Joué Play vs. offGrid MPE Controllers - The HUGE Difference in Kickstarter Approaches

So in the last couple days, Kickstarter campaigns have released for two new additions to the MPE controller world, the Joué “Play” and °Grid (offGrid) by birdkids.

I watched the intro videos for both and looked around the Kickstarter, and, WOW is there a huge difference in how they come off, how they’re presented, how their communities have reacted, and how I feel about both products and their devs.

I’ll post both links and will not say anything about either but I want to ask, what are your thoughts on the approach from Joué to sell their more user-friendly MPE Device compared to birdkids’ effort to sell theirs?

  1. birdkids’ °Grid Kickstarter:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/birdkids/offgrid-make-music-your-way-anytime-anywhere-hands-on

  2. Joué Play Kickstarter:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joue-play/joue-play-everyone-can-play-music

why not?

Obviously two different marketing strategies, can’t say either one of them is better. For me personally - Joué “Play” clip is way off, birdkids’ clip is at least somewhat sincere.
Ultimately feelings don’t matter, it all comes down to product quality and what you get in terms of tech specs (and what you can do with them).

They’re very different products.

Joué Play is a simplified version of the established but not well understood Joué controller. It is aimed at beginners and music enthusiasts.

offGrid looks to be “pressure sensitive MIDI Fighter 3D, with a joystick.” Which is to say, it’s an abstract control source that requires some level of expertise going in.

First generation Joué suffered from deceptive simplicity. The vibrant colors drew in people who didn’t know what to do with a layout editor, because they didn’t know what to do with the signals they were setting up.

offGrid’s demo looks to avoid that, by not even hinting at what the controls do. But I still think, based on the velocity of their pledges, that they’ll run headlong into the same issue.

(The tone may be more sincere, but to me, that video screamed “non-functional prototype”. You’re showing me gestures, while playing music that isn’t in any way affected by those gestures.)

Side note: You say offGrid is MPE, and their campaign uses the words “full polyphonic expression”, but there is, as yet, no evidence of either.

In the comments, they were asked about per-note bend, aftertouch, and CC#74. The response was essentially “we’re not using the word ‘aftertouch’ because we’re not confident that we can deliver it. we’re only promising velocity.” No mention of per note bend, or CC#74 at all.

So, yeah. I don’t think Joué Play is offering what many here are looking for, but I do think they’re going to deliver on what they’re portraying this time.

I think the opposite of offGrid.
(It’s not a deliberate scam, but they’re going to disappoint a lot of people.)

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I just didn’t want to tarnish anyone’s genuine reactions to each one. To me, the Joué Play Kickstarter is genuinely cringe-inducing. Callous and crude. Tacky and contrived. Way off is a great way to put it. I don’t mean to discredit anything but wow, compared to the other, I was just really put off from the Play.

Ahh, good insight about the offGrid. I personally was drawn in and found their approach far more enticing than the Play video, but of course to each Their own!
Thanks for the insight about the MPE skepticism. I was backing it but now I’m not 100% sure. I’ll try to investigate more.

I don’t think anything wrong with either - it’s all about target market.
I think joue comes across as fun and easy to use which seems to be main concern. Price point seems reasonable too.
My only thought was they might be slightly underselling it - Vid feels like its iOS only, and I’m sure market is bigger than that ( at this price point)

Offgrid - isnt really my thing , for me - too small for a playing surface - but I can imagine being fun.

(I think both are aimed at the on the go, iOS , and have fun market … and I’m not really in that market ;))

But at the end of the day , choice is king - I’m sure both suit lots of different people both in features and price.

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The original Joué is the only MPE controller I purchased that I ended up regretting immediately.

I could not get the aftertouch per-note aspect to work properly, if I used 2 fingers then the pressure on one note would completely interfere with the midi aftertouch messages being sent by the other note - one seemed to be subtracting from the other! I thought it would be a firmware issue but when I asked on their forum, they said it was a sensor limitation. And then at some point they deleted that forum.

I normally love being on the bleeding edge, but the fact I could barely find any other user who had noticed this issue and was prepared to talk about it online really did my head in. I had trouble believing it really had this limitation, but no matter what config options I used, the problem seemed consistent. And completely unacceptable.

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As for the Grid, its the sort of thing I would have gotten excited about when the Nintendo Wii controller appeared on the scene (gyroscopes etc) an well before MPE controllers were much of a thing. Maybe I could still be interested in it now, but not if I compare it to actual MPE controllers, I would not want to get my hopes up for per-note expression with this device, if I had one I would try to play to its strengths instead.

What is actually different with the new Joue compared to the original? I cannot face wading through the marketing for actual detail!

I suppose if this thread is about comparing campaign videos, I think Striso wins on both authenticity and honest representation of what the device can do.

