Future Retro 512 Touch Keyboard Now Available

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Future Retro has announced that their 512 Touch Keyboard is now available.

There are five main functions of the 512. It can act as a keyboard, arpeggiator, sequencer, MIDI to CV converter, and MIDI to MIDI converter.

The 512 can control both MIDI and CV/Gate synthesizers simultaneously. Pitch, Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, Gate, Velocity, Aftertouch, and Clock are all available in both their MIDI and CV form. CV’s follow the 1V/Oct standard with positive polarity Gate signals, allowing the 512 to control the majority of analog synthesizers both past and present.

Here’s the official overview video:

This series of videos covers the features of the 512 keyboard and how to use them, including: getting started with connections, selecting scales, scale mapping, writing scales, using the Hold function, selecting and writing chords, chord inversions, using linear, octave, and scalar transpositions, setting the MIDI channel, velocity curves, aftertouch curves, bend range, turning aftertouch off/on, and touch on the Poly mode.

Here’s a video demo, featuring the 512 controlling an ARP 2600 analog synthesizer:

Here’s another demo, showing the 512 being used to control a Buchla Music Easel:

The 512 has an adjustable CV output so you can achieve .469V to 1.34V per octave control voltages to control a wide variety of synths including the common 1V/Oct synthesizers, and this 1.2V/Oct Buchla. Works with EML and EMS Keyboard.

Here’s the Future Retro 512 being used to control an EMS Putney:

Future Retro 512 touch keyboard plays the EML 101:

Future Retro 512 touch keyboard plays a Eurorack modular:

Here’s an example of it being used to control a Minimoog Model D:

Keyboard

The 512 provides 9 octave ranges for the 29 full-sized keys (although shorter in length than typical keys) with response to Velocity and Aftertouch. Users can define one of five different Velocity and Aftertouch curves to apply to the keyboard, and dial in the range for each curve to customize the response. The Pitch Bend provides positive and negative pitch bends, and the bend range can be adjusted for full or half range. Mod Wheel is also provided as a modulation source.

Arpeggiator

The arpeggiator allows you to quickly construct melodies on the fly, and manipulate them to your hearts content. Up to 16 notes can arpeggiate, and there are 29 user definable rhythm patterns to apply to an arpeggiation. Each step of a rhythm pattern can define note on/off, note duration, sustain, glide, and velocity value. Rhythm patterns can be reassigned to an arpeggiation on the fly. Arpeggiations can play in five directions being: Up, Down, Up/Down (inclusive or exclusive), and Random. You can also apply up to +/- 4 octave reiterations so the arpeggiation plays through multiple octave ranges automatically.
When notes are entered live into the arpeggiator the 512 will generate the typical ascending playback order (when playing in the UP direction), or descending (when playing in the Down direction). At any time you can latch the held notes into memory using the Hold feature. Once Hold mode is active, you can enter notes in any order, and even use the same pitch multiple times.

Once the arpeggiation is latched with the Hold feature the real fun begins. You are free to select different scales, add chords, apply chord inversion, transpose, scalar transpose, change octaves, rhythm patterns, note combinations, MIDI channels, or time signatures. You can also add Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, and Aftertouch control, and all of these can be done in realtime.

Sequencer

The 512 sequencer is similar to beloved classics like the SH-101 or Pro-one in how easy it is to use them. However the 512’s sequencer expands on these ideas and goes a lot further.

There are 145 user writable sequencer pattern locations. Each pattern can be any length up to 64 steps (4 bars when using 4/4 time signature). Each step records a single note pitch, the note duration, sustain, glide, and velocity. Similar to the arpeggiator, the sequencer in the 512 can play sequences in five directions: Forwards, Backwards, Fowards/Backwards (inclusive and exclusive), and Random. And again, you can apply up to +/- 4 octave reiterations so the sequence plays through multiple octave ranges automatically.

Once a sequence is playing, you are free to select different sequences to play next, choose different scales, add chords, apply chord inversion, transpose, scalar transpose, change octaves, MIDI channels, or time signatures on the fly. You can also add Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, and Aftertouch control in realtime.

MIDI To CV Conversion

The 512 allows you to convert MIDI information such as Note On/Off, Pitch, Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, Velocity, Aftertouch, and Clock to CV/Gate signals for controlling your favorite analog synthesizers. While there are many MIDI to CV converters on the market, the 512 has some really useful features that set it apart from the rest. For instance, if your MIDI source (sequencer) is not providing things like Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, or Aftertouch you can generate these controls live from the 512’s touch surfaces to add additional control over your synthesizer in realtime. You can force incoming MIDI notes to specific scales, or transpose incoming pitches using octave, linear, or scalar transpositions all in realtime. You can also define the sync rate of the analog clock vs. the MIDI clock, or add shuffle to the analog clock.

