I am primarily a guitarist. Dabbling in keys and synths has felt unnatural from a physical standpoint. A keyboard doesn’t respond like a fretted instrument does. The better part of a decade into my journey with synthesizers, I still find myself wiggling my fingers like it’s going to create vibrato, or trying to “bend” one note while keeping the other rooted to create shifting harmonies. I’ve tried MPE controllers, but the Roli Seaboard Rise 2 is the first I’ve played that delivers all the expressiveness without being an unmitigated headache. It’s probably my new favorite MIDI controller, but I still have a hard time recommending it to most people because of the high price.
The price of $1,399 is a lot for a MIDI controller. There are some MIDI controllers that come close, but they generally have more features. The Seaboard Rise 2 is a premium device, mostly constructed from metal, and durable. It’s thin, light, and has a battery that can last eight hours when connected over Bluetooth. The controller has been well-designed for expressiveness, especially with the Keywave2 keybed it offers. It’s important to note that most MPE devices I’ve used had very little travel, if any, while the Seaboard’s keys jut up, providing tactile feedback. This ability to get subtle shifts in timbre, tone, and pitch make MPE, and the Seaboard in particular, special.
The controller is suited to scoring work and Equator 2 softsynth comes included with it to showcase its powers. However, only a little over a third of the presets in Equator 2 are MPE-compatible, and the softsynth has a number of quirks that keep it from feeling fully polished. Overall, the Roli Seaboard Rise 2 stands out as an incredibly expressive MPE MIDI controller despite its high price.