The guit-board is clearly the finest instrument to grace stadiums of decades past, but despite the innate bad-assery of the instrument, it faded into ironic-hipster use like the Eigenharp and Tenori-On. Fortunately, the geniuses at Alesis refused to let it pass into obscurity, releasing the Vortex in an attempt to propel the shoulder-slung keyboard into the stratosphere. Whilst plenty of body-mounted keyboards are available (Roland's AX-09 springs to mind) on the market, these guys went with 1985-grade body styling and a neck that you wish Steve Pocaro would rock out on (he never did, tragically). The MIDI/USB controller comes with 37 touch sensitive keys, velocity sensitive pads, octave and pitch wheels along that glorious neck. Hook it up to a Mac or PC and it'll draw power from the bus, connect it to any iOS device (USB adapter required) and you'll need to bring batteries. There's an MRSP of $400, but the company lists the expected "street price" at $250 -- if it's closer to the latter, we'll pick up a pair for the Engadget-street band's next world tour.
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ALESIS UNLEASHES THE VORTEX, THE WORLD'S FIRST USB KEYTAR CONTROLLER

Outrageous keytar control in a pristine, pearl-white body: The Vortex gives keyboardists the perfect storm of stunning design and performance capabilities.

Cumberland, R.I. (January 18, 2012) – Alesis, the world's leading manufacturer of instruments and tools for today's musician, introduces the Vortex, the first USB/MIDI keytar controller. Alesis will debut the Vortex at booth #6400 at the 2012 NAMM Show from January 19-22 in Anaheim, California.

The Vortex eliminates the barrier between keyboardists and the audience. With an extensive layout of touch-sensitive keys and velocity-sensitive pads on its pearlescent white body, and radical octave and pitch controls on its neck, the Vortex will have keyboard players ruling the stage.

The Vortex includes features never before found on any keytar: both traditional MIDI and USB MIDI are onboard, empowering keyboardists to use the Vortex with all of their software instruments and synths on Mac, PC, and iPad*. They'll have a virtually unlimited palette of sounds, ready to command with one of the most exciting and eye-catching controllers ever created. And for instant performance, the Vortex comes automapped for today's most popular software synths and DAWs. Users can customize and create their own mappings for virtually any software they like.

The Vortex comes ready to rock with an embedded, MIDI-assignable accelerometer-now, keyboardists can freely roam the stage and control virtually any parameter with their motion. They'll be able to create incredible volume swells, amazing pitch bends, vibratos, filter cutoffs and more by tilting the Vortex's neck during live performances.

The Vortex's neck controls are laid out ergonomically: your thumb controls a volume slider and pitch-bend wheel while your fingers command nine front-facing controls that include a MIDI-assignable touchstrip, and buttons for octave selection and sustain. Large transport and patch-select controls are centrally located on the Vortex's body for instant access, and keyboard players will be happy to know that the Vortex's 37 velocity-sensitive keys feature aftertouch to enable instant creative flourishes.

The Vortex is bus powered when connected to a Mac or PC, and can also be powered by batteries when used with MIDI modules and iOS devices including the iPad. Standard guitar strap pegs are located on its neck and body, and an adjustable strap is included.

"The Vortex liberates keyboard players from stationary setups and visual performance limitations," said Dan Radin, Alesis Product Manager. "The audience won't know what hit them."

Vortex is expected to be available from musical instrument and pro audio dealers in Q2-2012 with an MSRP of $399.00 and an estimated street price of $249.00.

*Requires Apple USB adapter
iPad is trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

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