particolar 2 octaves and small key, that prevent me to play anything too complex, but i have actively used it with my band, including in a concert, and in the studio for DAW compositions.

 

The strong point, even in composing, is that you can 'feel' differently an instrument, so you can start more to think in term of new expressive possibility; like you play an electric guitar, or a violin, and you incorporate a glissato

in you playing or composition style.

 

But, i find really really difficult to obtain a good consistency in sounds (level mostly, i would say the Press gesture is the first culprit, and the slide), and using the Seabord Block for MIDI recording require a lot of editing afterward.

 

The question to those of you that used both a Rise and a Block: it is me (need more practice) or the Rise give more detail in controlling the different dimension ?

 

Maurizio

OB-6, Modx 7, Rameau upright. Too many Arturia, NI and AAS plugins.

http://www.barbogio.org/

 

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I own a Block and haven't played a Rise, so I can't speak to a difference between the two, but I definitely have found that from patch to patch, softsynth to softsynth, there can be a GREAT amount of variance between how the touch gestures control volume, pitch, and modulation. The great thing about this is that it can be almost infinitely customized, both from the "sending" side (what information the Seaboard is actually transmitting to your virtual instrument when you play it) and the receiving side (how your software instruments interpret these gestures, and how finely). The tricky thing about it... is the same thing. All those parameters that vary from patch to patch means it can be very time consuming to adjust them so they feel consistent to you.

 

Over time, I've found what helps make the Block feel like a more organic playing experience for me with some of my favorite virtual instruments, and I've also found certain playing styles and types of parts I gravitate towards with the Block, while other things just seem to work better with a more traditional playing surface.

Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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I love the idea of getting one of these seaboards. I have heard that the software etc. Is a bit complex to learn. Roughly how long would you say it would take to get to grips with the technical side of one of these instruments? (For someone who is not particularly quick at getting to grips with computers....)
"Turn your fingers into a dust rag and keep them keys clean!" ;) Bluzeyone
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I"ve been on the fence about purchasing a Roli for a while. I was gonna start a thread looking for opinions/reviews since I know there"s a least a few players here that own one. Maybe you guys could answer some questions?

 

Is the software/synth a usable/unique-sounding sound source?

Is the board a usable controller for other things? You ever use a standard keyboard sound with it? Ever map out another synth (Omnisphere?) to work with Roli"s MPE capabilities?

Are you glad you bought it?

Do you wish you got the 49-key instead?

 

Thanks.

Formerly âChiefDanGâ - nobody calls me chief anymore.
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It's definitely a polarizing controller. I love mine, but it's not to everyone's taste, and there are other MPE controllers that fit other folks' styles better for them.

I have heard that the software etc. Is a bit complex to learn. Roughly how long would you say it would take to get to grips with the technical side of one of these instruments? (For someone who is not particularly quick at getting to grips with computers....)
It depends on how much you want to be tweaking and how much you just want to pick sounds and go. Roli's Equator (and its limited iOS offshoot, Noise) plus Cypher 2 and the other proprietary or semi-proprietary softsynths that Roli provides (at least in the "player" form with the option for paid upgrade), all have lots and lots of sounds that are interesting, though they're heavy on EDM-inspired synths and hybrid acoustic sounds (it's a flute but when you press down it bitcrushes, it's a marimba with a touch-controlled lowpass filter, that sort of thing). I think the software is complex and takes some puzzling to get the hang of, but synthesis isn't my first love the way it is for a lot of folks on the forum; I also find an ARP to be complex and requiring puzzling to get the hang of. As far as actually connecting to a computer, the Bluetooth connection has a few steps the first time, but USB is pretty straightforward.

 

Is the software/synth a usable/unique-sounding sound source?
Equator is usable, absolutely, and it remains the most responsive to the Seaboard's MPE signals of any apps and VSTs I've tried out. "Unique" might be subjective based on my description above; you can listen to out some of their patches online, but it's a very flexible piece of software that does a cool mix of samples and different methods of synthesis. I like a lot of the sounds, and I've managed to create some others that suit my needs. Sometimes I still just want a Moog or Oberheim sound.

Is the board a usable controller for other things? You ever use a standard keyboard sound with it? Ever map out another synth (Omnisphere?) to work with Roli"s MPE capabilities?
Lots of variables. You can use it with almost anything. The scope of what actually interprets all the touch gestures is smaller, but there's a growing list of MPE-compatible software and hardware synths that can utilize it. It's just that a lot of them handle its signals differently, so there can be a learning curve every time you try it with new software.