MIDI To MIDI Conversion

The 512 allows you to manipulate and add to any existing MIDI information. For instance, if your MIDI source (external sequencer) is not providing things like Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, or Aftertouch you can generate these controls live from the 512’s touch surfaces to add additional control to your MIDI sound module in realtime. You can even force incoming MIDI notes to specific scales, capture scales via external MIDI notes, transpose incoming pitches using octave, linear, or scalar transpositions, or apply chords to incoming notes. Best of all, it can be done on the fly!

Want more? Check out the 512’s Poly MIDI modes, where notes played on the keyboard or MIDI notes received from external devices can be intelligently rerouted to different MIDI channels so that you can play up to 16 monophonic synthesizers polyphonically via MIDI. This works with Note On/Off, Pitch, Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, Velocity, and Aftertouch. Even if you do not have multiple monosynths, this feature creates some really unique results when controlling multitimbral MIDI sound modules too!

Scales

The 512 provides 28 user writable scales plus the chromatic scale. These scales can be applied to the keyboard, arpeggiator, sequencer or while doing MIDI to CV and MIDI converstion. Each scale can contain up to 29 notes in any order allowing you to achieve both traditional and new experimental forms of music generation. Scale notes can be mapped to the keyboard in one of two ways (full or partial), and you can invert the keyboard scale as well.

When using external sequencers and running MIDI through the 512 as a MIDI to MIDI conversion, you can capture the MIDI notes received from the external sequencer and create a custom scale based on these notes. Furthermore you can then do cool things like apply scalar transposition to external sequences, Or capture a scale based on one sequence, then apply it to any other sequence you like.

Chords

Remember the old days when you could latch a chord of notes into a keyboard and play it up and down the keyboard using just one finger? The 512 expands this idea further by providing 28 user writable chord locations. Each chord can store/play up to 6 notes. And instead of being able to play only 1 transposition of this chord, the 512 allows you to play up to 16 transpositions of the chord simultaneously.

These chords can be applied to the keyboard, arpeggiator, sequencer, or while doing MIDI to MIDI conversion. In addition, you can change chord selections, and apply up to +/- 4 step chord inversions on the fly.

Transposition

The 512 provides three forms of transposition, and all can be changed in realtime and be applied simultaneously to the keyboard, arpeggiator, sequencer, or while doing MIDI to CV and MIDI conversion.

  • The first form of transpose is the 9 octave selector. This allows you to transpose notes in octave values.
  • The second form of transpose is linear transposition. This is your typical +/- semitone offset found on traditional keyboards. The 512 allows you to linearly transpose notes -12 semitones to +16 semitones steps simply by playing a notes on the keyboard.
  • The third form of transpose is scalar transposition. This is the most musical form of transposition as it shift notes up and down the currently selected scale only. Therefore all notes, although transposed, still remain within the defined notes of the scale.

MIDI

The 512 allows you to change the MIDI OUT channel on the fly, turning something as simple as the MIDI channel into a performance feature. This can be used to great effect when creating counterpoint music, or when you want a simple melody to sound like a full orchestra.

The 512 can also act as a master or slave clock. Allowing you to control the playback of other devices or sync playback of the arpeggiator and sequencer with external sequencers.

And in this day and age it is important to note that MIDI is provided on standard 5-pin Din jacks. No wonky breakout cables, or non-MIDI standard jacks to worry about here.

Glide

The 512 incorporates an autoglide circuit for slewing the Key CV from one pitch to another. This allows notes to glide only when certain conditions are met such as two notes playing simultaneously, or when programmed to do so in the arpeggiator or sequencer patterns. A Glide time control is also provided to determine the rate of the glide effect.

Swing

Swing can be applied to the timing of the arpeggiator, sequencer, or analog clock output. This adds a human shuffle feel to the rhythm. The Swing control varies the amount in realtime from 50% to 75%.

Preference Customization

Many parameters of the 512 can be customized by the user and stored as a power-up default to be recalled each time the unit is turned on. These include keyboard Velocity curves and ranges, Aftertouch curves and ranges, MIDI aftertouch transmission off/on, Pitch Bend range, Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel response times, default scale, etc.

Memory

All user preferences, arpeggiator rhythm patterns, sequences, user scales, and user chords are stored in EEPROM memory. Data written to this memory can be retained for 100+ years with no backup battery to worry about.

Power

A 15V DC universal power supply is provided with each unit. This universal power supply can operate in any country around the world.

Warranty

This product comes with a 1 year limited warranty covering any failure of components being electric or mechanical. For your warranty to be effective, please register your unit within 30 days of purchase.

