Just got half a Tau

Hi expressivo Folks…

Greetings from a noobie in sunny Bulgaria.

I just got half of an Eigenharp Tau . I have the body and case and cables , and the base station half should (hopefully) be delivered next week.

As a long time Starr Labs Ztar devotee and user, I thought to post my first impressions of the Tau compared to my Ztars. This is only my initial impressions of holding the controller and trying to play on the ‘neck’, and does not compare expression, or sound manipulation abilities at all.

Firstly, those ‘keys’…
Why oh why did they have to be so ‘rubbery’? I would have thought that sticky rubber was the last thing for them to have been made of. (yes, I admit to not being able to spring for an Alpha, and that wonderful -feeling ebony real-estate)

They feel sticky and very slow and draggy compared to Ztar keys. ( Things I can play easily and very fast on the Ztar neck will never ever be possible on the Tau. ) This is a big problema for me.
Even bakelite keys would have been an improvement.
I had thought of spraying a little silicon on a cloth and lightly polishing them and see if it makes a difference, and as with Ztar, I know not to spray anything directly onto the keys.

Secondly, that awful ‘neck profile’
A cold and hollow aluminium bar feels nothing like a neck, (at least to me as a lifetime geetar player) and in this aspect, the Tau again becomes a poor looser to Starr Labs Ztars (which have plastic-sheathed or wooden, shaped necks).
This Eigenharp thing looks more and more to me like an instrument designed by a committee and investors, and not musicians, or players. (my appollogies Geert)

I admit that the Ztar has been around for nearly 40 years now, and folks have bought them and mastered them and become virtuosos on them, and this leads me to wonder whether the Eigenharp will ever attain that level of ‘playability’ and virtuosity. I think not.

Thirdly, the length and switch layout.
I have three Ztar mini’s, (one is like the black Mini that the wonderful Bianco plays) One is a ‘double neck’ This is not to say it has two necks, rather that it has a double row of ordinary neck courses of 144 switches… So 288 ‘buttons’ in all, and is tuned generally in the manner of a Grand Chapman Stick.

With this in mind, for me, the Tau neck should be just like the Ztar mini, with the ‘drum’ keys thrown away, and a normal double octave of a guitar-like neck adopted and the Eigen-switches incorporated.

I wonder, isn’t the market a bit limited, aiming sales at Billy Sheehan, Stanley Clark, or Mark King wannabees.? Only four courses in a bass-type neck is a severe limitation (and irritation).
“I know! If four ‘courses’ of switches isn’t enough then they can pay out an extra 4 grand and buy an Alpha! and get five!” ( I say, jolly good marketing, what?)
The Tau is also too long to be sensible, and could easily have have survived with the form-factor reduced and compressed.

In closing (sorry for this interminable rant) and in spite of all, I would still say that I am still looking forward to getting the base station and connecting it all up.

However, the 'trying to be all things to all ‘persons’ in an instrument, doesn’t work for me at all.
I have hardware sequencers and ipad sequencers (some of which have very decent drums and use-able midi voices and both step and realtime input.)
Why would I want the Tau software to do all that?
ALL I WANT is an expressive instrument that can send 5-pin DIN midi properly, and has a playable geetar-type neck.

Is it (the Tau) supposed to be a multi-track recorder? Ummm yes, I suppose so (to a very limited and slow extent)
Is it supposed to be a drum machine ? again I suppose so (again in a limited fashion and with no GUI at all, unless you count very difficult to remember flashing combinations of lights as an ‘interface’).
Is it a soundfont player, with limited soundfonts and very little map-able midi control (especially compared to Ztars) Again, I suppose so.

Lastly, after all of the above; Will the bloody thing be even playable at all when I get it ???..
I sincerely hope so, or I’ll have to spring for two Joue’s and velcro them together…

First off, your post makes me very suspicious of what your motives are for even writing this. A long rant about how crappy an instrument you haven’t even played yet is seems like the kind of thing large creatures living deep in the norwegian forests tend to post online. Anyways, the obvious question after reading this is why on earth you bought a Tau in the first place when you don’t like the layout, software features or well, anything about it, really.

But, you say your keys are rubbery and sticky. Mine are hard plastic and not at all sticky. Have you bought it used? Perhaps the previous owner have done something to them?

For what it is worth, I absolutely love my Tau. For me, it represents an amazing engineering achievement, feels magical to play and looks absolutely stunning. My only complaint is the EigenD/computer dependency.


welcome to community.

