Artiphon's Instrument 1 has changed significantly since we last saw it back in February 2014. The latest, retail-ready version of the product is more widely compatible and features a new design with a more compact form factor. The company has headed to Kickstarter to fund the latest incarnation of the ambitious multi-instrument, and it's already surpassed its funding goal.
Despite its redesign, the Instrument 1 is essentially the same beast that we first saw back in 2012. It's designed to mimic a guitar, bass, violin, piano and drum machine, all in one compact, relatively affordable package, providing musicians (both experienced players and beginners) with a versatile tool for music creation.
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The multi-instrument consists of a force-sensitive fretboard alongside a digital string-like interface and built-in speakers. It's designed to be played in various ways, mimicking different instrument depending on how it's held, from strumming it like a guitar to putting it on your lap and using the frets as piano keys.
It's a class-compliant USB MIDI and audio device, with plug-in-and-play compatibility with hundreds of apps including popular software such as Garageband, Logic Pro, ProTools and Ableton Live. The company has tested it extensively with both OS X and Windows applications.
While you'll be able to plug the multi-instrument into a whole range of apps, it's also capable of standalone functionality. Users can create custom instruments using the iOS companion app, before storing them as a present on the Instrument 1 itself.
"You'll be able to choose and customize the sound, the tuning, as well as the way that the interface reacts to touch (fretted or fretless, for instance)," said Artiphon's Jacob Gordon. "You will even be able to map effects to pressure sensitivity, so pressing harder on a note can actuate things such as LFO filters."
An evolution of form
It's been a while since we last saw the Instrument 1, but its creators haven't been resting on their laurels. It took a year for Artiphon to redesign its ambitious product, taking into account feedback from the public via user studies and extensive beta testing.
"We obsessed over every inch and curve of its form," said Gordon. "It's a fascinating challenge to design an object that is not just elegant, but that can be held and played in multiple positions. Most of the products we use in our daily lives are designed to be held in only one way. The multi-instrument concept presented a whole new landscape."
Perhaps the biggest change between the earlier versions of the Instrument 1 and its current form is the evolution of build materials. While the pricier Nashville Edition features a hardwood back, the standard versions of the instrument are made from plastic this time around – a change made to accommodate a lower price point, making the product more accessible.
The new build is also lightweight, weighing in at under 2 lb (0.9 kg). Artiphon believes this represents a sweet spot for ensuring player comfort in various positions, while also being easy to carry around.
The new model also does away with the built-in iPhone/iPod touch slot, opting instead for a USB/Lightning solution. This allows the user to connect the Instrument 1 to their iPad and iPhone, as well as other devices such as Macs and PCs. Given the fast-moving nature of the mobile industry –where a current flagship device is quickly replaced by another, often within a year of release – the change to the more versatile, USB and Lightning-based connection makes perfect sense.
Due to its commitment to providing an enjoyable user experience, the Artiphon companion app will be iOS-only at launch, but the company is fairly open to the idea of supporting a wider range of mobile devices down the line.
"During the course of our launch we've heard from a chorus of people asking for Android support, and this is redoubling our commitment to exploring it," said Gordon. "That said, the Artiphon companion app will be native to iOS when it is release. We need to make sure we offer the best app experience we can, and this means focusing our efforts on one mobile platform initially."
The Instrument 1 is currently the subject of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Up to this point, the multi-instrument has raised US$750,000 – an impressive figure considering its $75,000 target. If you're interested in owning one, you can pledge $349 for the standard plastic black or white model, or $699 for the hardwood-backed, premium speaker-packing Nashville Edition. If everything stays on track, the company hopes to ship out units to backers in January 2016.
You can see and hear it in use, in the video below.