Between conventional knobs and hardware controls and “magical” tablets, might we yet see real action in a third category of controller? Keith McMillen Instruments, makers of the SoftStep foot controller and K-Bow controller, are now venturing into fingertip territory. The QuNeo is a “crowd-sourced” project with apparently some open components, available now in preorder form on Kickstarter.

We’ve seen touch controllers that, in terms of basic form factor, followed similar design directions as the QuNeo but that didn’t take off. M-Audio (then Midiman) got only as far as the prototype phase with the Surface One; Stanton’s SCS series went into production but apparently didn’t take to the market.

The KMI design promises more, with velocity response, continuous pressure, and color LED feedback on each sensor. The addition of actual pressure/velocity sensing, and a design that gives you some tactile feedback on where the controls are, would set it apart from a device like the iPad, which has no such usable pressure response and an undifferentiated surface.

The controls themselves:

  • 251 multi-color LEDs
  • 16 square pads each with X/Y, velocity, and continuous pressure (that should map nicely to rolls, etc., or using them as melodic pads)
  • 2 rotary surfaces with position and pressure
  • 9 touch sliders, with two-finger touch
  • Switches
  • iPad-sized form factor
  • Class-compliant USB, MIDI, OSC connection

The project is labeled “open hardware” and “open source,” but as near as I can tell, that applies to the development kit for the software to connect with the hardware, not the rest of the hardware itself.

Check out the hardware sensors below.

Kickstarter here serves as a way of “crowd-sourcing” production – just the kind of preorder model for which the service was built. What I find surprising is the promised price: $200 (not including international shipping) includes the controller and some goodies, which seems astounding given the number of parts here. If they really are pulling that off, I’m very impressed.

Right now, we see only the sensor and a mock-up, but certainly the described design shows some significant promise. We’re in touch with KMI, so if you’ve got questions, fire away.

QuNeo, Multi-touch Open Source MIDI & USB Pad Controller [Kickstarter]
http://www.keithmcmillen.com/

  • http://www.keithmcmillen.com Matt @ KMI

    Hey!,

    Thanks for the post, we really appreciate it!

    I'd like to bring up the fact that the pads are not only velocity sensitive, but (like every other sensor on the board) also can send continuous pressure control! 

    Just wanted to clarify, because to me, that one of the most exciting features of the OuNeo!

    Thanks so much! We're excited and are glad others are too!

    ~Matt Hettich,

    Product Specialist @ KMI

    matt@keithmcmillen.com

  • guss

    This looks cool, but will the software let u choose the led color? from the video, it looks a little bit too rainbow for my tastes. if i could, i'd probably go all blue like on the softstep

  • Jamsire Ernoir

    Ok, cool, but maybe they should also focus on correctly spelling their endorsers name correctly! Vernon R-E-I-D. Anyway, I'll check it out at NAMM.

  • rishabh

    Hey Matt, is it OuNeo or QuNeo?

  • http://www.keithmcmillencom Andrew Calvo

    Hi, it's QuNeo, and Matt has been editing video non-stop for the last few days before this launch so ! We'll clear up the REID typo, Vernon is the man and a great one and supporter of all things KMI!

  • Rymf

    Rad rad rad. I'm thrilled about this. I just switched to a local credit union (fuck you, wall street) and am still waiting on my new debit card. As soon as that shows up I'm pledging for at least one, maybe two.

    How open source is this going to be? I have to be honest guys, you've got visions of an ultrathin, velocity sensitive, RGB arduinome 128 dancing in my head. I'd love to see as much of the QuNeo's guts as you'll allow. I'm especially interested to know how you're implementing LED backlit FSRs on a device that thin.

    And it's class compliant, but that's a lot of LEDs, how much power does it need? Can I plug it into my iPad? For that matter, are we too far down the development path to wedge a WiFi transceiver in there so it can send OSC/network MIDI messages directly?

    Thanks for making an awesome thing I can't wait to use, and thanks for making me think (even if it's distracting me from work).

  • http://wordsoundpower.org midihendrix

    Looks like a very amazing piece of hardware.

    I hope equally innovative complementary software is on the way also.

    A user like myself prefers inspiring, flexible, tightly integrated software functions which come ready to go with the hardware. One could wait for hackers to upload half finshed alpha patches to a library somewhere, or one could also spend a week designing a mediocre reaktor ensemble. Hacking is great, but most probably want immediacy.

    The most exciting midi controllers are a seamless marriage of unique inputs, realized limitations, and software which inspires the workflow. There are some on the market which fulfill this, and others which are intended to do everything but in the end aren't useful for all that much.

    Beautiful controller, again…

  • http://www.facebook.com/NeZoomieFanPage NeZoomie

    nice project, horrible advertisement.

