Exquis - new hex-layout keyboard

Intuitive Instruments, the French company behind the Dualo, have been dropping hints about their new MPE hex-layout keyboard called Exquis. I think this is heading for Kickstarter soon


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXQuLvs … nstruments


Looking nice :wink:

I have an Axis-49, always “refreshing” to play, great for left hand chords, big chords… although not MPE.

Think the worlds needs more hex-layout :wink:


The world definitely needs more hex-layouts!


Going live on kickstarter next Tuesday!


It’s live!!


I went for the deluxe version. Look forward to messing around with this. :+1:



Very attractive project. They talked about following an “open hardware” design. I wonder if that applies to the software as well? Will the firmware be open source? If you got the hardware, but they didn’t succeed in the market, open-source firmware would help future-proof the investment. (IIRC Linnstrument firmware is open source). I’m a bit leery as someone who posesses a now orphaned Sensel Morph.

Hi, thank you for your interest!
So I’m Bruno, from the Intuitive Instruments team.
Thank you Ben for opening the topic here.

As of today, we have not planend to open the firmware of the Exquis keyboard, but as far as I am also a Sensel Morph orphaned owner, I totally agree with you that this is something we have to figure out seriously. The main problem is to have to deal with lots of repair after-sales coming from strange firmware.

And to be complete, about the Exquis app itself, it’s not on our plan to release the source code, but we are not straight on that kind of position, it is just a matter of being sure the direction is the right one for our company.


Hi Bruno! Thanks for dropping in. Interesting point about firmware; I can see both sides of the argument. Maybe the best thing a company can do is hand the source over to ace hacker Technobear of this parish when they decide to no longer support it. :thinking: :wink:

Good luck with the Kickstarter campaign.


Maybe the best thing a company can do is hand the source over to ace hacker Technobear of this parish when they decide to no longer support it.

Definitively the right answer I think.

Thanks for the reply, Bruno – so glad to see Intuitive listening here!

1 Like

Everything looks great. My concerns are that I don’t expect the app to cover my needs, and don’t want to be at its mercy.

I’ll point to Roli’s “Lumi” on this one.

  • Much like Exquis, Lumi uses LEDs to highlight the notes of a given scale, while still letting you play notes outside of it. But critically, Lumi only displays the scales that Roli embedded in firmware.
  • There’s no way for a user to display any other scales, and requesting specific ones falls on deaf ears.
  • There’s also no way for an outside developer to bypass this limitation by setting the LED colors manually.
  • This subsequently blocks developers from building apps which do anything other than display scales.

My investment in Lumi was a significant waste of money, and it’s made me extremely wary of locked systems and hidden limitations.

To be clear, I don’t need an open firmware, nor open source on the app.

I just can’t rely on any one company to provide all of the functionality that I will ever require.

Nor should they have to carry that burden.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’d point to Novation’s Launchpad line.

  • In addition to the very comprehensive “Programmer Mode”, their documentation provides a framework to configure every variable within their firmware, including custom scale definitions.

Where does Exquis fall, between those extremes?


So happy to see such high level talks here.

I am perfectly aligned with your position, and because I don’t want to have to carry all the everyone’s own tiny details that should be in a product, we decided to make something simple, open, which people would be able to hack and augment by themself.

It begins by allowing to control every LED under the keys with a midi note message. Velocity is the colour. That way, we feel good: you do your stuff, and we don’t have to implement all of them to make you happy, instead, we have the time to observe, ask, try, document and then add a feature if we feel everyone should benefit from it.

Same idea with the look and feel. We heard too much people comparing our previous products, the dualo du-touch, to an accordion, so for Exquis we will just release the 3D files of the circuit board (!! not the circuit scheme itself) and few other elements, so you can imagine and conceive the casing you want. And that’s why we offer a version without casing.

I never heard about these features in the Novation Launchpad line. We will definitively consider them.

What I can assure, as of today, is that the philosophy of Exquis is to give you the most basic access to allow you to do exactly what you want.
We are still working on the behavior of the Exquis when used as a midi controller, without the app. For sure, there will some custom slots for presets/scales/configurations/… in Exquis’ memory. Same idea with the buttons: they will send midi messages and if we can’t give you the ability to configure them, at least you will receive the message and do what you want with it (Max or Max4LIve will be your best friends :wink: ).

We have already 15 years of experience with the dualo du-touch, which are, even almost unknown outside France, Belgium and Switzerland, very smart pieces of hardware. It’s been a looooong time we decided custom scales are essentials. Same with being able to control the LEDs with a midi note message. We have used this feature in many pedagogical contexts and it has given us many ideas that we were able to test and to improve, before they became on-board features.

I hope this answer your questions. Please keep going to send your thoughts :slight_smile:


I’m not sure they’re needed here, but just to be thorough…

There’s a programmer’s guide, maintained separately from the core manual:

Custom scales are sort of hiding in there, folded into the “Set Note Mode’s configuration” block.

Essentially, one of the parameters you can send in that command is 11 bytes worth of “is this interval part of the scale?” booleans. (11 zeros is just the root. 11 ones is the chromatic scale. so, it’s intuitive enough to send custom scales in on the fly through max for live, once you’ve worked out the syntax)

That’s important on Launchpad, because Note Mode could be set to hide out-of-scale tones. So, this command actually defines the note output of those pads.

In your case, I think every layout presents all 12 notes, so controlling the individual LEDs effectively gives us every scale, regardless.

(I honestly don’t think you need to emulate anything in that PDF. It was just an example of someone being very open without having to be open source.)

