Forward-thinking musicians are witnessing a battle for dominance as PMCs slug it out in the marketplace. This past year saw the emergence of two extremely worthy newcomers, the Roger Linn Design LinnStrument and the Roli Seaboard Rise. Though we had a hard time choosing one over the other, the Rise has a leg up with two big advantages. Because its layout is strikingly similar to a piano keyboard, anyone who plays keyboards can get started rather quickly. And because it’s a seriously scaled-down, two-octave version of the bigger Seaboards with no internal sound engine, it costs less than any of its competitors.
You can play any hardware or software MIDI instrument with the Rise, but it really shines when paired with the included computer-based soft synth, Equator. Equator pairs DSP-generated waveforms with sample playback and lets you process them with five filters, five envelopes, and an excellent assortment of effects. If you play keyboards and you feel stifled by their expressive limitations, find out what the Seaboard’s “five dimensions of touch” are all about.