Arturia Polybrute 12 w/ poly full touch (AT/Z)

interesting stuff…

basically, has a very similar poly aftertouch action to the Osmose.
( does not have the pitch wiggle of osmose)

price 4k euro.

w/ respect to osmose, the way they ‘present’ the pressure is a bit different,
basically they present as aftertouch and Z, rather than aftertouch(Z) and Y
that said… frankly, it feels like its naming, perhaps to avoid being accused of copying EE.

as… there is an MPE mode, which presents itself exactly the same as the Osmose…

I guess, you could argue that Arturia felt, calling this 2 stage aftertouch Z, and Y is a bit odd…, and so went for AT and Z.

3 Likes

Looking good!
A midi-controller version of this (with that keyboard and perhaps the wooden xyz controller) for let’s say <500€ could be a hit!

3 Likes

I think they may be onto a compelling winner here, by simplifying the programming of expressive presets via the merging of the envelopes with an expressive dimension of touch, and retaining a more traditional synth action keyboard feel than Osmose can manage.

So I dont mind some youtube etc reviewers being tempted to use words like potential gamechanger. You dont need to add loads of additional expressive dimensions or features than other MPE controllers already offer, you just need to come up with a compelling mix of features and compromises that resonate with plenty of people.

I dont desire this synth strongly myself, but I still hope to benefit from it. Via:

Expressivity going even more mainstream.
Greater chances of actually seeing a reasonable quantity of expressive performances on youtube etc.
Further demystifying certain aspects of MPE etc.
More companies exploring this sort of blending of expressive input with envelopes etc (as we also saw with Noisy 2 very recently).
A greater appreciation for what can be achieved with expression over the entire key travel range, not just the traditional aftertouch zone.

2 Likes

yeah, I think its a great combo…

at the end of the day, I think its a very different instrument from the Osmose.
and that is, largely, because of the sound engine.
alot of the dynamic nature of the Osmose comes from the way the EM is programmed,
and I personally think that is a good thing… but then I bought the Osmose 90% for the EM!

but I recognise, despite it being very clear what the EM was…
many people still bought the Osmose, expecting/hoping for something different…
something, perhaps, more familiar, more approachable, easy to program.

perhaps this happened because of the hype, perhaps because there was no hardware alternative (e.g. why not get a seaboard + equator)…

but it was never going to end well, the EM has been around of decades, to think it is going to to change radically is errrmm… unlikely :wink:

so today is good, now there is an alternative…
Id not be surprised to see some sell their osmose to get this, they’ll get what they really had hoped for.

k, the 4k, price tag is steep, but its also analog…

will there be a slim down version , or controller… hmm, not sure.
this polybrute ( and its predecessor - matrixbrute) has been around a while, its their flagship.
(Im not in the market, but have to say, even before this keybed, Ive always fancied getting a matrix/poly-brute)

I somehow doubt they’d go the controller route…market is still a bit niche, it’d not make them a ton of money… and kind of weaken the USP.
however, perhaps an astrolab (*) version? a digital hybrid form, could make a lot of sense.
(though admittedly, they have to wait a while before doing a v2!)


( * ) astrolab has come under criticism, esp UI aspects, but I hope they will evolve the concept.

1 Like

The way to deal with EaganMatrix and offer more familiarity popped into my head ages ago and reports from ContinuuCon suggest that they had a similar idea and are running with it:

Use the power of that engine to build synths with traditional paradigms on top, then offer specific user interfaces for each of those synth paradigms.

Another way to describe the same thing: Think of these ‘new synths built on top’ as templates created with the main editor. Then offer a range of familiar controls to tweak the important parameters within those templates. Stuff that goes much further than the existing macros (once upon a time called barrels in EagenMatrix terminology?), but hides the full complexity of the full engine away from users that dont want to see all that matrix stuff.

Hope that makes sense! I wasnt at the event myself but someone else has been reporting that some early prototypes of the above were demonstrated.

