While ROLI's Seaboard controllers are most likely to appeal to 'serious' musicians, its new Blocks system is being pitched squarely at the consumer market. This is a modular iOS music making platform that looks set to cement ROLI's reputation as a next-gen developer, while also bringing its products to a much wider audience.
Blocks are small, Bluetooth controller devices that clip together magnetically. The idea is that you buy more as you need them, extending the capabilities of your setup as required.
The Lightpad Block sits at the heart of the system. This has a glowing pressure-sensitive interface that you can use to 'shape' your sounds with presses, swipes and other gestures. You can use it to play beats, melodies, chords and more.
The Live and Loop Blacks look more utilitarian, enabling you to make recordings, play them back, switch scales and select other options.
The whole music making process is driven by the Noise software, which features over 100 sounds and can be set up to record loops so that you can create a track.
Commenting on the launch, Roland Lamb, founder and CEO of ROLI and inventor of Blocks, said, "Many areas of life have been transformed by digital. Music, though, remains a universal language that everyone understands, but only a few can speak. Blocks will change that, and enable people around the world to experience the joy of music-making for the first time."
In Apple Stores
A bold prediction, certainly, but ROLI has an ace up its sleeve with the news that Blocks will be available not only direct from its website, but also via Apple's and in the company's physical stores. This means that the devices are likely to receive massive exposure.
What remains to be seen is how much they really add to the iOS music making experience - do you need another compact touch surface when your iPad or iPhone already has one? Also, will the Blocks have anything to offer to more experienced musicians and producers? We assume that they'll work with other iOS apps at some point, and ROLI's video (see above) appears to show them being used with a MacBook running Logic, but it remains to be seen whether they have enough flexibility to guarantee long-term appeal.
We're certainly keen to get our hands on these things, though: the Lightpad Block costs £170/$179, while the Live and Loop Blocks are available for £70/$79 each. Find out more on the ROLI website.