Roli takes aim at expressionists on a budget with the Block controller
British digital instrument maker Roli has announced a new addition to it Blocks modular instrument studio introduced late last year. The Seaboard Block kind of bridges the gap between its spongy keyboards and its modular music setup, while also making keywave expression available to players on a budget. Where its Seaboard cousins range in price from $800 to over $8,000, Roli is making the Block available for under $300.
Roli's new Seaboard Block looks like a mini keyboard from a distance, but features the company's Keywave technology first seen in the expensive but expressive Seaboard Grand. Like that 88-key controller, the Block's silicone playing area is essentially turned into one continuous touch surface, with raised keys that flex to the touch. The keying area can be used like a traditional piano keyboard, but artists can also slip and slide over the surface to change pitch, volume or timbre.
Roli's Seaboard touch-responsive interfaces have been getting more travel-friendly over the years, with the Rise variant shrinking down to just 25 Keywaves plus a control area to the left side. For the Block, the company has snapped off the control area and introduced a new Touch module to change the 24 keywave controller's expressive behavior.
The new controller works with Roli's Noise mobile sound engine app for iOS and Android, as well as a desktop computer sound maker based on Roli's flagship sound engine called the Equator Player. Both the app and the software include more than 100 sounds, but the Block Bluetooth controller also comes with six new soundpacks. The Blocks Dashboard, meanwhile, allows the system to integrate with digital audio workstation suites such as Ableton Live and Logic Pro.
As its name suggests, the Block controller is designed to work with Roli's modular Blocks system. The Lightpad, Touch, Live and Loop Block modules each have their own functions, but can click together via magnetic connectors that also send data between them to build custom instruments. Now the 11 x 1 x 5.5 in (282 x 24.7 x 141 mm) Block controller can be added to the mix. And in keeping with the modular theme, if 24 keywaves are just not enough, players can click together more than one Block controller to suit their needs.
Roli says the Block controller will give 10 hours of play time for ever four hours on charge, though there's also a USB-C port for cabled power (as well as MIDI out).
The Seaboard Block is available now for US$299. The demo video below showcases some of its expressive power.