MPE/touch controller options?

After doing some playing with Sam Pluta this weekend (videos soon!), I loved how quick/expressive he could be with his Manta.

Been thinking about perhaps incorporating something like this alongside my monome/arc core setup, and wondering what some of the options out there are.

I really really love the look of the Soundplane, but it’s like gigantic, especially for my purposes. There’s obviously the Manta, but not crazy about the resolution (only 210 steps per pad), and the fact that it’s “fake” pressure (via contact surface area). I don’t like the feel (look, and sound) of things like the Seaboard/Linndrum/Quneo, in that they are ‘slow’ to respond (physically and programmatically), and have a “shitty MPE” sound to them. Likely due to the slow and deep thresholding so it doesn’t chatter, but I can really hear that in the playing coming out of them and I’m not into it. There’s also the Continuum, but in playing one (briefly) I didn’t like the ‘action’ of it, not to mention the very keyboard-heavy orientation isn’t something I’d be into exploring.

From the reviews I’ve seen of the new/little Roli’s they require a lot of pressure to play (and have latency), so also a no-go there.

I’ve not played one, but the look (and response time/resolution) of the Soundplane is, by far, the most attractive, but the size isn’t something I’d want.

Are there any other options I’m missing here, or anyone with experience with some of these things have some additional insights about them?


Have you tried a Linnstrument? I’ve found mine to be extremely responsive and I’ve never experienced any problems like you describe. A lot of the sound quality is really up to the synthesizer and how it responds to the MIDI data. I’ve had mixed results with a variety of soft synths but it actually worked remarkably well with a mono MIDI-CV converter and my Eurorack system. There’s also been a lot of firmware updates to make it even more responsive than before. Overall I’m very happy with (much happier than I was with the Seaboard) and it’s the closest I’ve come to having the responsiveness of my guitar with a synthesizer.


I’ve not played one, so not sure where it falls in terms of feel/action, but I guess it’s worth adding that I don’t plan on using it in a ‘synth’ manner. As, I wouldn’t be using an existing MPE synth, but rather would be doing custom software underneath it controlling sampling/fx/dsp stuff.

If I was going synth synth with it, I’d probably go Soundplane/Aalto straight up though.

1 Like

In that case you should have nearly completely control over the responsiveness. I had pretty good success using the Linnstrument to control some FM synths I whipped up in Supercollider, and I’m pretty sure it would work just as well for Max or whatever your preferred environment may be.

They also just released the Linnstrument 128 which is smaller and less expensive than the original.

Another Linnstrument owner here. The other thing worth thinking about is that the firmware is completely open source and based around an arduino architecture, so easy to customise. There’s a split mode where you can have midi faders on one side and a playing surface on the other and there’s also a ‘user mode’, that allows individual addressing of cells. There’s existing Max code that allows direct addressing of individual LEDs and cell by cell receipt of touch info too. The key feel is quite hard with no ‘give’, so it’s odd to get used to, but quite responsive when you are. I’ve also got an Eigenharp and the key feel is much more sensitive, but there’s no slide and the software is temperamental - the Linnstrument is MIDI class compliant straight out of the box.


On the negative side, if you’re wanting to use it as a single control surface, be aware that it’s only responsive to slides on the X-axis. The hardware doesn’t detect vertical slides.

1 Like

I briefly had a Seaboard (returned it because of manufacturing defects). I totally fell in love with MPE while simultaneously getting frustrated with the various implementations. I keep imagining various hybrids of these instruments. The Linnstrument seems most lacking in negatives, from what I’ve observed.

I’ve dreamed of making my own Manta-like instrument from scratch. Don’t really have time if I’m honest with myself.

Soundplane seems fantastic (if a bit prone to temperature/humidity issues?) but it’s been quite a while since any were available.

People seem ecstatic about the Continuum, but it’s so very expensive.

Really curious to see where you land with this.

I’m waiting patiently for a Sensel Morph to arrive (scheduled for March now) to experiment with MPE-like interactions. The iPhone has been holding me over in the meantime, but it’s latency is not great (~17ms best case). The Morph will supposedly have a normal “Full Resolution” mode that runs at 125Hz (8ms), and a reduced resolution mode that runs at 500Hz (2ms)… I shot them an email to ask what they meant by resolution, and it turns out they’re effectively referring to image resolution, rather than bit depth, so even in high speed mode, you’ll still get full force detection, but it sounds like the position granularity and the touch isolation might not be so precise in that mode.

