Looking a bit like the love child of a Nintendo DS and a microKORG, the Miselu neiro is a different animal in mobile music. The upcoming device is powered by Android and has a touchscreen – a bit like a tablet – but it’s hardware dedicated to music-making, complete with a compact, piano-layout keyboard. The gamble is that people wanting to make mobile music will choose this dedicated device instead of a general-purpose gadget like an iPad.

Whether they can pull it off or not is a big question, but in the meantime, the specs are intriguing. And it’s worth mentioning now, because if you’re reading this from Austin, Texas, there’s still time to check out the Miselu in person at SoundCloud’s open house. (I’m in Berlin, so I just have to pour myself a beer, stare at the gallery, and munch on some barbeque and pretend.)

Here’s what we know:

  • Connected: The creators call it a “network-enabled mobile companion,” so online connections and “social” interaction are part of the plan. That includes, out of the gate, SoundCloud.
  • Internal DSP: The neiro will include the Yamaha AudioEngine Series Sound Chip NSX-1, a dedicated DSP for synthesis and signal processing. (Now, the creators say that “almost matches the sound of real musical instruments,” but while DSP chips add predictable horsepower, native processing remains competitive.)
  • I/O: Product mock-ups show USB (2x), HDMI, audio in and out (stereo minijacks), and, in a nod to the Atari ST, dedicated MIDI DIN jacks. There’s also an SD card slot.
  • Custom software: Retronyms, makers of the popular iOS modular app Tabletop, have already revealed that they’ll be doing a custom app for this platform; see their blog post on the announcement and image below. (Thanks to Freesoulvw for the tip!)
  • Platform: The hardware is an “open platform environment” that will run custom apps and “solutions,” say the creators. Exactly what that means, we’ll have to see, but of course Android does offer application deployment possibilities (even outside of Google’s Android Market, now called Google Play).

http://www.miselu.com/products/

Before the Android aspect of this invites skepiticsm, the big challenge with Android has been unpredictability with OEM-delivered hardware. While the audio API doesn’t work in the way many of us would like, if you do have dedicated hardware with predictable performance, you can side-step many of those problems, so the possibility of music-focused gear has always been interesting.

I think the real challenge is whether this keyboard can stand up to an iPad in a custom keyboard housing. Akai recently demonstrated the clever solution of adding a 4×4 set of MPC-style drum pads just by designing them into an iPad case. In order to compete, Miselu will have to do something unique both with the hardware and software add-ons; they have to actually be better at what the iPad does, not just “as good.”

On the other hand, just looking at the ports they’ve got on the prototype could easily make you drool. If they nail the hardware and get this out the door, there could be some real possibilities with this.

Of course, there’s far more we don’t know than do know about this, but that just means it’ll be interesting to watch. See some pictures, teaser video, and check out the site.

Okay, now we’re interested. Yes, it’ll have a tasty-looking xox drum sequencer, courtesy (previously iOS-only mobile) devs Retronyms.

I missed the chance to write about it, but I’d be curious to know if anyone is picking up a KDJ-ONE, a Linux-powered dedicated music-maker that seemed a bit like the love child of an oversized classic Game Boy and a tracker, as seen last year on Synthtopia. (They exhibited again this year at NAMM, as Chris Randall reminds me in comments.)

  • julienbayle

    we are at a point where everything is software, but embedded in a lot of little hardwares :)
    I love this time, Peter!

    • http://profiles.google.com/durkkooistra durk kooistra

      Keen to see how this develops. I have a 22icnh Multitouch screen right in front of me – I dont mind running VM with android (if that does not add more lag).

    • julienbayle

      each android app is already a jvm.
      virtualization encapsulation is huge today :)

  • Freesoulvw

    Yes. The Soundcloud “chrome book” dedicated to musical use. I first saw this on the Retronyms SXSW page. They are boasting the device will be able to run their TableTop app. I am a little skeptical at this time as I own the TableTop app and am currently using it on an iPad 1. While the iPad 1 is getting a bit old,it is no slouch in the performance category especially in the music apps genre. The TableTop app is such a demanding application that it is a constant battle to keep the app running though which is the reason my skepticism remains open on this device until the final product demo can be seen.

    While I hope that this will be a success. As the author of the post says,”it will have to be better then the iPad” in this case is a true statement. Not just for adoption sake but for the simple fact that the performance of the app REQUIRES it. No one will be buying,using,or praising a device that produces laggy,under powered,glitching(unplanned) musical performance. I hope Retronyms can pull this one off. I look forward to see where this thing goes.

    freesoul

  • http://www.cassiel.com/ cassiel

    Is anyone else here reminded of the Yamaha CX5-M? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaha_CX5-M

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      You win. ;) Better reference than the Atari ST.

    • http://www.cassiel.com/ cassiel

       Hey – I learned to program FM on one of those horrid boxes, while I was saving my hard-earned cash for a TX7 “expander”.

    • heinrichz

      yes absolutely i am, that was my first thought when i read this ! had one of those back in the day.

  • Chris Randall

    @Peter:disqus  The KDJ-ONE was exhibited at NAMM. I assume from your “what happened to…” comment you didn’t see them? Their booth was right behind the Analog Haven booth. In any event, that box is doomed to failure. 10 years ago it would have been earth-shattering. Five years ago it would have been cool. In 2012, it’s all “well…” 

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Would you say this box is similarly doomed, too?