 

I've used standard keyboard sounds with it, usually simple auxiliary things like glockenspiel or chimes (be careful you hit that key right on and lift right off so you don't bend the note). I haven't used Omnisphere, so I can't comment specifically on its compatibility, but I've used lots of different synths, particularly Moog Model D on iOS, and lots of stuff in Mainstage. I got the Seaboard primarily to be a synthesizer, which it both is and isn't -- I've found it to be most effective for basses and lead lines, things where you can take advantage of the expression, while I struggle more to perform and execute more typical keyboard gestures like fast arpeggios or repeated block chords (tuning!). There are lots of ways to reroute and limit the expression signals that the Seaboard sends, but, again, the way it behaves doesn't feel standardized across sound sources, so you can wind up spending a lot of time puttering around. Pitch bend range is the most obvious example -- whatever source you control needs to be able to set a bend range of 48 semitones for the "glide" parameter to work properly. Otherwise you can slide down what looks like an octave on the keyboard but it will only go down, say, a fifth. Again, though, for someone more literate with MIDI and with synthesis, the learning curve might not be as steep.

 

Are you glad you bought it?
Yes.

Do you wish you got the 49-key instead?
If I had an unlimited budget, I would want the 49-key Rise with the extra modulation touch surfaces, but at $1200 that's a try-before-you-buy purchase. The Block is handy for its compact size and easy portability (I love, love, love MIDI-over-Bluetooth), and at $200-give-or-take I've gotten a ton of creative use out of it. And I will say that on gigs it doesn't really feel like "another board to carry in" since it's tiny and weighs nothing. It's a tradeoff for the limitations of a 23-note controller.

Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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If I had an unlimited budget, I would want the 49-key Rise with the extra modulation touch surfaces, but at $1200 that's a try-before-you-buy purchase. The Block is handy for its compact size and easy portability (I love, love, love MIDI-over-Bluetooth), and at $200-give-or-take I've gotten a ton of creative use out of it. And I will say that on gigs it doesn't really feel like "another board to carry in" since it's tiny and weighs nothing. It's a tradeoff for the limitations of a 23-note controller.

 

On this side, what i found great is that it fit perfectly (using a L-Shaped USB-C cable) on my Nord NE-HP5, just on the right of the knobs area.

 

About using it with non MPE software instruments: you can use the roli dashboard to change the pitch bend rage; i used it with an Arturia Mini V, and you can use the slide in this way, with precise (more or less :) notes.

 

Another musical thing: it is great for making animated pads: just a bit of change in press and slide for each finger give the pad enough movement to make it alive.

Easier to master than i thought.

 

The big question is still: is the jump to the rise worth the price ? Or maybe is simpler and cheaper to add a second Block (you can just stick them together to get 4 octaves) ?

 

Maurizio

OB-6, Modx 7, Rameau upright. Too many Arturia, NI and AAS plugins.

http://www.barbogio.org/

 

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The big question is still: is the jump to the rise worth the price ? Or maybe is simpler and cheaper to add a second Block (you can just stick them together to get 4 octaves) ?
That's true! You can also use other USB interfaces (or even a phone or tablet) to MIDI-learn the parameters that would normally be on the Rise's three sliders and XY pad.

 

I got one of Roli's LUMI keyboards to both extend the range of the Seaboard Block and have a more traditional playing surface for some of the kinds of playing that I struggle with on the Seaboard surface (and, you know, flashing colored lights onstage)... but I can already tell it's not built very well and when I can finally take it out to gigs I'm going to just destroy it. Either way, another Block isn't out of the question for me at some point down the line. Do note that the size of the keys is slightly smaller on the Blocks compared to the Rise.

Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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But, i find really really difficult to obtain a good consistency in sounds (level mostly, i would say the Press gesture is the first culprit, and the slide),

Maurizio

 

This is why I sold the Roli Seaboard Grand. It's very clever. It is more expressive on slow lines than any keyboard I've had (big hopes for the Osmose in that department). But I couldn't deal with the semitone limitation their first generation keyboards had.

 

To the polarizing comment, I ultimately found it to be similar enough to a keyboard to be frustrating, but not rewarding enough to warrant serious practice. The Continuum seems to be the winner for "acoustic instrument subtlety and control", but then it is a whole different thing. So, I'm waiting for the Osmose.

 

I fully agree with Samuel L on Equator - it is great software.

