The best controllers to buy in 2022: Eight of the best MPE MIDI controllers
Take MIDI control into new dimensions with these innovative MPE devices.
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MPE is an advanced form of MIDI that allows a player to control an expanded set of parameters in realtime such as timbre, pitch and amplitude. Paired with MPE-capable software synths and other instruments, it opens up a whole new world of creative performance.
Although MPE has been around for over a decade, there are still relatively few hardware devices that support it – but numbers are slowly increasing. Software support is improving too, with many major DAWs equipped with MPE input and a number of specialised soft synths, such as ROLI’s Equator 2, designed from the ground up to work with it. MPE looks like the future of MIDI control. And here are eight controllers that will help you harness its power.
ROLI Seaboard Rise 2
ROLI is a leader in the world of MPE and its new Seaboard Rise 2 represents a refinement of the original design, its soft silicone playing surface allowing five dimensions of touch and now with a more ergonomic playing surface than before over its 49 keys.
It also ships with a selection of excellent MPE-capable softsynths including Equator 2 and ROLI’s powerful Dashboard software. With USB-C and MIDI outputs, it’s as happy plugging into your hardware instruments as into your DAW. It’s not available just yet, but you can preorder it now to get your hands on it as soon as it’s out.
- 49 key touch surface
- Five dimensions of touch
- MPE-capable software bundle
- USB-C connectivity
- Price: £1,099
Keith McMillen QuNeo Red
This 4×4 MPE pad controller uses 16 ultra-sensitive pads to detect pressure, velocity and XY position and has nine pressure sensitive sliders that you can map to note on and CC messages.
Fire up the free QuNeo MPE application and Editor app and you can perform advanced configurations, making the controller your own. Its fader and 17 switches are pressure sensitive, meaning it can be turned to almost any creative application.
- 16 touch sensitive pads
- Fully customisable
- Pressure sensitive fader and switches
- Robust design
- Price: $199
Embodme Erae Touch
Erae Touch is a polyphonic MIDI controller that uses a large LED Panel with 1,000 force sensors to let you perform and compose dynamic shapes and patterns with touch. Its 18 inch silicone surface is as suitable for live work as for studio recording, and the free Erae LAB software lets you make customisations to the way it works. You can control multiple effects within a single touch and use polyphonic pitch bend, slide and aftertouch to reach new heights of creativity.
- 1,000 sensors in LED panel
- Customisable via Erae LAB software
- One-touch control of multiple parameters
- Backlit surface
- Price: $850
Jamstik: Studio MIDI Guitar
Guitarists can get in on the MPE action, too, with this headless 24-fret electric guitar with fully built-in MIDI cpabilities. It has regular humbuckers and a standard quarter-inch output but also adds a choice of USB-C, 3.5mm TRS and Bluetooth MIDI output as well.
You also get the Jamstik Creator software and the relevant cables and the guitar uses a hexaphonic onboard MIDI pickup that sends signal to powerful processors inside the guitar body. These help it achieve a seriously low latency, which can be a problem with many MIDI pickups.
- Onboard DSP for fast processing
- Humbucker pickups
- Hexaphonic MIDI pickup built-in
- Multiple output options
- Price: $799.99
Roger Linn Design LinnStrument
Coming in 128 and 200-note pad sizes, this specialised MIDI controller from the legendary Roger Linn can send not only regular MIDI signal but also fully polyphonic pitch slides and Y-axis gestures to MPE-compatible synths.
Aside from that it can be used as a powerful 2-track step sequencer, has an arpeggiator and strum function and the pads support five types of polyphonic touch sensing. It’s an incredibly powerful way to harness the capabilities of MPE.
- Onboard step sequencer
- Up to 200 physical notes available
- Built-in arpeggiator
- Polyphonic pitch slides
- Price: $999 /$1499
Joue has been making innovative MIDI controllers for many years and its Play comes with interchangeable pads that sit on the main board unit to provide different kinds of playing surfaces for different instruments like guitars, keys or drums.
The Play app lets you modify all sorts of parameters including tuning, visual feedback and live quantize as well as providing access to a mixer, looper and project editing. You can also choose to go for the Pro version of the software for more options.
- Interchangeable pads for different playing styles
- Customisable via the Play app
- Built-in looper
- Expandable via Pro software option
- Price: €245
ROLI LUMI Keys Studio Edition
Another entry for ROLI but this time in a more affordable package than the Seaboard Rise. LUMI Keys Studio Edition which will launch in September 2022 is one of the most compact MPE keyboards around, with per-key pitch bend and aftertouch, backlit keys, expansion via magnetic connectors and coming bundled with the ROLI Studio software suite. It boasts 4D touch in a conventional keyboard design – glide, press, strike and lift, for naturally expressive performance.
- Compact keyboard format
- Fully backlit keys
- Expandable via magnetic connectors
- 4 dimensions of touch
- Price: £299
Artiphon Instrument 1
The first MIDI controller that let you strum, slide, tap or drum any sound, Artiphon’s Instrument 1 looks seriously space age. Connected to your DAW or to the company’s own iOS app, it’s also got battery power and built-in speakers, almost uniquely in the world of MPE controllers. With the built-in sounds you can switch between instrument types and it’s also multichannel MPE compatible when connected to Mac, Windows, iOS or a hardware instrument. It’s not like anything you will have played before.
- Battery power and built-in speakers
- Multiple playing modes including strum and drum
- Built-in sound set
- Companion iOS app for customisation
- Price: $299
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