I do enjoy the feel of the Linnstrument, and the 128 form factor looks particularly enticing, but I’m a bit far away from justifying a large purchase like that for a while.

gigantic? I dont think do, its only slightly larger than a linnstrument, rise 25.
I like my soundplane, it has its quirks, but I enjoy it, there something about it that makes you want to touch/play it, being a continuous in x/y/z is my favourite thing about it - fun to step outside grid and notes :slight_smile:

sensel morph definitely looks interesting, I hope they will make larger (one piece) surfaces.

striso looks interesting too, if you don’t need a continuous surface.

Interesting, hadn’t seen that before. Got me looking at my Magic Trackpad2, thinking that that could be useful too, though pressure sensing isn’t so granular.

Well, to be fair I think the Roli/Linn are also ‘gigantic’ (as compared to a monome/arc combo). Ideal would be something around that size that could sit next to, or in front of the monome. Since it wouldn’t be a full blown “instrument” in my use case, but just another controller, and often be used along side another instrument (drums mainly), I don’t have that much table space to give up.

A lot of positive comments about the Linnstrument. I’ll have a local to see if there any local shops that carry them (doubtful). Not a big fan of the look/size, but worth checking out.

I guess there’s also analog stuff, ala Rene/Pressure Points, but then that gets more complicated in terms of interfacing with software.

Another thought I’ve been thinking: 13-pin hexaphonic Roland guitar pickups for polyphonic midi with per-note pitch bends. It’s not MPE, but it provides many of the same benefits, especially if you’re a guitar player (a label I’ve been working harder at earning lately, after a lifetime of noodling).

Just noticed this, Darwin Grosse interviewing Roger Linn about Linnstrument and MPE. They even mention guitar MIDI as a predecessor to MPE, and that Dave Smith and others were thinking about these kinds of things from the earliest days.


Kind of thinking about doing a DIY route, with something Manta-like. Was even eyeballing a Mocante, but trying to build in an adc so it’d just speak USB to the computer.

Not sure how that would work, though I’ve seen many (just plain capacitive) touch-based arduino things.

I’m really interested in this topic and would love to experiment along with you. It would be interesting to engage Peter in this conversation and find out what he has learned about pressure-sensitive interfaces from Tocante and Mocante.

I do think there’s value in speaking both single channel MIDI and multi channel MPE. I’ve thought about CV output, but to get note, pressure, velocity, pitch bend, and release velocity * many fingers, makes for a lot of cables and confronting the difficulty of managing polyphonic voices in a modular environment.

I had a soundplane for a while and then sold it to fund my coco and plumbutter excursion

it feels amazing and I was starting to play with max and soundplane before I sold it but my computer could not keep up with what I wanted to do

I believe randy has talked about a new form factor of the soundplane although I have no idea of the timeline perhaps it is smaller

i have to dig around the madrona site but wasnt there some doc about building square diy SP? (1/4 or 1/3 the normal size)

it was beyond my ability but might fit your needs if the info is still available @Rodrigo

1 Like

I suspect you were thinking of this

I picked one of these up a while back with similar hopes (and the “work” benefit of using pressure in the iOS simulator), but it felt mediocre at best for musical purposes, since it’s still seen as a mouse/cursor, and doesn’t support multiple touches (besides the built in gestures)

1 Like

@Rodrigo, Wacom tablets?

The Mocante is interesting in that you have all those mini patch points in the middle too, so I presume there’s quite a bit of chaotic control/input to things. The form-factor is quite nice too. The nice thing about these ‘bare metal’ controllers (mocante, manta, rene/pressure) is that the response type is really fast. The “pressure” is artificial but perhaps it is useful enough.

My old university has a Manta in the tech store that I can probably borrow, so it might be worth having a go on one to see how it ‘feels’.

As in the CPU overhead of the Soundplane, or in general? I guess, because of how it works, that it does some heavy lifting to get such a fast response time and high resolution.

I did see something about a Soundplane Model B on the forum, so maybe that could be a way to go in the future. Has anyone encountered any specific info about it?

Yeah I saw that. Also seen a couple other pressure sensitive DIY controllers out there, though my experience with that kind of ‘mushy’ controller is that it doesn’t ‘feel’ fast, in terms of action/playability.

There is always that, or an iPad pro + pencil, as you get lots of rich data (pressure/tilt/etc…), but either would tether me to an implement that I’d have to hold play playing something else, which isn’t ideal.

1 Like