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Roli's quirky musical keyboard is now an iPhone app

Apps like this are what 3D Touch was made for.

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When ROLI introduced the Seaboard -- a quirky interpretation of the musical keyboard -- it was hard not be curious. But, at $2,000, that's likely where you remained. Even the smaller, more affordable Seaboard Rise was a little out of reach for many casual musicians wanting to try its tactile trickery (watch this to see what we mean). Today, however, there's a ROLI for everyone, as the British firm has just announced Noise: a virtual Seaboard in iPhone app form. If you want to know why Apple's 3D Touch matters, it's apps like this that will show you -- and Noise is much easier on your pocket (in fact, it's free).

The Seaboard series of instruments look a bit like someone left a regular keyboard out in the sun; the smooth, contiguous keys give them an iconic look. This aesthetic spills over to the app. So does the nifty mechanism for manipulating sound with gestures. Just as you can wiggle a finger on a key to create vibrato on the Seaboard, you can do the same on the Noise app. That's neat, but nothing new. What's exciting here is the implementation of 3D Touch.

Apple's pressure sensitive input might be good for adding in context menus and "peek and pop"-ing messages, but it really comes into its own with music apps, and Noise is a stellar example of that. Press hard and the notes sound louder. Or, keep a finger on the screen and push/release continuously to hear the sound change in organic, expressive ways (like changing the speed of a dubstep "wobble"). We've already seen similar tricks in music apps, but ROLI's Noise is a particularly good fit.

As for Noise itself. You can choose the number of keys on screen (13, 17 or 25), and change the layout to include on screen modulation controls (like the Rise's touchpad). There's also support for MIDI over Bluetooth. The app is free, and includes 25 pre-installed sounds. If you want to expand that library, then add on packs can be purchased for a few dollars a pop.

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