Roli recently announced the upcoming release of the Seaboard Block M, an updated model, and it’s available for pre-order from 1st November 2023 while shipping will begin in March of 2024.
Roli products are often the topic of heated debates among musicians, and I’m not sure that will ever change. I’ve had conversations with Classical purists who struggle to acknowledge the use of synthesizers as a worthy pursuit, so the idea of a keyboard with malleable keys is a non-starter.
I’ve also had conversations with avid synth users who argue that the Seaboard is a gimmick that doesn’t do anything you can’t do with aftertouch, ribbons, mod wheels, joysticks, etc.
I have a Roli Seaboard Block because I wanted to find out how expressive you can be, and I was pleasantly surprised.
So, in response to the gimmick arguments, yes, you can do a lot with assignable controls, and with clever configuration, you can do many things at once, but not everything.
With the Seaboard, I can play with both hands, bend single notes while holding others, allow filter cutoffs or modulation to affect only specific notes, etc.
My biggest argument for the Seaboard and similar instruments is that it feels more organic and intuitive to manipulate expression through your playing rather than additional controls.
I don’t think comparing it to more traditional keyboards works; it’s not a replacement; it’s something different.
Also, many keyboard players share a particular habit/quirk, which is that we wiggle our fingers on notes when we want to use vibrato when playing orchestral patches, for example. Of course, traditionally, it did nothing besides look silly, but now it does something!
OK, now that my opening rant is over, here’s some info on the newly updated Seaboard Block.
The Seaboard Block M is still a 24-key (keywaves) controller with DNA connectors, allowing you to extend the keyboard range with another Block or LUMI Keys Studio Edition.
The latest firmware upgrade allows advanced customization of keywave response, which means more nuanced expression, and it has a ten-hour battery life with a fifteen-meter Bluetooth range.
One of the more significant changes is that the Seaboard Block M will include MIDI out connectivity so you can easily control external hardware instruments. Roli’s software, like Equator2 and Roli Studio, features some great sounds, but I think adding MIDI out will attract some users who previously had doubts.
Another area that Roli has refined for the new model is the build quality, and I’m glad to hear it.
The previous Seaboard Block didn’t give me huge concerns; it looks and feels like a premium product, but I always thought that the line where the silicon meets plastic might be an issue for anyone putting it through heavier use.
But, Roli assures that the new Seaboard Block M is built for life on the road.
The Roli Seaboard Block M is available in an exclusive pre-order bundle, including the Seaboard Block M, Roli Studio Software Suite, and a voucher for the Roli Sound Store.
Pricing for the exclusive pre-order bundle is $349.95 (USD), £299.95 (GBP), and €349.95 (EURO). As of writing, this product only ships to the US, UK, Canada, and Europe.
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Check out the announcement: ROLI Seaboard Block M (Releases March 2024)