ROLI created waves a few years ago with the launch of the Seaboard. This strange looking playing device resembled a traditional keyboard covered in neoprene, the material wet suits are made from. In essence, the Seaboard was a polyphonic, multi-touch keyboard made from soft silicone, enabling more expressive playing.
After 6 years, rapid expansion, and mounting losses, the company had to go into administration and restructure in September 2021. 6 months later, the company, now called Luminary, announced the release of a new Seaboard Rise as pre-order.
What does the reincarnation of the ROLI Seaboard bring?
At the centre of the upgrades is a new keybed called Keywave 2. This new surface is supposed to be easier to play and more durable. ROLI realised that playing in tune is difficult, so new precision frets and a broader playing surface with ridged edges should overcome those challenges.
The second major change is the new aluminium enclosure, which promises a premium feel familiar from Apple products, as well as being more durable.
ROLI Seaboard Rise 2 connects through either MIDI or USB 2. The instrument also encompasses:
3 touch faders
A touch pad
A modulation strip above the key bed
ROLI optimised its Equator2 plugin to make most of the MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) the Seaboard is capable of. The software is sold separately for $249, yet included in the price of the Seaboard Rise 2. The full software range included is:
I have tried the ROLI Seaboard once or twice. As a trained pianist, I found the spongy feel unusual, to say the least. Having an expressive key bed, which allows you to glide notes, change volume and expression on the fly, is useful for some occasions. But in my view, it will never replace a traditional keyboard. Therefore, ROLI Seaboard feels like a luxury.
Having said that, I will reserve my full judgment on the relaunched Seaboard Rise 2 until I can play it.
The product is only available as pre-order at the moment. It will be produced in limited batches, with the next release (batch 4) due to be delivered in November 2022, at the time of the launch (end of March 2022).
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