Pianos and keyboards can be huge beasts, meaning that players are often set to one side of the stage behind the front line of guitarists, bass players and vocalists. Not always though. Edgar Winter first strapped a keyboard around his neck in the early 1970s, and this was followed by dedicated guitar-like instruments known as keytars – used by famed key ticklers like Jan Hammer and Jean-Michel Jarre, among others. Now Roland has announced a new flavor called the AX-Edge that looks destined for big hair stadium rockers.

This blade-shaped, battery-powered synthesizer comes with a main keyboard body packing 49 full-sized keys (with velocity and channel aftertouch) and various parameter and control buttons, and a "neck" sporting a modulation bar, pressure sensitive pitch ribbon, buttons for portamento/hold/octave/program change and user assignable controls. Roland says that the AX-Edge has been optimized for stage performance and features its latest Synth-EX sound technologies.

It offers 320 programs, more than 500 preset tones and 256 user tones, an arpeggiator and song player can be fired up to dial in backing grooves, and there's a built-in vocoder to give backing vocals something extra or just downright strange. At-a-glance settings confirmation can be had via a 16 character, two line LCD display and a 3 x 7 segment LED display.

Chorus, reverb and compressor are among the numerous part- and multi-effects available, and Bluetooth MIDI caters for sonic tweaking using a companion app. A Tone Remain feature allows players to switch between sounds without worrying about applied affects or played notes abruptly ending.

The AX-Edge is available in white or black, with the latter being the coolest of the two, with all 49 keys in black as opposed to the white model's familiar black and white key format. Both variants can be customized with interchangeable Edge Blades, trims that change the look of the keytar. Each model will come with an extra Blade.

Players can expect up to four hours of use between charges when Ni-MH batteries are popped in, though the instrument can be powered using an AC adapter for all-nighters or studio sessions.

No word on availability as yet, but pricing will be around the US$1,000 mark. You can get a brief taste of this rocking new keytar in the video below.

Product page: AX-Edge

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