  • digitalfish

    some free advice: break this controller up. instead of offering 1 big controller with a ton of different things crammed onto it, offer it as 3 or 4 smaller controllers like the korg nano series. 1 controller will be the 16 pads. 1 the 8 sliders, 1 controller could have 8 of those rotarty controllers, etc. that way, entry price would be lower and people could lay the controllers out how they wanted. right now it's too cluttered and the layout is kind of confusing and ugly.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/woody-aki Woody Aki

    From my experiences with the Stanton SCS system (which I'm still lumped with), I'll stick to the tactile route. However, that's not to say that the SCS system is a bad idea – it's just that Stanton offered little support, and gave us a fat lie about Ableton compatibility. When pressured, the Stanton forum moderators indirectly suggested that users can work around that by doing their own templates in Bome's, which is ridiculous…I'm a musician and DJ, not a programmer.

    Sad really.

  • mrtn

    i will dream of big fat fingers tonight, good project though …

  • http://soundcloud.com/radiokoala radiokoala

    @midihendrix for an equally innovative complementary software check Usine:

    http://sensomusic.com/usine/

    As concerns the controller, this one is exciting. It has everything I'd like to see in one and more… Just think about 16 X/Y pads – mapping all of these to certain parameters and given that they are velocity-sensitive, with several fingers you have an ultimate control over up to several tracks/virtual instruments/effects!

    Using this with Madrona Labs Aalto must be amazing – sort of experience compared to the Buchla tactile surface. If it isn't revolutionary, I don't know what is.

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/gbsr gbsr

    holyjesuschrist (yeah. i'm not even religious, so that should give you an idea). i want one. NOW.

  • honoramongstthieves

    Very interesting little device. A shame the design is disastrous.

    The whole RGB thing is giving me headaches… But maybe there's a way to customize the LED colors??

  • http://cooptrol.com cooptrol

    I love it. And as always, this kind of devices bring me the same thoughts: I’d like to see more innovative music than innovative tools. In the past 10 years there have been huge advances in audio tool craft, but the originality and inventiveness in electronic music y completely stagnated. If people is gonna use this marvelous new tool to make the typical dubstep/electro/house/whatever, they better stick to Cakewalk 6 which can serve as good for those mild purposes.

  • GreaterThanZero

    It's fairly amazing how many of the questions asked here were already answered in the Kickstarter video.  Or maybe it's the reverse; that so much information in the video was missed by so many people.  I'm not sure where my amazement falls, to be honest.

  • youngcircle

    This looks superb, exactly what I was looming for (though I didn't know it up til now). People complaining about the lights and colors …don't know what to say, as that's my favorite part! I'm in.

  • http://www.warriorbob.com Warrior Bob

    My experience from using the Stanton SCS.3d in Ableton Live is that controls with multiple outputs (note on touch, CC on move, for example) are a giant pain to use with Quick Mapping. Is there any plan to work around this somehow, considering that Live users are probably a target market? Perhaps the ability to "solo" a particular kind of output for ease of mapping?  

    Because if so, then I really want one of these.

  • http://none 1:11

    I'm having a hard time believing the $200 quote. You heard this DIRECTLY from McMillan?

  • http://none 1:11

    Ah, i see…a donation of $200 to help fund production, nice!

  • mckenic

    I hope its real because it looks very exciting.

    Im gonna have to wait until they hit stores though as 1/4 of the price on top for shipping hurts my head…

    I can just imagine this and Max4Live – Drool!

  • http://www.keithmcmillen.com Matt @ KMI

    Hi!,

    Wanted to clear some things up/ answer some questions I've seen here…

    1, We're already working on seamless software integration… Out of the box, QuNeo will be plug and play– it'll send CCs and notes just like any pad controller (just more CCs and more Notes)! 

    2, $200 is the street price. $200 will get you a QuNeo.

    3, There are quite a lot of LEDs, we're almost at the maximum number. It will work with the iPad, though (like the SoftStep and 12 Step) you'll need an adapter and you'll have to power it from the wall or from our MIDI expander…

    4, As far as mapping goes, the QuNeo will have a "shift" or "mapping mode" button (the blue one, near the transport controls) which will allow for one source to be sent out at a time. The LEDs on the pads will display different colors based on the type of control you are mapping!

    5, The software editor will be useful for creating customized mappings. Things like multi-touch functionality will be customizable with the software. The software will not be necessary to use the QuNeo, as it will be preprogrammed to function out of the box. 

    Also, sorry for the typos– I've been working non-stop on this release and obviously missed some stuff, probably out of excitement.

    As always, questions can be posted here or e-mailed to Matt@KeithMcMillen.com !

    I'm looking forward to playing my QuNeo and I'm glad everyone else is too!

    Thanks,

    Matt Hettich

    Product Specialist @ KMI

    Matt@KeithMcMillen.com 

  • http://i5music.net Jim Aikin

    The LED colors are too popsicle for me … but yeah, I'll definitely buy one as soon as they're shipping.

