Roli has upgraded his colorful, portable LUMI Keys MIDI keyboard with the full MPE magic, not only in the Studio Edition but also as a free firmware update for existing users.
A few years ago, MPE was only available in high-priced controllers like the ROLI Seaboards. In the last few months, however, one notices: MPE controllers are moving into a more inexpensive/affordable market. They become accessible to more musicians even on a smaller budget. The Roli Seaboard Block, Sensel Morph, Joué Pro, to name a few current MPE controllers that cost less than 500 €.
With the LUMI Keys Studio Edition, ROLI has today presented a new affordable MPE controller. Not completely new because the colorful LUMI Keys was released last year as an education keyboard on Kickstarter. For the Studio Edition, ROLI took the existing LUMI but expanded it with the innovative Seaboard technology aka MPE. It means, it features all four dimensions of touch (strike, lift, glide, press) squeezed into a portable 2-octave keyboard. That’s sounds impressive.
ROLI LUMI Keys Studio Edition With MPE
It offers polyphonic pitch-bend and aftertouch per key, as well as new ways to compose with the light on illuminated keys. ROLI says it’s the first time, music-makers can bend pitch through vibrato-like movements on a keyboard controller with traditional key action, adding expression in a natural and intuitive way. It’s very exciting to see that ROLI managed to put the same Seaboard expressiveness into the LUMI.
However, there is one difference. The pitch bend is achieved differently. Instead of sliding the fingers like on a screen, this can be described as a vibrato shacking that you can perform on each key. A slightly different approach, but according to Roli it has the same effects. Interesting: this is the same LUMI keyboard that ROLI presented in the Kickstarter a year ago. That was also confirmed by the company. So this early version already had MPE but was probably not activated. So with a new firmware update, they will all become MPE controllers. That’s good news.
It features four playing modes for the right amount of expression. The piano mode makes it like a classic keyboard. Aftertouch Mode adds aftertouch and Pitchbend Mode allows per-key pitch bend. The fourth and last mode is the most exciting. It activates the 4D power that brings the magic of the Seaboard to it. These modes will be available to all LUMI users after a firmware update in January.
Expandable Key Range
The LUMI Keys is part of the Blocks system and thus is expandable through magnetic connectors. So you can upgrade your LUMI with additional keys in seconds. A 24-key version becomes quickly a 48, 72, or even a 96-key playing surface. The underlying technology of the LUMI keys is similar to that of the other BLOCKS products, which means you can expand it also with these controllers. Because we’re already with the Keys. The keybed is very small and narrow. They use DS5.5 keys that are ⅞ the width of standard keys, making LUMI Keys bigger than a “mini-keys” keyboard but more compact than a standard controller.
However, there were many problems at the startup. Many Kickstarter Pledger reports about hanging keys etc. According to ROLI, they have fixed this problems and the whole keyboard got a quality makeover that makes it more solid than before. Of course, it is also compatible with the LUMI Music app, an educative platform that originated as a Kickstarter project in 2019. It teaches learners how to play the piano by taking in-app lessons and practicing songs they love.
I’m happy to see that the market for MPE controllers is growing, including with new affordable ones. Especially where Ableton Live 11 now has MPE support, the topic becomes even more relevant. The keyboard looks very nice in my opinion.
ROLI LUMI Keys Studio Edition is available now for pre-order in a limited-time launch bundle priced at $269 USD (£269 GBP), a 10% discount from the purchase price of $299 USD. It ships with ROLI Studio, a LUMI Snapcase, three additional ROLI sound packs, and a $50 USD voucher which can be used for any ROLI software, even the newly released Equator2.
Sales start today on a pre-order basis. The first LUMI Keys Studio Editions will ship in January 2021.
More information: ROLI