3 Likes

Oh and if they decided to then take that idea to the full extreme, they could even offer a physical interface for such things, available as an add-on piece of hardware that screws onto the back of the Osmose via the existing mounting points. I dont know if they will ever consider actually doing that.

Even if they do all the above and execute it well, it wont overcome a couple of other issues that make other offerings a better choice for some: Some people want traditional synth action keybed feel, especially if they dont want to invest much time in relearning how to play. And some people just dont love the sounds that EaganMatrix can produce. Mind you, not everyone loves the PolyBrute sounds either.

1 Like

yeah, this is something Ive been considering for a while.
I actually have done quite a bit of work on ‘reverse engineering’ the wire protocol the Max patch uses, I have most of it done … but then ‘other projects’ took priority :laughing:

however, in doing so, I found that modelling tradition synthesis in the EM does not work well.

the first thing to realise is the EM editor is quite a thin veiled UI onto the synth engine on the hardware…its more than just a ‘representation’.
so any fundamental change, would require significant change to firmware … not just a new ‘skin’

e.g. at the moment with the EM as its is , sure you could create functional blocks that represent an ADSR, but doing so uses a LOT of resources.
the biggest reason is, there is little ‘automation’ in the EM, only 5 function generators.
try to build an ADSR, and you’ll likely eat 2…
so 2 ADSR and 1 LFO is all you get - thats a pretty limited subtractive synth, I think most decent digital synths these days have at least 4 of each :wink:

why is this the case?
simple… the EM was built around the concept that the sound is built from expression, unlike traditional synthesis where expression is added on top of automaton.
that is why the EM focus is on sculpting and moulding that expression data.

so to get a more traditional synthesis editing is more than a UI change, much more fundamental, required firmware changes etc.
and does Lippold really want to do this? the EM and continuum are unique for a reason… do we need yet another subtractive synth?

if the simplified editor is just a skin/functional blocks without firmware enhancements, I fear it’ll not really address the concerns many have, as it wont be deep enough.

but its interesting, it depends how ambitious and deep the changes are…
ofc, I will say, on the positive side… the newer DSP chips in the Osmose/Continuum, have a lot more processing than before… so Im sure adding dozens more function generators would not be an issue.

at the end of the day, anything is possible with software… really it just comes down to motivation and time… so really it depends on where Haken want to go.

ofc Expressive E also have some agency in this…
there is nothing stopping them developing a variation of Osmose with a completely different synth engine … it’d be trivial for them to chuck in a more traditional MCU, and they have the software experience to create a synth for it.

4 Likes

Yes that makes sense, although I dont think I’d ever use the word trivial when it comes to MCUs etc. Partly because I dont really know exactly what skillsets they’ve got in-house, partly because even things that look simple on paper can quickly spiral in scope and knock-on consequences.

Anyway I believe the person that was talking about how this stuff was demonstrated at the ContinuuCon event, or perhaps someone else, did mention engine changes that were being done to facilitate this stuff. But I have absolutely no sense of what sort of synth templates they are building, so I probably shouldnt try to predict whether their engine changes are in line with overcoming the limitations you have mentioned above.

2 Likes

sure, trivial is a bit ‘optimistic’ but, having worked in this area, e.g. using buildroot/linux, it’s also not rocket science.

EE do have some experience in this area…
they are using an MCU for running their firmware on the Osmose, which controls things like the UI and integration to the Haken DSP chip.
sure, they need to choose the right chipset, and perhaps a codec, but they obviously have the hardware knowledge to do that… then once you come to software its not too dissimilar to audio development they already do (depending upon approach)

so, no not trivial, but also I think quite achievable…
I suspect, they went for EM not because they couldn’t create the sound engine, rather as a radical new product they wanted something ‘proven’ in the area, and also a bit unique.
I think a great move…but not for everyone.

all that said, adding a new product to their lineup is also a lot of work, not only in development but also manufacture, distribution etc. so, just because they ‘can’ does not mean they will :slight_smile:

anyway… back to Polybrute 12, I think it will do well…
the keybed is only one (great) side to it, its a great analogue synth in its own right.
I do think its going to hit a really nice ‘sweet spot’, that is quite different from the Osmose.