  • http://www.warriorbob.com Warrior Bob

    @Matt thanks so much for getting back to us! It sounds like you have put a lot of thought into it. I'm very excited to see it when it comes out.

  • http://www.angstromnoises.com Steve Angstrom

    Well, it looks exciting to me and from what I've heard from owners of the softstep they are very happy with that product so I'm really looking forward to this. Especially since I just took a look at the QuNeo Kickstarter page and read : "$21,964 pledged of $15,000 goal "

    Excellent!

    Perhaps Roger Linn's (somewhat related) pressure sensitive & multitouch Linnstrument could take a look at the Kickstarter route.

  • Jengel

    As a softstep user, I've got to be a little hesistant for two reasons:

    1) "Seamless Software Integration" Softstep uses a program written in Max for this and there's no way around it, it's a hog, and a bit of a horrible program. They offered Max API access, which is nice, but you still have to spend your time then writing your own programs (if you want memory of different settings/states etc.)

    2) the pads look like softstep pads in that they only have sensors on the 4 corners and pick up data from the center by averaging. This always feels a little akward, and I was hoping they would move to a 5 sensor design.

    Otherwise, an exciting idea.

  • elKarl

    I own a SCS3 system and I love it – I figure there are two reasons it ddn't take off: It's complicated (you have to turn everything on in an exact order – which isn't quite described in the manual) enough that I think a lot of people had trouble setting it up and also, it ain't really designed for people with larger hands. In my head it were about two inches larder on each side (and that length was added to the vertical faders) it could have be a real winner.

    That said, I got mine for $150 for all three units and I can't stop smiling about it being multitouch EVERYWHERE!

  • http://www.cooloutmusic.com COOLOUT

    I'm really excited about this product. There's so much potential. Kudos to KMI for pricing QuNeo clearly in line with competing controllers even with it being so innovative.

    Thinking out loud, I wonder how many steps of midi resolution are available from the faders and knobs. Would vinyl emulation be possible? I believe that's the trickiest thing to accurately map on a controller. I heard that Stanton's SCS3 was never able to hit the mark in this area…strange for a product called 'Da Scratch' coming from a DJ company.

    Also, if each drum pad is essentially 4 (or 5?) buttons would launchpad (or monome for that matter) emulation be possible? With the right OSC/M4L plug-in probably. I can imagine a 16-step sequencer running on the pads with each corner being a different drum sound with corresponding colors.

    Right now I've suffering from midi controller overkill. I'm using a Launchpad, PadKontrol, and Behringer BCF for Ableton…a NanoKontrol and NanoKey for DJ gigs…plus a Numark Mixtrack for smaller gigs where my full turntable setup is too much. The QuNeo could potentially do the job of all these controllers…at the same time. Another big plus is the Ipad form-factor. Finding a good rugged travel case should really be easy. Whoever came up with that idea deserves a raise.

    My only suggestions to the developers are to 1. make sure to post a template for users to make custom overlays. and 2. in the next demo video showoff some solid color themes instead of just the rainbow popsicle. Either way it has my pledge.

  • http://www.keithmcmillen.com Matt @ KMI

    Hi,

    Have to be brief this time, about to step out. 

    I wanted to address some concerns:

    The QuNeo editor will be different than SoftStep. Our new stuff is written in C, and thusly much less resource heavy. Plus, it will be a standalone product, so no editor needed for seamless integration. 

    The pads are very different than SoftStep, though they seem similar.I cant speak on sensors (I'm at home and Keith and the other engineers aren't here) but I can say from personal use that they are just as responsive in the center as on the edges. This is a different sort of controller! 

    As we have the ability to sense the corners of each pad, the 4×4 pad grid can be used like an 8×8 grid. Because the LEDs are placed in the corners of each pad, one will be able to visualize and perform with something resembling a 64 button grid. Obviously, this is where the QuNeo API will become incredibly handy! 

    You've really got to see the sensors and LEDs in working before you realize how good the thing looks! It's hard to capture on video and I guarantee that the "rainbow" color scheme concerns will become much less important when you see the QuNeo in action.

    Hope that answers any concerns,

    Thanks for the good words everyone!

    ~Matt

    Product Specialist @ KMI

  • http://braduro.com James

    This is the most ubiquitous controller design I've seen since the Evolution UC-33, and I mean that in a good way. I want a controller to maintain some sense of conformity. That way, I can rationalize practicing and getting better at using it, replacing it when it wears out, or jumping right in if a venue or friend uses the same familiar gear.

    Like the Evolution, I could imagine little removable dry erase overlays around the knobs, buttons and faders, so you could mark your own layouts, and maybe having a few printed right out of the box.