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+1

The “…oh! I like that. And…” [presses button and grins stupidly at camera] “…that’s really cool!” approach, and the “What’s your journey? This is your journey. Be yourself. Find your journey.” method are both tried and tested formulae, but seeing someone larking about on a slide and talking about their invention in a practical, down-to-earth way is more appealing to me personally.

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I have been chatting with the Joué folks about this and that; when I met them at NAMM last January they had early samples of the Play modules in hand. Off-key marketing or not, they are addressing what I regard as a critical issue in what they’ve done so far: as has been pointed out here and elsewhere, the Joué (now rebranded the Joué Pro, if anyone cares) looks appealing but doesn’t easily bring in the user who’s new to all this, whereas heavier users are trying to figure out where it fits into the picture…

The main thing about Play is that you have ONE overlay rather than one, two, or three, and the function set isn’t so much simplified as focused. The iOS app is designed to let pretty much anyone at least get started, and for them to survive as a company, they have GOT to expand their market down into the wider world of beginner music enthusiasts without sacrificing much of what makes the Joué special.

Just my 5 Lindens’ worth…

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Hi there, Mike from birdkids Vienna here. First post on this forum here.
Just wanted to refer those who haven’t seen the prototype implementation of polyphonic expression to the campaign’s page, specifically paragraph “Pair & Play”.
I’ll be happy to answer any technical or implementation questions, keep in mind I’m not here to judge any other companies campaign or product nor implementation, that’s not our way.
birdkids as a company exists since 2012, and we were building boutique modular synths since 2015, our expertise is engineering, design and EU-quality build using locally sourced technologies and materials. I firmly believe in showing what the device does in the rawest form possible, this is not a polished campaign, nor does it involve ambassadors or hand-models. All functionality videos were done by myself and my wife to showcase that absolute beginners can make tracks and beats from scratch using nothing more than the DAW that came with your smartphone.

Lots of spiteful feedback came from male musicians and male technocrats, there’s just something about the idea of lowering the threshold for making sound at a certain price-point (and getting encouraging results without a formal education or a $1000 setup) that this particular group cannot stand :woman_shrugging: Or maybe its something entirely else and I’m just not getting it.

°Grid is the first step towards a wide audience for us, we’re absolutely committed to translating our qualities from the premium synth segment to the augmentative HMI’s area, and the overall feedback is very positive - FWIW I invite you to participate in the discussion on the campaign page if nothing else, or even subscribe to the Beta-Program to make this the worlds smartest, pocket-sized controller at the price-range.

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Hmmm was hoping you’d take the opportunity to address the confusion in this thread about whether the off grid has true MPE functionality and support.

Otherwise thanks for the nice message and dropping by to join our community

Good points.

It’s been long enough, we should revisit the campaign page for new demos and documentation.

No thank YOU for the dialogue and a really interesting community to join, I promise to dive deeper into the forum and maybe lurk around for a while, but as we proceed with the final implementations of our production units, keep everybody in the loop on how we’re doing.

I think what frequently is taken for granted, is the common implementation of MPE by the “Godfathers” Mr. Linn and co. while I absolutely adore those designs and the legends on whose shoulders we stand, MPE is not a grey area, it’s a clearly outlined implementation protocol. Having said that, there’s plenty of room to experiment with design and workflow solutions on a UI-level without going for the “sliding surface” approach.

To give you an idea how °Grid takes advantage of polyphonic expression:
The design aims to be an olympic short distance runner, what I mean by that - the throughput via BLE should be small efficient bundles of data at the highest speed possible by the protocol.
It’s streamlined to pack as many messages as possible within the physical constraints of BLE. Currently I would say 512 bytes is a good estimate to keep things fair, it can be stretched out, but we’re always assuming “worst case scenario” to optimize for the slowest link in the chain.
So, any MPE implementation would more or less operate within those constraints, and that should give you a good hint at why most solutions until now are tethered.

Regarding design choices:
MPE mode 3&4 are implemented by protocol standard, that is not to say every MPE instrument solves tilt in the same way by design. In our case, each note can send to an individual channel using velocity note-on, aftertouch, {custom IMU data stream to CC74}, velocity note-off. In that sense you can choose which of the many data parameters from the expression axis, acceleration and gestures you want to map to the brightness parameter by standard, it can be last-note-play, or cyclical so that each note gets a different stream without repetition.

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So, one axis of per-note sensor data, expressible in different mappings.

I’m not sure which of us has too strong an idea of what those terms mean. @thetechnobear usually pulls me back from my “this is degrading the standard and damaging the industry” rants; maybe he can weigh in here.

I do feel like someone looking for Polyphonic Expression should reasonably expect independent control over two parameters per note, at a minimum. MPE synths expect three, specifically. There’s some flexibility about how those are implemented, but “simultaneous” and “per note” are basically written in stone.

(I agree that this isn’t viable over Bluetooth, and I think Roli did the community a grave disservice by setting an expectation of wireless MPE. That shouldn’t be a thing, because sacrificing expression is antithetical to the goal.)

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That’s a great point, I think managing expectations with current BLE limitations is a huge factor to consider, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within those constraints.

Typically an MPE enabled synth would expect (aside from note-on/off/velocity) - aftertouch (channel pressure) or polyphonic aftertouch (which are not really the same), CC74 and pitchbend.

You could say X,Y,Z mapped to X = pitchbend, Y = CC74, Z = aftertouch.
°Grid can do that by f.e. X = angular pitch , Y = accelerometer, Z = aftertouch.

So we’re pretty much there, what’s the catch? The more parameters you’re expecting to transmit in RT, the more it will “choke” polyphony. It’s really about what you’re trying to achieve in a configuration, and prioritising some things in favor of others if that makes sense?

The catch is that tilt and accelerometer, while unquestionably useful, are still global. It’s not that we’re expecting these signals in general. It’s that we expect to control them independently on each note.

That said…

There are interesting ways that you can marry these signals before output. If you used pressure data to attenuate the range of X axis pitch bend for each note, let’s say, you could bend notes independently of each other, within certain limits. (they’d have to bend in the same direction relative to the starting pitch. it’s not the end of the world – guitar strings have that same limit).

Ditto for Y axis, though I’d handle the attenuation differently. And I guess I should clarify those.

  • CC74 being in generic parameter space, it might make sense for a released pad to leave that parameter at whatever value was last sent. Pressure is attenuating how much influence a change in tilt has on that value. (I guess you’re adding delta values to a running total for each parameter, so they don’t abruptly jump when a new pad is pressed)

  • Pitch bend, the pressure should probably attenuate the value itself, so lowered pressure pulls the note closer to center.

I’d probably leave the joystick global.

(The bad news is you’d have to send more tilt data. If six pads are pressed, you’d have to send different X and Y values to each of six channels. But ergonomic limitations are your friend here. It’s not unreasonable to say “this mode is thumbs-only” and limit it to two voice polyphony.)

Anyway, a use case like that becomes a grey area fo me. I’m not sure if I’d call it MPE, but I wouldn’t balk at “Polyphonic Expression”, necessarily.


I’m not convinced that pitch bend is the right use of X for that. Or even notes, for that matter. Most DAW users would be happier with an abstract “this is a handheld 32 knob DJ controller” application. In Eurorack, I’d probably make it a two parameter step sequencer w/ simultaneous control over as many steps as you’d like (because 32 output jacks would be ridiculous).

Point being, “it’s MPE” seems like the wrong claim. it’s treating a rigid standard like a flexible buzzword, when your marketing is better served by “here’s what you can actually do with it” anyway.

(If I owned one, what I described up there is the first application or two that I’d code for it. And I’d be fine with the tilt data coming in globally, because I have the capacity to transform that into whatever I want. But again, this isn’t most users.)


I don’t know. There’s a lot of potential. But is that potential MPE formatted? Probably not.

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Both of them did their marketing better than me with the Striso board you might say! I’m very happy with the campaign success and happy to work on a scale I can oversee, though double or triple the current (111% funded, bit more than 50 Striso boards) would be great too!

BTW Joué Play isn’t really a MPE controller either, as it doesn’t support MPE, opposed to the original Joué (see FAQs).

Interesting how the OffGrid campaign relaunched after not reaching the goal. Now with help of marketing partners to become a big success. The video is still the same if I’m right.

Few more days to go for the Striso board campaign! Final sprint!

I just added a spread payment option for all COVID-19 affected people to be able to join too.

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I disagree. You did a great job of conveying what the product is, and what we should expect from it.

Could you have sold more units with different marketing? I don’t know. Joué had familiar note layouts to draw in traditional instrumentalists, and offGrid has a more casual price point. (You’re producing a high quality product, and the cost reflects that.) These are big advantages in a suddenly risk-adverse market.

Yeah, that was largely my focus in comparing the two campaigns.

Joué Play insists at every turn that what they’re delivering, no matter how many axis of per note expression each template might output, is not the specific range of control that an MPE synth is expecting.

This is correct.

If a user misleads themselves on that point, the community can set them straight and point out the various places that this was made clear.

(And then, if they so choose, they can purchase the “pro upgrade” to unlock the full editor with this ability. The controller itself does support MPE. Just not by default.)

I’m more critical of offGrid on that front, not because their controller is further from MPE than Joué, but because instead of clarifying why it isn’t, they flat out said that it’s an MPE controller.

(When their users learn that it’s not what they’re expecting, there’s no path forward to correct that. The false promise is on record, and it’s going to be ugly.)