Endeavour’s Evo Series One, which we looked at in the fall, does something different with the conventional keyboard: it adds a touch-sensitive surface to the top of the keys, allowing you to run your fingers up and down the keys for added expression. I got a chance to try the Evo today, and I’m impressed. The first feeling is strange: the keys have an action more like an electric keyboard (Rhodes, etc.), and the keys are atypically tall. But as you begin to play, it makes sense: this isn’t a piano for playing Liszt; it’s a unique, hybrid interface. The added length gives you more touch surface to play, and it is possible to get used to a slightly-adjusted playing style without too much effort. In exchange, you get this new dimension of expression – without awkward wiggling motions on the keys or the imprecision of aftertouch.

The Series One has been on sale for a couple of months, but there were a couple of significant revelations today.

First, Endeavour is building their own software. There’s a bridge tool (currently for Mac, with Windows next) that lets you pipe both OSC and MIDI to other programs. That software is free and open source, if you want to do more with it, and you can also get native OSC right out of the keyboard. Endeavour is also building their own, custom synthesizer to take advantage of the added dimension of playability in the input; I saw a Reaktor patch, but it’ll ship as standalone software.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, they’re working on a much more affordable version. The hand-built, unique Series One is a whopping 2700 €, but by the end of the year, we should see something smaller and in a lower price range. (I heard a number I can’t repeat, but that I liked.)

Check out the sound demos at top for a feel of what this can do – and you can see a glimpse of some of the possibilities, as well as the scale of the hardware, in the images below of the device and its editing software.

Tactile Touch: Evo Keyboard to Marry Touch Expression, Conventional Keys

Note: my hands aren’t the best way to get scale, as I have relatively small hands. Liszt was always a bit of a stretch.

Updated: Hands-on video from Messe

I shot a quick video for Keyboard Magazine as part of their Musikmesse coverage:

Keyboard Magazine Video

More editing functionality in their videos:

  • Sef

    what a shitty demo video

    • Tim

      I somewhat agree.  It’s an amazing product, but they really need someone equally amazing to demo it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nathan-Stanley/562488320 Nathan Stanley

    I’m not a keyboard player but I can see how this may mean you’d need to adjust your playing style to play one of these so you don’t accidentally slide on the key. Though I reckon it makes it into ‘more of an instrument’ if you get my drift. It may take more skill to play it well whilst utilizing the touch surface but could be used to great effect.

    • Marko

      You certainly would have to adjust your playing style. The thin part of the white keys (amongst the black keys) is so thin that you can’t actually fit your fingers in there. This has clearly not been designed by a keyboard player, otherwise they would have noticed this fundamental deficiency as an instrument.

      Every year a Musikmesse there is akways one incredibly ill concieved product. This is hightlight of 2012. Epic fail!

    • Phreakazoid

      I do Not agree. It is a compromise of getting the sensors Installed into the Black keys. If they focused on getting more Space between the black and white keys the black keys would have been in the middle of the white keys. And then you would say something like why did they do this ? There is always something wrong with innovations cause’ people cant accept change or think it should be more like old things. But this is more like a new kind of touchscreen and not an instrument to get your hands between the keys. I mean… It is only between the f# and g# … Come on … Whats the problem ? I am working with one of it and it is the best thing in life i have seen! I was always looking after something like that but i could not fid anything else…

    • sanity

      Not so, whilst I applaud the innovation, there is little point in implementing as a keyboard, if it can’t full-fill the primary (expected) interface interaction. A keyboard where you can’t physically play certain standard chord forms (such as an Eb triad) in a natural way, has been ill conceived. You may as well implement this device using a different interface paradigm (such as with key pads, or just the touch screen of an iPad). At least that way the device will match the users expectation for performance. If you can accept the interface constraints of this device (no matter the additional functionality), you are clearly  not a keyboard player.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I’ve played the keyboard. You can use normal hand positions to play chords. End of story. I wouldn’t try to play Liszt etudes on it, but even a lot of classical rep would be fully playable. Remember, while the piano has standard key sizes, there are other keyboard instruments with different sizes.

      sanity down here can say whatever he or she wants – I understand the skepticism, but I’ve actually played the thing, and it isn’t as big a deal as you might think.
      When you do extend your fingers along the keyboard for continuous control, you tend to want that additional space. And at that point, you’re already holding down a note or chord, so the hand and finger positions for playing them conventionally is no longer an issue.Pianos don’t have that kind of continuous control over a note once it’s sustained, so you have to expect at that point some new behavior. If it interfered with playability otherwise, it’d be a big problem – but it doesn’t.

      You also have a choice of whether the initial position of your finger (on the attack) uses the sensor data or not. With it on, you do have to make more adjustments to your playing style. But with it off, you don’t – the sensor only becomes active after you move your fingers, after the initial attack.

  • Lurch

    ive been a pro keyboardists for 40 years. i have used and had everything. i have not seen a product in the last ten years that hasnt been a rehash of older gear. and apps suck.  this evo is the first thing that i would run out and buy as soon as its ready. to be able to assign control numbers to a capacitance keyboard touch is beyond cool.   i hope they have a strong patent, this will blow up when they license it to roland and others…. it will happen.  the old wiggle the key for control was ok, but this is  like stroking your girlfriends hooha…… 

  • http://profiles.google.com/trebtid Polite Society

    Some things I wasn’t able to work out from the demos:
    + Can you assign a different function to slide up vs slide down? or is it a scale?
    + Does the location you start you finger on make a difference, or is a distance thing?
    + Can you slide up and then slide back down to zero.. manual envelope style?
    + Is the keyboard release envelope (mentioned in the video) a complex envelope, or just basically the same as release on a normal envelope?

    I very much like the idea of it being a way to use modulation without having to keep on of your hands on a mod wheel or pedal. Though it’s basically a slide version of aftertouch isn’t it? Actually, does the keyboard have aftertouch, for multi-mode-modulation? I imagine varying your pressure as you slide could be awesome, especially for some pad soundscape type sounds.

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AVYZPC6GWPTDO4ENTGSQOZ33X4 Les

    Does anyone recognise the monitors in the video?

  • Nick

    I remember when I wrote Bob Moog’s Big Briar back in the 80s (before he could use his own name again), his brochure pitched his touch sensor on each key keyboard that I now know he’d been developing with J Eaton for decades. Anyway I’m sure those guys sure learned a lot and struggled with primitive technology by today’s standards. The project made the blogs some time after Bob Moog’s passing