Almost 6 years ago, a video showing a new guitar-shaped digital instrument went viral and plans were hatched to bring the Misa Digital Guitar to market. The instrument was further developed, renamed the Kitara and unveiled at CES 2011. We got to spend some quality time with the futuristic axe later that year, and were suitably impressed. Production ended in 2013, however, with the introduction of the Misa Tri-bass. The latest project from the embedded systems engineer behind all of those creations, Michael Zarimis, offers an alternative take on the step sequencer.
"The NSC-32 is a hands-on 'live' sequencer, where the idea is you can quickly switch note patterns and manipulate them on the grid," Zarimis told us. "It encourages improvisation in electronic music."
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The 57.5 x 27 x 3 cm (22.6 x 10.6 x 1.18 in) note sequence controller features 16 command, function and control buttons down the left, over a thousand buttons or cells in a central grid and six faders to the right that can be assigned to MIDI CC parameters.
The unit itself can be used to create note sequences or patterns, but the sounds of those notes will need to come from an external synth, sampler or software running on a connected computer. The available BPM ranges from 50 to 241 and up to six sequences can be played simultaneously.
"Because it's a grid, everything naturally quantizes to the grid resolution," explained Zarimis. "Each pattern can have its own time resolution of 1/4 notes, 1/8, 1/16 to 1/32nd notes."
Users can copy, paste, move and mute notes and patterns, as well as change octaves or loop positions and sustain notes across the grid. Drum patterns, for example, could be positioned in the lower right of the grid, arpeggios in the top left and a specific track in the middle area somewhere.
The controller is capable of storing up to 768 sequences in local memory (EEPROM). When the Load button down the left is pressed, the grid lights up to indicate saved pattern locations. Patterns can be stored and recalled in real time while a sequence is playing, allowing for live mixing.
"The bottom left corner button is a bit different," said the device's creator. "It's a convenience function really, it's basically the same thing as a 'M' and 'MR' button on a calculator. If you press the Store button, it just stores what's on the grid at that point in time. Then you can make any change you want, and if you want to go back to the way it was before, you just press 'shift' plus that button which recalls the original saved pattern."
The NSC-32 is built using custom electronics and control software and supports MIDI input, allowing players to enter notes via keyboard or drumpad and then tweak using the grid. There's a MIDI output, too, and a USB port, which can also be used for MIDI, as well as cater for firmware upgrades and loading new patterns into the device from a computer or laptop.
The NSC-32 is available now for US$1,299 (excluding shipping and tax), and comes supplied with a DC power adapter.
You can see the controller in action in the video below.
Product page: NSC-32