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We recently reviewed the i2M audio MIDI interface, which works amazingly well in a monophonic capacity. But if you need polyphony with perfect tracking all the time. The best solution is still a fretboard controller.
Perhaps you remember the SynthAxe: a synthesizer controller constructed roughly in the shape of a guitar, where notes were triggered by pushing down rows of buttons arranged like frets on a fingerboard? Between the average guitarist’s lack of interest in all things synthesizer and a price tag of $8-$13,000 dollars, it is no wonder it never caught on—Allan Holdsworth notwithstanding. But for the last couple of Winter NAMM shows, two companies have been showing products that recall this relic of the Eighties. Misa Digital and You Rock Digital are betting that the increased interest of guitarists in all things digital, combined with a lower price point can revive the concept.
Misa originally showed the Kitara, an instrument with built-in synth sounds and flashy moving graphics touch screen for over a grand. They too may have run into price point issues (the Kitara is now available for $899), or perhaps they realized that musicians who care about synths at all, care about particular synth sounds and don’t want to pay for someone else’s idea of same. Either way, 2012 saw them releasing The Misa Digital Kitara Era, which loses the synth-engine and touch pad graphics, while offering a cool MIDI controller for guitarists lacking keyboard skills.
24-fret neck with tactile buttons, instead of strings
Touch-sensitive rectangular pad that responds to three axis of movement (X/Y and velocity)
MIDI-out and USB MIDI
An internal rechargeable battery
A1024 x 1024 touch panel
At press time there is no mention of the Era on the Misa site but here is some footage we shot at the 2012 NAMM show.
If synth sounds are more peripheral to your music and/or $399 is still more than you want to pay, you will be interested in the Inspired Instruments Inc. You Rock YRG-1000 MIDI Controller. It may look like a toy but is features:
25 real guitar & 50 synth sounds.
25 song & 50 drum loops.
Fast tracking MIDI via low latency USB & 5-pin DIN outputs.
Stereo audio input jack: play along with your mp3 player.
1/8″ headphone & 1/4″ guitar outputs.
Play Guitar Hero and Rock Band with optional GameFlex cartridge or Midi Pro Adapters.
Removable neck lets you take it anywhere.
USB & battery powered.
In this demo by Dan Mumm you can see the tracking is great. For a mere $139 you obviously don’t get as much control, but you can always automate parameters later.
GM hasn’t got our hands on either yet but we are excited to do so. Please let us know if this is a topic that interests you.