      The KDJ-ONE seems both pricey and, because of its arcade-style interface, not necessarily any more accessible than a tablet or laptop or any number of other things. Here, I just don’t know; curious what that keyboard feels like and I think price is really make-or-break when you make this sort of platform. When you go into synth territory, that’s another thing; you just don’t compare those devices with a computer or tablet because the experience is so different. Here, the experience overlaps, and a consumer almost has to compare. 

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      And yes, missed it at NAMM / clarified my comment above.

  • Tufraniuh

    All what Retronyms does sounds cheaply, is not professional and more similar to toys, than  programs for creation of music.
     It is the next toy – causes only a smile.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ouch.

      Well, I’ve been known to do things cheaply and not professional from time to time…

  • Ronzlo

    re: CX5-M… nah. Reminds me more of Yamaha’s QY series.  ;)

    Is Android’s notorious 350-millisecond-plus audio latency somehow circumvented with this?
    see: http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2012/02/17/why-is-android-going-nowhere-fast-as-an-audio-platform/

    http://www.rossbencina.com/code/dave-sparks-on-android-audio-latency-at-google-io-2011

    http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2011/12/03/developer-it-is-not-possible-to-play-music-on-an-android-phone/

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      “Android” does not have 350ms+ latency. Latency is a function of:

      * prioritization of real-time audio threads (which now differs depending on Android OS version, though remains something we hope the OS will improve)
      * concurrently-running background processes (which would be different here)
      * performance of audio chipset and firmware (about which we know nothing here)
      * buffer sizes specified by the application (and various Android developers have found that they are able to set lower buffer sizes reliably, particularly dependent on hardware)

      Because latency is ultimately a function of attempting to set your buffer size as low as you possibly can without dropping samples, you will always have some advantage when you know what hardware you’re running on — doubly so if you yourself are choosing the audio chipset.

      A number of our complaints about Android, in fact, have to do with developing for circumstances in which we both don’t know the hardware and don’t know what other applications may be running. Android *ought* to provide better tools for coping with those circumstances, as operating systems like Mac OS and Windows have done on a range of hardware for years.

      But the OS doesn’t set the latency. That means any time you hear “Android has latency of…”, someone probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or at least is radically oversimplifying to the point of saying something that’s false.

    • PaulDavisTheFirst

      peter – that list is not complete. there’s at least one more item: additional buffering done by “the system” between the application and the connectors on the back of the device.

      Dave Sparks reply in Ross’ blog post is disappointing. It once again suggests that Google doesn’t have anyone  on their team that really understands Linux and audio. I guess I should have taken the position when they asked, but I didn’t want to move :) His answer is full of the usual half-truths that come out when we hear people who have a fairly deep grasp on some part of Linux (particularly the kernel) but not audio. Dave is probably a smart guy, but his answer was not smart.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Also, read that blog post from Ross Bencina, because Dave Sparks on the Android team is *not* saying what you’re saying.

  • Goofypriest

    They really should have put some assignable knobs on it.

  • http://marcoraaphorst.nl Raaphorst

    looks totally cool to me! this in my bag and able to use it for composition, blogging and audio reporting? would be killer if it can do that!

  • heinrichz

    Finally..who needs a stupid type writer with a musical instrument? Personally  i would like to have a bank of16 touch sensitive pads instead for step sequecing and note playing.

  • Radiophobic

    Retronyms being a launch developer is the exact opposite of a selling point. I actually stopped reading the article after seeing that name. Note to app developers: if you want to release an app that only becomes interesting after $25 of in app purchases, don’t charge any money for the basic app. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X2C5LHHPDXQAKWUKBWCJFPNFVQ jahlove

    Why Android? why not go down to the kernel then build it up from it for music applications? Ardour is not based on android and you can use an RME multiface with it because there is a “linux driver” for it like now.

    In less than 2 years Windows 8 on Arm will make that effort totally pointless as it seems as responsive as iOS as far as music/touch response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cacealian Todd Fletcher

    Why are some of the keys stuck down? Are they like B3 presets?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1356347063 Cromlek Fernandez

    meh

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tomislav-Rupic/1089060976 Tomislav Rupić

    what about audio latency? I heard Android is useless for audio apps since its lowest latency is 100ms and usually about 300ms… for me thats unusable… http://www.musiquetactile.fr/android-is-far-behind-ios/

  • http://pierrefontaine.webs.com/ Pfontaine2

    This is purely an aesthetic point, but I feel this would look more interesting if it were in any other color than white.  While plastic looks so 70′s (and yes, I’m no big fan of white iPads).

    Black would be cool, but so would some off the wall color like red or green.  It wouldn’t make this look any less toy-like but it would certainly add some pizazz.  I also think some real-time controllers on the left side would be helpful.  The obvious choice would be to have pitch bend and mod wheels but an assignable controller or two would be very nice.

  • http://www.gear4music.com/String_Instruments/Cellos.html cello

    Comparing and organizing instruments based on their complexity is misleading, since advancements in musical instruments have sometimes reduced complexity.

  • http://musicrocknation.blogspot.com/ Music Nation

    the era of android has become so responsive to all the user of this software.

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  • http://verizonfiosavailability.webnode.com/ Patrick Hudson

    Looks like a wonderful kit to start composing musics for music lovers. But will this be good enough like the one which the real composers use?

  • BritanneyBernard

    Lastly..who needs a ridiculous kind author with a musical technology instrument? Individually i would like to have a financial institution of16 contact delicate shields instead for phase sequecing and observe enjoying.

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