We’ve seen expressive musical keyboards before, but many of them - ROLI’s Seaboard models spring immediately to mind - eschew the standard piano action in favour of something different, requiring players to adapt their technique in order to use them.
Osmose, the new Augmented Keyboard Synthesizer from Expressive E - the company behind the Touché controller - is different. The result of more than seven years of research, and a collaboration with Haken Audio, this has the look and feel of a standard keyboard - meaning that players should immediately feel comfortable when using it - but also responds to a number of per-note gestures to give you significantly more control.
In fact, you get three dimensions of control on every single key, enabled by the patented A.K.A - Augmented Keyboard Action - technology. To get the most out of this, Osmose also contains Haken Audio’s EagenMatrix sound engine, which it developed for its Continuum Fingerboard. This combines, digital, additive, FM, virtual analogue and spectral synthesis, with some physical modelling thrown in for good measure.
The soundset compromises both acoustic and electronic tones, and will react to the slightest key movements. So, you can add the likes of strums, vibrato, legato, layered dynamics and more to your playing. Check out the video above to see and hear how it works.
On top of this, Osmose can function as an MPE and MPE+-capable MIDI controller, offering polyphonic aftertouch, a multichannel MIDI mode and global pitchbend control from every key. You can set it up as a standalone MIDI controller, too, so it can be used away from your computer.
As if that wasn’t enough, you also get a selection of macro controls, giving you further scope to adjust timbre, texture and harmonics. A mod wheel and two continuous pedal inputs are included, too, and you can configure the sensitivity of the keyboard’s 3D control to your liking.
There have been multiple false starts when it comes to creating a ‘next-gen keyboard’; whether that’s because the right product hasn’t come along or the demand isn’t really there is open to debate. Our initial takeaway is that Osmose has a better chance of succeeding than most, though - it’s already had its praises sung by the likes of Jordan Rudess, Junkie XL, Snarky Puppy keyboardist Bill Laurence and producer Mike Dean.
Osmose will retail for $1,799/€1,799, but if you reserve one before 31 December 2019, you can get it for $1,079/€1,079. A deposit of $299/€299 is required if you want to do this, and quantities are limited. Delivery is expected to be in summer 2020.
Find out more on the Expressive E website.
Expressive E Osmose specs
- Keybed: 49 full-size keys with A.K.A.© technology for three-dimensional control
- Polyphony: Up to 24 voices with Layered and Split modes
- Top Panel: 8 encoders, 9 buttons, pitch stick/modulation stick, color LCD screen
- Pedal Inputs: 2 continuous pedal inputs, assignable to sustain or synth parameters
- MIDI: MIDI In, MIDI Out/Thru, USB Type B
- Audio: 24-bit D/A conversion, 1/4" stereo headphone jack, two ¼" jacks for main stereo output
- Software: A Mac/PC editor lets users create and edit the EaganMatrix sounds, as well as assign the three A.K.A.© key movements to multiple parameters