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).
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.
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.)