2 Likes

Yes. I’ve already seen some comparisons to the CS-80 being made, and its not that hard to see why, even if its a slightly lazy comparison in some ways.

As a nerd and long time MPE supporter, I constantly have to remind myself that even though its not that complicated, its still a bit of a mystery to plenty of people. Even some youtube shows I watch, where the hosts are enthusiastic about the return of poly aftertouch and the rise of MPE options, there is a sense that they lack personal experience of it at depth. This drives me a little crazy when technical misinformation results, and me blathering on about the technical realities of the MPE spec to them doesnt usually help. The polybrute 12 should start to erase some of those things, its got lower barriers to entry for them in several key regards, including familiar key feel. And the way they’ve blended the expressive info with envelopes means that actually bothering to make expressive presets for this synth should be central to most peoples use of it rather than a tedious afterthought. So Im very happy that this synth exists, even though Im not in the market for one myself.

2 Likes

From a technical MIDI point of view, can I ask for your thoughts on Loopops request to Arturia in that video to make the envelope stuff available in the MPE output?

My initial thoughts on this are that its a very understandable request, but perhaps a flawed one when we consider really fast envelopes. Theres reasons why the envelope side of things is usually considered to be part of the synth engine, rather than being done on the controller & MIDI side of things. In theory MIDI 2.0 could make it more practical to send such things and get the expected results, but only if synth makers also take the opportunity when adding MIDI 2.0 support to also rethink what they’ve traditionally done with slewing/smoothing of incoming MIDI control signals.

Does that sound reasonable or can you spot some flaws in my thinking on that, or angles I havent considered?

2 Likes

yeah, the thing is (I know a few of the bigger ‘synth-fluencers’ pretty well) they know MPE is still pretty niche… and so, its not going to hit home with much of their audience, and that hits retention rates. so, they really like to keep it all fairly simple.
( its why you see limited coverage of eurorack modules, and very few complex ones)
similarly, they have to be careful of price point - they need to balance the flagships w/ affordable products.

I guess, put another way… enthusiasts in certain areas, are never going to be ‘happy’ with coverage by something aimed at ‘mass market’.

its not really a new request…
there have been midi envelopes (and midi lfos) around for a long time and as you say, there issue is resolution and update frequency, so synth compensate by slewing.
thats great for slower envelopes.but pretty bad for sharp transients, which can be pretty important.

but for sure its possible…
I mean, you sending poly AT from a sensor at fast data rates, is no different (to the receiver) as an automation doing it. its the same data, it’ll work more or less as well… and be highly dependent on synth engine, and how it handles the data etc.

ofc, doing lots of additional envelopes or with much higher resolution could cause data rate issues, but it’ll be fine over usb.

so, yeah, they have their issues - but often they are workable to some extent.

as for midi 2.0, sure it’ll help a bit, mainly the hi-res data side, but, I don’t think its going to change much in the near future.

though, frankly, if we wanted real-time polyphonic data streams… there are much better ways to do it :wink:

back to envs… ofc, there is an alternative…

perhaps this envelop functionality should not be in the controller, but rather in the synth or host thats running on the computer.
these both have the advantage they can generate the envelopes at audio rate, and also dont need to transmit this data over a physical wire :wink:

2 Likes

Thanks for your thoughts on that.

Yes I would agree rgarding the envelopes being part of the synth, which is likely why Arturia went ahead and did that on this new PolyBrute without trying to introduce it to the MIDI output, at least initially. I’ll be interested to see whether they introduce the concept to any of their MPE-capable soft synths in future. And on a similar note, why Expressive E stuck something similar in Noisy 2.

Meanwhile I see Arturia call the FullTouch stuff patented, so I had a sniff around for the patent in question. Didnt find much in the way of patents assigned to them, apart from the following one which might well be the one. I only found Chinese, French, German etc versions so far, but the machine translation isnt too awful. For example: https://worldwide.espacenet.com/patent/search/family/065200944/publication/CN209433848U?q=pn%3DCN209433848U

2 Likes