Ball-shaped bashers strike a precise MIDI beat
Using samples can bring a convincing level of realism to drum sounds when creating digital music, but the real deal would be even better. You could build yourself a code-controlled Stickboy robotic rhythm master for some authentic paradiddling, or you could make use of a Polish innovation called Perc that marries digital and acoustic beat-making with the help of MIDI commands and ball-ended bashing.
Developed as a way to create precision, repeatable drum parts without using sequenced samples, the Perc is a mechanical playing system with a controller box cabled to strategically-positioned arms, each ending in a machined aluminum ball with a built-in percussion striker. Polyend isn't giving too much away about what's inside the ball, but the company's Piotr Raczynski confirmed that the beater is wooden and the patent-pending "mechanism is based upon electromagnets."
Perc is reported capable of playing any real-world percussion instrument that can be bashed with a stick or a hand, which goes beyond drum kits to the likes of tubular bells, glockenspiels, and steel drums. Precisely when to bash and how to hard to hit are fed into the system's processing brain over MIDI – pre-programmed using MIDI software running on a tablet, for example, or controlled in real-time using MIDI hardware such as pads.
Over 1,200 beats per minute are reported well within reach, and the system can fly solo for a more realistic timbre than digital drum machines can provide or be added to a traditional drum kit setup to extend the reach of a human rhythm maker into the realms of the otherwise impossible.
Up to three percussion strikers can be connected to the controller via USB, MIDI DIN or CV ports, and the box sports dedicated outputs for each ball. The arm and ball beater comes with its own mount to allow attachment to a stand.
The development team is still working on the chassis design for the controller box (hence the lack of promo photos), but the system is expected to go up for pre-order later this month ahead of estimated September shipping. A controller and one ball-shaped beater will be priced at €799/US$799. Additional balls will come in at €200 each. You can get a brief taste of the action in the video below.