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I have also wondered if the Seaboard Rise has better resolution of the pressure and slide dimensions than the Seaboard Block. The resolution issue seems to be more obvious on certain patches. Has anyone played both and compared the resolution?

 

I have recently purchased a MIDI host USB to MIDI 5 pin converter allowing the Seaboard Block to control a Behringer Model D (without a computer). This works well for synth bass, allowing bends without a pitch wheel (glide) and filter control with the slide movement.

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I have recently purchased a MIDI host USB to MIDI 5 pin converter allowing the Seaboard Block to control a Behringer Model D (without a computer). This works well for synth bass, allowing bends without a pitch wheel (glide) and filter control with the slide movement.
I have dreamed of this delicious combination. If you have the chance to record some video or audio, please do share it!

Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some other analysis.

 

After this discussion i started to look around for alternate controllers, and in particuler Touché SE and the breath controller Tec BBC2; look around meaning reading the relevant threads here and looking at some interesting Youtube video. I found the BBC2 interesting, especially after playing a Melodica (that show me that coordinating breath and a keyboard is not a big deal, and that the kind of physical connection thru breath give you control and feeling).

 

But the important point is that i realised a major limit of the Seaboard (block or rise), limit that imho will apply also to the Osmose: in most of the instruments (and for some of them depending of the music style) the gestures to control the dynamic are different from the gesture to play a specific note.

 

On a violin, the bow that control the dynamic for a legato phrase is a very different gesture that the finger movement that select the note: moreover the violinist think the bowing as applying to the phrase, not to a singular note.

This true for an Accordeon or a Melodica, but also for most of the wind instruments: even if in some playing technique you synchronise breath/tongue with the note you are playing, in legato playing you apply the dynamics (crescendo for example) to the musical phrase as such, with a single gesture.

 

Any keyboard, including the Roli, impose a single gesture for each note; in order to emulate a legato crescendo phrase on a Roli, for exemple on a violin sound, you have to apply a uniform crescendo sequence of pressure on the different notes, thing that for me is almost impossible (but i am sure that there are players able to do it); while controlling a crescendo on a legato phrase with a Touché or a breath controller would be absolutely natural.

 

This is not of course to say Seaboards are not good; just to say that there things that works better with some kind of controllers (for exemple, try a glide with a BBC2, possible using pitch bend, but extremely difficult to do

well tuned for large intervals).

 

Maurizio

OB-6, Modx 7, Rameau upright. Too many Arturia, NI and AAS plugins.

http://www.barbogio.org/

 

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But the important point is that i realised a major limit of the Seaboard (block or rise), limit that imho will apply also to the Osmose: in most of the instruments (and for some of them depending of the music style) the gestures to control the dynamic are different from the gesture to play a specific note.
Absolutely! But personally, I don't think of this as a limitation, at least for my use cases: the original reason I wanted a Seaboard was because I often found myself in situations where I was playing, say, an organ pad with one hand, and a synth line in the other, and I didn't want to have to drop the pad to work the pitch bend or mod wheel. The Seaboard allowed me to overcome the limitation of needing two hands for a simple synth part: one to play notes, and the other to control expression. I could do all of that with one hand and keep the other busy elsewhere.

 

There are times when I'm not multitasking that I want to use the Seaboard differently; I occasionally map certain parameters to other knobs, sliders, pedals, and wheels so that I don't need to control all aspects of the sound I'm playing with the same one-handed gesture. But also, there are times when a normal keyboard (or another instrument) is just more suited to certain parts. If I'm playing synth bass, for instance, the song and the part I want to play often determine whether I want to play the Seaboard, or a typical synth controller with pitch bend and modulation wheels. So it certainly doesn't solve all potential problems of playing a keyboard instrument expressively.

Samuel B. Lupowitz

Musician. Songwriter. Food Enthusiast. Bad Pun Aficionado.

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So it certainly doesn't solve all potential problems of playing a keyboard instrument expressively.

 

Yes; the point i was trying to make was more referred to my personal difficulties described at the beginning of the thread: in some phrase style it is difficult to get something coherent from the Roli; but the problem is not with the Roli, and it would not be solved moving from a Block to a Rise; the problem is with the paradigm itself, i should not try to bend the paradigm, because it will not work. Better use the good controller for each kind

of musical objective :->

 

Maurizio

OB-6, Modx 7, Rameau upright. Too many Arturia, NI and AAS plugins.

http://www.barbogio.org/

 

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