One suggestion for that (based on experience scripting for Artiphon Orba in max):

I need for one selectable layout to never be changeable.

I’m happy to remap pitches from a fixed set, but if the user selected a different layout, that’s going to break everything. So I need to be like “switch to default layout, and transpose to C” so I know what all the buttons do.

I guess, really, I’m describing a programer mode. Let’s just go there.

Here’s what that would ideally entail:

  • There should be a toggle to turn it on or off.
  • ON temporarily disables default LED behaviors, and blanks out all the LEDs.
  • ON also sets the note outputs to a consistent known layout.
    (It’d be great if this layout let us count rows and columns to determine the note number for a given pad, but that’s not strictly necessary)
  • OFF should restore the user-selected layout and LEDs.

That’s pretty much it.

What you’re describing sounds perfect. I just wanted to point out this one potential hurdle, since others have missed it in their own releases.

1 Like

@bruno.intuitive, I think this is a very wise decision… but Im not sure you can do alot of hacking/augmenting without firmware support…

however, I think this is only achievable IF you open source the firmware.

actually, I’ll take that back a notch, you could also publish exact details of the hardware and how it relates to the mcu … e.g. mcu spec, firmware upload procedure, what digital pins are used, and how…

or produce an api (frankly, the lower level the better)

but honestly, both are quick a lot of work, and you will be fielding a lot of tech questions, thats reason most manufacture just publish the firmware, its just simply easier… it just lets developers ‘get on with it’

dont get me wrong, as a developer who has sold software, I understand the business decision behind keeping software/firmware proprietary… the value of IP, and for sure, its a bold move ways from the idea that this will protect you from a clone.

but honestly… the deal is simple…
if a product is keenly priced (and I think Exquis is!), the frankly 99% of people will just buy it…
even if you made both the hardware and software completely open (*), sure someone could build/make there own, but the reality, is most dont have the skills/time to bother doing so … esp. at the price you offer.

on the flip side, open sourced products are more attractive to potential customers (= sell more of your product) , since

  • future proofing
  • devs are more interested
  • hope/possibility of ‘community firmware’
  • possibility of devs helping you with bugs/issues… feature requests.

don’t get me wrong, you’ll be luck if get a handful of open source devs interested… we all have more than enough ‘projects’ on the go :laughing: , but get one or two keen ones, and you’d be surprised at what they can do for the community … and for you too (if you allow contributions back into main code line).

for sure, as an open source developer, Im an open source advocate… and have seen that, generally, fears companies (cloning) have for releasing open source - don’t really happen… and if anything, the general positivity from open sourcing, really sets you up in a much better position with the community.

but as a I said, I do understand why companies want to retain IP (and have done it myself), and totally respect that it is for each developer, their decision !

one parting thought (though feel free to reach out to me).
I’d say think about it now… I personally would never buy/back a product that was ‘thinking about’ the possibility of open sourcing, Id always want that commitment up front.

anyways, open source is just an interesting option - Im sure you will be very successful without out it.
and I do wish you every success regardless, with both kickstarter and the product more generally.
take care

Mark aka TheTechnobear

(*) this is particularly true because you value add with your app


Indeed they are! And when the news reaches the anglo world, things might change quite a lot.

AMEN TO THAT! Fully configurable scales on hex-layouts can really revolutionize the way we understand music, the way we create it, the way we learn it. I use my du-touch to teach music theory to absolute beginners, advanced musicians and actual music teachers alike and the results are jaw dropping. They just GET IT! Within minutes, the just get it. Chromatic scale, major scale, all modes, in scale chords, intervals… the whole shebang. And they look at me in utter disbelief. Beginners says things like “why does everyone one make such a big deal about music theory? It’s really obvious isn’t it?”

And music teachers are saying things like “all these years of music school, I now realise I never really got it! And yet it’s so elegantly simple. How could it escape me for so long?”.

It’s a lot of fun to watch!

I totally agree with you @keymanpal and @jaygalfo the world needs more hex-layout! WAY WAY MORE!

1 Like

I’ve been wondering about the lumi. I looked into it… and I wasn’t to impressed. It looked like a “too clever to be convincing” gizmo bringing nothing really new or groundbreaking. And I don’t get it… why do 21st century hardware makers lock their gear up into oblivion?

So much could be achieved with at least, a properly documented API…

One day, I hope, gear makers will actually understand hackers really are their best friends!

1 Like


When will manufacturers REALLY get it? External devs and hackers make their products better, enables their product to reach a much MUCH wider audience… Manufacturers should nurture open source dev and hackers, take them seriously, cater to their needs, and be super grateful for the amazing amount of work they put into making their product better… for free!

I’m really happy Intuitive Instruments has decided to go the open hardware route. Even though it’s a little unclear to me what they are actually opening up…

Anyway, whatever is it they are actually opening, it sounds like one step in the right direction.

1 Like

Mildly on-topic, but…

I kinda think the stretch goals are reversed on this campaign.

Porting the du-touch tutorials over will sell more units after the campaign, and benefit every participant. That feels like an immediate need, and more necessary than expanding the casing options for those who picked the Deluxe level.

Hopefully, all stretch goals get unlocked and that becomes a moot point.

As an almost-brand-new “old rookie” to these parts, I read all I can and learn a ton here. I am wondering what the layout is for the hex-designed Exquis. I am quite familiar with Wicki/Hayden (and Striso) but haven’t seen what this one is. Is it like CBA, as in C or B grif? The prior instruments (Dualo) looked like they needed alternate hands to play consecutive notes, like an English concertina. Does anyone know?


1 Like