I have to agree with @Kai, I think your views are premature,
really you need to play it before having a proper ‘feel’ for it - like any controller, without sound they are ‘dead weight’ :slight_smile:

as @kai said, your keys should not be sticky, they are made of a hard plastic, that is quite slick - you should be able to run your fingers over them lightly with no resistance. if you can’t Id say something is not ‘right’.

rubbery, they rock so there is a resistance, so it returns to centre, but when you actually play them, this is not noticeable. they are so sensitive, you use very little travel when playing, so it may be without sound your trying to use more travel than is needed.
(you’ll understand this much more when you play it :wink: )

ergonomics, like any instrument, it takes a while to find the right position, esp. given its unique playing style - it took me a while to get used to it, but thats just ‘practice’, but this is worth it, since then you can play it standing up and sitting down… (this is one reason for its length)

does the Ztar not already give you this? generally, I’m a bit confused…
what are you looking for with the Tau that the Ztar does not give you? what attracted you to the Tau?

like any controllers/instrument its best viewed as its ‘own thing’ rather trying to view it as a “better” Ztar / keyboard or whatever - which will tend to lead to disappointment.

the Eigenharps are unique, they are very different from all the other controllers - they just have a completely different feel, due to action, ergonomics and the lightness of touch is incredible.

I love all my Eigenharps, and wouldn’t part with any of them :slight_smile:

anyway, I hope once you get the basestation, and get to play it, you’ll start to appreciate and love the Tau for whats it’s capable of.

1 Like

Curious to see some photos …

Hi Mark, and thanks for the reply, and the welcome to the group.

Why did I buy a Tau, and what would it give me that Ztar does not?..

I want something which I can use along with one of my Ztars, which will give me more expressive capabilities with my right hand than the Ztar switch allows…eg. “string” bends, assigning "yaw"and fore and aft touch to different cc destinations etc…

I want to be able to play convincing right and left hand pedal steel parts (for example) and tried using ipad pro and GeoShred, but it wasnt very successful or inspiring at all. Sliding my fingers around precisely on glass, trying to achieve double bends moving exactly in tune and in harmony together is not really like playing an instrument at all for me, and it entailed far more stress than pleasure.

I play in 2 x hand tapping style exclusively, and I generally map bass and say pads to my left, while my right hand does melody and riffs etc.
A long time problem with Ztar is that octaves and voice changes are quite cumbersome to select whilst playing, and the switchover is not fast or always accurate at all.
Assigning a foot controller to do both and more jobs is of course possible , but entails a midi merge box and even more spaghetti.
The octave change on the Tau did seem effortless and precise, from what Ive seen, but I dont know how easy volume fades and voice changes to external rack gear are.

My aim is to fix the two instruments together and to mount them on a drum or heavy duty cymbal stand, and with a bit of careful metal fabrication , to allow at least 3 x set fingerboard areas for both left and right hands.

At the moment I generally set up Ztar zones so that the first 11 frets (and courses) are repeated at the 12th. and I switch right hand zone octaves by assigning the volume control to cross fade to another patch which has the same voices, but with a programmed zone assigned an octave above the lower patch…
A cumbersome workaround, but useable.

My only experience of “feel” on the unplugged Tau is trying to play clean arpeggios and scales on the switches, and I have to say that the Tau is not as fast as the Starr switch to play scales at speed, and neither is the switch spacing on the Tau optimal to allow very fast playing, compared to Ztar. (which has no appreciable distance between the switches at all) . The neck profile, I find very disconcerting, and not inspiring at all.

Anyway, thanks for the encouragement and the pointers and I sincerely hope to be proved wrong about all (or most) of my Eigen misgivings…



1 Like

cool, it’ll be interesting to see how you get on :slight_smile:

Id guess, you have quite a bit of ‘muscle memory’ on the Ztar, so I’d assume anything else is not going feel as comfortable, without time and practice.

That’s I think a thing about picking up any new controller, its quite an investment in time to pick up that muscle memory - and the Eigenharp is quite a different form factor.

Neck profile, I know what you mean…
there are many others with a lot more experience with the Tau than I, and I don’t have the strap/harness for the tau - so I play it sitting down, so it tends to lay flat on me, like cello (so flat profile is good) - rather than gripping the neck like a guitar.

on the Alpha I have the harness, so play standing up ,
what I find there, is its perfectly balance (and I believe the tau is the same), so whilst it might look like a guitar position (if your not using breath pipe!), you don’t need to grip the neck , again you kind of play ‘on top of it’ , your hand just lightly stops it moving , rather than gripping it.
(im sure there are video showing this better than my description :wink: )

but I didn’t find it obvious/easy at first!

i) I, mistakenly, learnt to play without the breath pipe initially, which meant I had to readjust my position when I added breath. (might be different on tau)

ii) its designed to be played with the keys facing the audience, so away from you.
but of course, when I was unfamiliar with its layout/spacing, I tended to turn it towards me (so I could see the keys!) - but this twisted my wrists quite un-naturally, felt very awkward. as I got more familiar, I could turn it ‘out’ more, and this made it more comfortable / natural.

anyway, it takes time… we learn …

my first day was amusing with the alpha

it arrived, and I was thrilled, unpacked it, threw it on, and fell in love…
about an hour later, I needed to go to the bathroom…

then realised I had no idea how to detach the Alpha, I was stuck !!