Pricing and Availability

The Future Retro 512 Touch Controller is available now for US $800.

26 thoughts on “Future Retro 512 Touch Keyboard Now Available

  1. I really hope they put up some more videos as the one they put up didn’t show the chords features etc…
    very interested in this controller though.

    1. To anyone that knows about modular gear and advanced controllers, this is priced very well.

      Not sure why everyone thinks that all gear has to be plastic, mass-produced and limited in capabilities.

      This looks like a beautiful, and capable, piece of gear.

      1. Do I want one, yes, would I pay 800 for it no.

        I own and know enough about modulars to know there are much cheaper options, if not as stylish. This is made for those beardy tat wearing users where style over content is the order of the day., those with more money than sense and more kit than talent.

        No, not every modular user wants to have to hand over a kidney every time they buy some new kit.

        1. No one wants to watch a beardless guy without tattoos play a bargain basement modular. If you’re too young to grow a beard, can’t afford good ink, piercings and stylish modular gear, you may want to give your musical aspirations a serious re-think.

        2. Out of curiosity, what are these supposedly cheaper options aside from Sputnik’s lackluster solution (sorry, Sputnik)?

          1. This board is fuly self contained in a case with a power supply also.

            Cheaper options are Eurorack and require a skiff and power supply.

            The average 104 hp skiff with power will run you 250 alone. Then 500 for a Sputnik.

            Granted, you have some rackspace to play with, but it’s not a budget solution.

          2. “Out of curiosity, what are these supposedly cheaper options aside from Sputnik’s lackluster solution?”

            crickets….

            It’s really sad how many guys are always complaining about gear prices, when it’s painfully obvious they’ve got no experience with pro gear.

            There’s a reason why well-made high-end gear isn’t as cheap as mass-produced junk, and Future Retro has a great track record of making serious professional gear.

            FR777 – a classic. Revolution – a classic. Mobius – a classic.

            I haven’t had a chance to try this, but it looks like it could be a serious piece of kit for modular players that want a pro controller.

      2. Well I was all all ready to be impressed with this unit (I have other FR gear and love it) until I read the manual. I have to say this unit is very unintuitive for anything but the most superficial uses.
        The fact that this unit offers so much without the feedback of some form of alphanumeric display is shocking. Relying on the patterns of a row of 9 LED’s is laughable – particularly for deeper functions to do with scales. Seriously, read the section on scales and tell me that’s the best way to go about it on an $800 device.
        Can’t say I like seeing the MIDI DIN and power jacks on the top too. I’d seriously consider a couple (few) of Arturia Keysteps before this.

    2. Well, I got one as fast I could. So they got me 😉 Solved a lot of my live issues and great add on to analog rig. Can’t say there is much else out there, this performance oriented … so they got their segment all right.

  2. If this competed with roli I’d approve, but no individual control per keys just makes it seem like a DIY project. Not a competitive keyboard.

  3. The real comparisons for this are other capacitive touch keyboards like Buchla, Verbos, Sputnik. The price seems in line with those, especially given the extra midi functionality. I’d love a chance to try this in person against those other candidates and pick the one that functions best. I think $800 would be fair if it works better than those.

    1. Exactly.

      This is not meant to be a midi board to replace your keys.

      It does something much different from that.

      Watch videos of a Buchla Music Easel to see what cap touch is good for.

  4. The real question about the price comes down to what went in it to make it… The actual cost of R&D, Marketing, manufacturing contracts,, component contracts, etc… A company must recoup their costs, then mark it up accordingly so that they can make a profit and continue to further their ability to make more products.

    In addition, its well known in the world of marketing and product development, that if you create a product and price it far lower than competitive products, the general public will subconsciously and consciously assume its a cheaper built device which will have a shorter shelf life.

    So if other similar products garner the same price range, then $800 is understandable. Doesn’t mean anyone can afford it, but thats reality.

    And if you want this at a lower price, wait 2-3 years and scoop it up on ebay for around half the price, just dont wait 5 years, or it will be “vinatge” and double the price 😉

  5. Future Retro is always top quality, and backs their products pretty much indefinitely, so without a doubt, the price is justified. An indestructible, rack mountable, pressure sensitive, performance instrument, and sequencer, that isn’t tied down to a computer? Pretty much the Grail, kids.

  6. this is awesome.

    and i think itès priced appropriately for sometihng like that.

    i donèt have any need for this sort of thing right now..but if i was in that market this would be the one to get.

    j

    0=0

  7. How is this any different from playing with an iPad using capacitative emulators (some of them even velocity sensitive using force touch or accelerometer). Touching a piece of metal vs. touching a piece of glass?

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