  • an3

    i realy like what i see, but i dislike to read (as a softstep owner):

    'The QuNeo editor will be different than SoftStep. Our new stuff is written in C, and thusly much less resource heavy. Plus, it will be a standalone product, so no editor needed for seamless integration.

    '

    i would say rewrite the softsep editor in c as well… the reason why i stopped using the softStep, is for big part the editor,and of course not having led-feedback (which this machine obvs. has).

    I feel a bit like i have been a beta tester for what now has become the quneo

    it is

  • Bulien

    Great work, but there is some overstatement in the video when referring to the Kronos Quartet's concert with K-bows :

    "this is the first time technology and tradition have been successfully used by a string quartet on a clasical stage."

    The "Quatuor Danel" also did this in 2008 with different bows, I don't know if they were the first themselves.

  • http://soundcloud.com/null-object Null Object

    I dont like it. I think it is just another bit of rubbish kit to help morons express themselves.

    I'm cool if you all get one though. If I ever happen to go to a gig of yours I'll know your a moron.

  • http://Stiltlicking.corn Coat wearer

    @null object

    "I'll know your a moron."

    Language can be a tricky devil friend, just remember your decisions can change who you're going to become.  

  • http://Stiltlicking.corn Coat wearer

    Also this piece of kit looks nice but I'll hold off as there will be a flush of these kinds of controllers in the market in the coming years. 

  • Brian

    @Coat wearer I doubt he will get that.

    Regardless..I think this is a good direction to take things i.e. touch as an augmentation to traditional controls. This give you the best of both worlds, extra expression without the loss of haptic feedback.

    I will also wait though as this device doesn't suit my taste what I personally would like to see is an APC40 with an 8×8 grid, RGB LEDs or OLEDs (with text and colour), touch and velocity sensitive buttons, touch sensitive knobs (like the novation ultranova) with an x/y strip for scene navigation. 

    This is how I imagine touch being better integrated. Instead of tackling things that are already better solved with existing controller components using it to improve areas that always felt clumsy. 

  • Hogo

    I can't get over some of the negative dribble posted. Wtf have you ever created? This looks great. I'm now a funder.

  • http://www.onyx-ashanti.com Onyx Ashanti

    very cool.  it'd be much better if it were waaay bigger so it'd be like a big multitouch twister pad, but i do understand how inefficient that would be…*sigh*.

  • Brian Tuley

    Looks like the next gen launchpad.  very cool, but price must not exceed $200. US, or it might just be better to sell design as an IPad app.  Must be a great struggle to keep hardware design price down, below that of code for running on Ipad.  

  • griotspeak

    @Brian Tuley, what?

    if you kick in $200 right now…you get one… so i don't see the point of the ultimatum and this CANNOT BE an ipad app. you could make a touchosc layout that mimicked this…but it would be fundamentally different in my opinion.

  • Charlie Lesoine

    Yeah I don't get it. It looks cool, but how is it better than an ipad app?

  • Sucka MC

    @Charlie Lesoine

    Can't do pressure on an iPad. Plus, people often like an element of tactility — as opposed to the single, flat surface of a tablet.

  • http://www.warperparty.com djshakey

    cool unit, and i love the colored leds, not everyone is afraid of rainbows

  • http://soundcloud.com/joeandjosh fear & loathing

    do you guys have any word as to how long it might take to get these sent out? is there like a specific date to expect em or do they get it off to you once you make your investment?

  • griotspeak

    @fear March. look in the fine print under each of the rewards.

  • you'resoakingin

    Being able to feel the controls, having pressure sensitivity, having sensors that do more than just one thing: could be great.

    Absolute requirement: must be able to set a control in Ableton Live easily.

    Since it's funded, I'll just wait and see if it comes out, if it's $200, and if the software works.

    iPad apps are fine for some things, but you can't feel the different buttons and sliders. You pretty much are forced to use your eyes and your hands to do more than a handful of things on iPad.

  • http://www.soundwidgets.com/stribe phineus

    I will be very excited if the hardware design for this is open-sourced. And/or make individual sensors available to be integrated into hand-held instrument designs and perhaps wearables. PS: What is "class compliant" OSC?

  • http://www.keithmcmillen.com Matt @ KMI

    Hey Everybody,Wanted to let you know we've updated our kickstarter page with a bunch more information about QuNeo…

    Check it out :http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kmi … sb-pad-con

    ~Matt @ KMI

  • http://www.keithmcmillen.com Matt @ KMI

    oops, the link didn't translate:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kmi/quneo-mul

  • Fisto

    Great Work. Respect to the Developer and thanks for trying to excite us geeky musicians- it's working :) . Looking forward to this cool unit!

  • http://kck.st/taqBsn MattKMI

    Hi,Wanted to point everyone to a video of the QuNeo 3D Pad Controller in action!  http://youtu.be/bJuJzpTe5tM
    As always, more information is here: http://kck.st/taqBsn
    ~Matt @ KMI