I had to post a message on the Google Eigenharp group to ask how to ‘free’ myself from the Eigenharp :blush:

it turned out to be a latch on the back, (thanks Geert for freeing me!) - easy to use, but hard to see when worn… but in my haste to play it, I’d not seen it when putting it on
(it just snaps into place when mounting)

of course, it feels ‘silly’ now, but when things are new, many things can trip us up…

Thanks again for the replies and help Mark.

Is it worthwhile editing soundfont 2 for the Eigenharp ?

By “editing”, I mean adding expression and trigger info (and other) to the soundfont 2, (as for example in the supplied Eigen cello soundfont 2 fonts ) with “bowed” and “rubbed” triggering examples?..

I downloaded quite a few orchestral soundfonts while waiting for the basestation, and I have EMU Emulator X which will import SF2 format files, and an EMU ESI4000 sampler with a Gotek flash drive so I could import and export via spdif… I realise that this might be more trouble than it is worth of course.

I quite liked the YouTube “in your face” Eigen drum sounds that I heard from the Tau, and using Emulator X might be a way to go … I also have Camel Audio Alchemy and Steinberg Halion 6…

The Emulator X file converter can import most file formats into Emulator X format (but I dont know about the reverse, and exporting Emulator X format into SF2 format…)

again, just thoughts on possible ways to go.



I haven’t used soundfonts with my Eigenharp, but if you decide to keep the Tau you might want to take a look at Roli Equator. It is designed from the ground-up to be used with expressive controllers and combines soundfonts with virtual analogue oscillators. So covers a lot of bases and is easy to work with. I haven’t tried to host it within EigenD, but as it can run standalone, you could route midi from EigenD into it without a separate VST host.

Quite a lot of other nice MPE capable sound sources by now, as you probably already know. But Equator is still my go-to softsynth most of the time.

Edit: when i wrote easy to work with, I meant easy to create patches. I haven’t imported my own samples/soundfonts. I know it is posssible, but not if it is cumbersome to do.

I don’t use soundfonts or samples either , I can never seem to find the time/inclination to organise them,
and generally I prefer synthesis - so use VSTs.
so Ive not dug into what features EigenD uses of soundfonts…

note: the cello ‘instrument’ in eigend is not a soundfont (iirc), its a STK modelled instrument, which is then passed thru a resonator. (the wav you see on the install is the convolution wav for that)

(*) except a couple of soniccouture packs for kontakt which are cool

1 Like

This was posted on March 16th? That’s so disappointing.

March 14th is Pi Day.

Pi is half a Tau.

You’re two days late.

1 Like

6 posts were split to a new topic: Unable to connect tau

10 posts were merged into an existing topic: Unable to connect tau

I love the feel of the Eigenharp keys, although I admit my main experience has been with a friend’s Alpha that has the ebony keys… they are very, very different than what you get on a ZTar, which I also like but for different reasons.

IMNSHO comparing any Eigenlabs instrument to any Starr instrument is fatuous. Each key on an Eigenharp is a fully capable MPE joystick with very fine 3D sensitivity. If you push a ZTar key sideways or up and down, it’ll ignore you (or break), and pressure sensitivity varies from none at all (the GoTar) to pressure per Zone (higher-end ZTars).

Harvey and I have been in communication recently about my building a custom instrument possibly based on the Clipper DX or the ZB6, and he’s been very gracious about answering my questions and giving me a concrete understanding of what would be involved in having a device built to my specs… but we’re already at the Tau level of cost, and we haven’t even got into MPE X/Y movement on the keys. If you want fine-grained grid control and keys with actual tactile feedback and movement, you very quickly realize that Eigenharps are a huge damn bargain for what you get.

I’ll go away now; I admit I only read this because I saw “half a Tau” and got excited because that’s all I want, the upper half of a Tau that I can wear and play like an Artiphon. :wink:

Thanks for your comments. I am a long time Ztar lover, and I think with the new Enhancia Nova Ring, it will answer all my prayers. I have 5 x Ztars including a double neck, and I love them.
My son has a Pico and says ‘it’s too much trouble configuring it’
I agree with that about about my Tau. The only way Ican get much expression with the mouthpiece (on say clarinet voice) is to crank the latency up… It ceases to be a responsive instrument. I must say I am impressed with the Tau key speed… Excellent. I only play my Ztars 2 x handed tapping style, so the Tau neck puts me off in this regard. I much prefer my 288 key double neck mini.


If you decide you would like to give me your Tau, I will somehow suffer through its problems? :wink: