- We (hopefully) blow your minds with some cool musical gadgets.
- We focus on innovative and unique ideas for a range of audiences.
- We help you try to get a fresh perspective on how music can be made.
7 Innovative Musical Gadgets
With a wide variety of technological and musical innovations on the horizon, it is an exciting time to be a musician or a producer.
Technology has given rise to a new breed of device capability and connectivity; offering us more competitive pricing and features across a range of tools and equipment.
One of the more interesting, innovative, and competitive sectors is within the tech industry. The electronic musical instrument and production community is booming.
With constant developments in apps, portability, Bluetooth, and more on the way, it’s really exciting to see some of the tech coming out. So without further ado, here’s a spotlight on what we think are some of the most exciting bits of gear to come out of the woodwork lately.
1. ORBA by Artiphon.
A compact and unique toy for work or play.
The Orba is a small, round device currently being crowdfunded and developed by instrument company Artiphon.
Artiphon was responsible for the infamous INSTRUMENT 1, which gave a string-like functionality to the user and allowed them to strum and bend notes like a guitar or violin.
The Orba is a much different device. It is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and sports 8 pressure and aftertouch sensitive pads.
This device incorporates an accelerometer allowing for the user to program it to pitch-bend, filter, or any number of cool techniques.
These functions can be controlled with the flick of your wrist or an extended press on one of the pads.
The Orba has a built-in separate synthesizer and looper and can be connected to a stack of apps with Bluetooth or USB connectivity.
It can be programmed with various MIDI and expressive information depending on how you’d like to use it.
Having seen what this thing is capable of, it’s easy to understand why there’s a pretty hefty queue forming behind the Orba. Artiphon has passed their funding goal, but you can still reserve one for $99 USD.
2. MIDI FIGHTER by DJ TechTools
Famous for rock-solid durability
The MIDI FIGHTER is one of the coolest and most recognized button controllers on the scene.
DJ TechTools first released it on the market back in 2013 and, over time, adding new features like accelerometer-based controls and FX parameters.
DJ TechTools’ most recent release is the MIDI FIGHTER 64: a mammoth 64-button version of their controller; with more banks, more lights, and more everything.
This device is an answer to some of the other 64 button pads on the market like the Novation Launchpad or the Ableton Push.
The main difference between standard pads and these special little buttons is that these were designed based on buttons used in Sega and Nintendo arcade machines.
This means they have no moving parts and are designed to be bashed.
These buttons are rated for over 5 million ‘vigorous presses’ and have fully customizable RGB patterns and light programming ability.
This thing is a must-have for finger drummers, especially those looking to find more fun and visual way to experience their creativity.
Starting from around $200 USD, the MIDI FIGHTER range definitely shouldn’t be overlooked when looking for some buttons to bash.
3. Jammy EVO
A relatively new company with a proven concept.
Ever wonder what happened to the infamous Key-tar’s of the ’80s? Well, a lot actually. US-based Jammy Instruments won NAMM’s prestigious 2018 Best In Show Awards for their bold new iteration of the MIDI guitar.
Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to demo and review their first iteration.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, Jammy has announced their next-gen model- the Jammy EVO.
The EVO features the same great design that was found in the original Jammy but with some nifty upgrades.
For starters, the EVO’s frame is collapsible and fits into a small backpack.
It also has (optional) replaceable metal strings and an accelerometer that can be MIDI-mapped for any use, such as a filter or classic whammy bar.
With the inclusion of several knobs and button encoders; you have the freedom to map, trigger, and control effects in multiple different ways.
This bad boy suits any genre and gives you a ton of expression to get your musical ideas from concept to creation.
The lightweight nature and great form factor add to this aesthetically pleasing little kit that honestly ticks just about every box you could think of when trying to design a midi guitar.
The very definition of audio device innovation.
Probably one of the first and most infamously successful Kickstarter projects next to Oculus, the SubPac is still evolving.
The SubPac is a wearable low-frequency resonating unit. In conjunction with a built-in headphone amp, the SubPac imitates that feeling in the body that can only be generated by a pumping sound system.
The SubPac gives the user the ability to FEEL the bass that comes with the sound they are creating and gives a distinct edge when it comes to the creation of bass music genres like grime, dubstep, and house.
Since its inception, Subpac has had huge success in the fields of VR gaming, cinema immersion, and even had their systems incorporated into the upholstery of some more top tier sports cars.
The SubPac came about in 2013 and almost immediately clicked with artists from George Clinton to DADA LIFE to Flying Lotus.
All praised its ability to provide a new edge to performing and creating music. Other huge names like Timbaland, Richie Hawtin, and even Skinny Puppy joined in.
With both a wearable and a studio-chair version, this hefty experience is one worth having if you can find the spare cash to pick one up.
5. Joué Play
Fun and engaging while maintaining all levels of integrity.
The Joué Play is a fun and compact unit which finally achieves what many others have attempted: instantaneous modular switch-outs.
The Joué Play consists of a base unit and several rubber strips that lay down over the top of the base unit.
These strips consist of touch-sensitive and responsive material with various shapes and patterns. Allowing for expressive slide gestures and programmable responses, the Joué Play really shines in a noticeable way.
The Joué Play comes with a stack of epic sounds and samples and can be fully customized, replaced or tweaked with its companion app and an iOS adapter.
With unparalleled plug-and-play capability, and the ability to switch between instrument surfaces in under a second, this controller has a lot of bang-for-buck.
As with Artiphon, their Kickstarter has surpassed its goal, but you can still order a kit to suit you.
Kits start from $289 USD, which will get you the board unit, 4 separate removable interfaces, sample packs, and onboard sound kits.
6. ROLI LUMI
ROLI back at it again with the white vans.
LUMI is a brilliant innovative design from the recently famed ROLI family.
Well known for their Seaboard and Studio Block devices, ROLI has created something with beginners in mind.
LUMI is a small keyboard designed to sync with a tablet or phone and work in a similar way to Guitar Hero.
Notes on the screen travel towards the user or ‘player’, and they press or hold the corresponding notes.
The LUMI keyboard lights up when a key needs to be pressed and its interface offers different speeds and styles, making it a fantastic visual identifier and a confrontation-free way to learn.
Guiding budding musicians towards a better understanding of music theory and songwriting. It FEELS like a game but is actually an incredible resource for anyone who loves music but doesn’t have the time or money for lessons.
Offering contemporary or classical songs, as well as freestyle modes, the LUMI is designed to be approachable by anyone.
It is also worth noting that the LUMI can be paired to other ROLI products and used by pros in a pure production setup too!
Providing a unique and colorful addition to your studio, you can grab your LUMI here.
7. LIVID INSTRUMENTS MINIM
Little known, but long-standing company: Livid Instruments, might have crafted their masterpiece.
The MINIM is a tiny freestanding instrument from Livid instruments.
Having started up back in 2006, Livid Instruments has been focused on a mission to condense all your music-making needs into one portable device.
The MINIM has 8 ultra-expressive pads, 15 buttons, a “touch fader” and can be used in conjunction with nearly every DAW on the market.
The MINIM is designed from the ground up to be a portable device for sketching ideas as well as completing fully-fledged projects.
MINIM is the size of an iPhone 6 (remember those?) and weighing only a few grams, is the most travel-friendly device around.
With an accelerometer, aftertouch full compatibility with any iOS device, and a whole plethora of other expressive features, it’s actually insane to see what this little package can do.
There is a huge stack of benefits available for early adopters. We’ll let you explore, but for starters, at the time of writing this piece, you’ll score a hard or soft shell case at the bare MINIMum
The MINIM would fit perfectly into the setup of any serious traveling musician or producer and scores a BIG thumbs up from this author.