New iOS Instrument, AC Sabre, Designed To Be Spontaneous, Physical & Expressive

Air Craft has released AC Sabre, a new gestural MIDI controller that’s designed to spontaneous, physical & expressive.

“Modern synths have dozens of dimensions of tweakability,” notes creator Hari Karam Singh. “It’s always frustrated me that there weren’t better methods for taking advantage of this sonic versatility.”

ac-sabre-midi-controllerAC Sabre reads your movements with the built in gyroscope and accelerometer and translates them into musical actions. It lets you pluck virtual strings in the air, while controlling up to 7 additional parameters via MIDI CC messages.

AC Sabre develops ideas Singh explored previously with an earlier app, Sound Wand MIDI, but with more advanced capabilities.


  • Advanced MIDI Control:
    • Low latency (<10ms), 50m+ range via Wi-Fi
    • QuickPanels allow realtime access to most common parameters
    • Save/load/export configuration Patches
    • Wi-fi/Bluetooth support + Bonjour auto-detect
    • Supports multiple devices running AC Sabre as separate MIDI inputs into your DAW
    • MIDI Learn wizard for quick CC assignment
    • MIDI channel selector for playing multiple instruments
  • Expressive control features:
    • 6 assignable Motion ControlsPitch, Roll and Yaw angles
    • Linear Shake & Shuffle
    • Play Intensity
    • 2 configurable Touch Ribbons
    • 1 configurable User Button
    • Vibrato on Shake
  • Rich Musical Vocabulary
    • Scale-synced, velocity sensitive note play
    • Harmonies, trills, arpeggios…
    • Gesture-based vibrato
    • Note shift (for playing out-of-scale notes)
    • Circle of Fourths/Fifths key changes
    • Note range and octave shift
    • Legato and Portamento modes
    • Note-clamping pitchbend
    • A Drone for sustain and guitar “tapping”-style effects
  • 150+ musical scales:
    • Major, Minor and Pentatonics
    • Jazz modes: Dorian, Phrygian, etc
    • Bebop Dominant, Octonic, Nine-tone scale and other exotics
    • World scales like Hungarian Gypsy, Hirajoshi, and Mississippi Blues
    • Arpeggio scales like Dominant 7b5
    • 1-4-5-b7 and other Bassline scales
    • A few centuries worth of Indian Raag scales
  • Tweakability:
    • Vibrato amount from 1/4 step up to full PB range
    • MIDI CC’s and output range are fully customisable
    • Motion range calibration
    • Virtual MIDI support, play other apps

Pricing and Availability

AC Sabre is available now with an introductory price of US $12.99 through Aug 19, 2016 (50% 0ff).

11 thoughts on “New iOS Instrument, AC Sabre, Designed To Be Spontaneous, Physical & Expressive

  1. It’s an impressive demo. And I like seeing that giant list of features, including interesting scales, etc.

    Something about a performer achieving such technically sophisticated results whilst maneuvering their cell phone in front of them; “… uh wait, hang on. I gotta take this. Hello? Yea, I’m in the middle of my set, can I call you back? Cool…… Rrrreeeererreeerrr.” Still, the results are there.

    1. The “results” in this video are a guy fiddling a pentatonic scale up and down with a few bends and trills. Can’t imagine how this is supposed to work with proper timing.

    2. I agree with stub. This sounded like a janky synth hack trying to get something close to a guitar solo. I give them props for the tech, (which is fairly commonplace now days) but its not a musical result I would ever want to create or listen to. It’s easy to do better on both a synth or a guitar.

  2. Some details about what’s happening in this video for the curious:

    It’s a freestyle jam over top of a deep techno piece with an Omnisphere synth tweaked up for AC Sabre. The “Shake” motion controls a bass wobble – which actually precedes the start of this clip (see halfway through the video on Pitch and Roll axes ( control hard-sync amount and filter cutoff respectively. Shake also does a vibrato. You can also hear, as the solo progresses, switching in and out of Portamento Mode ( which controls that note-slur effect.

    Whether you dig my improvisation or not there are a couple key points illustrated here. 1) Personally, I couldn’t do this on the keyboard 2) Even if I could, it’s kinda cool to be able to move around and dance with it a bit 3) The multi-dimensional expressive control over the sound timbre and the vibrato (e.g. 0:12) allowed by the motion mapping would be hard for anyone to do realtime with existing tools . 4) 0:30-0:37, The Drone, in Retrigger Mode, Eddie Van Halen style “guitar-tapping” on your favourite synth 🙂 (

    Beat-syncing wasn’t the aim here but there is a groovie Max4Live “Live Quantize” plugin that makes this possible. Also thinking about Ableton Link intregration in an upcoming version….

    @stub Yeah – “Do Not Disturb” mode is essential…I’ve been caught out before! I keep my second device, my iPod Touch, off the grid for that reason 🙂

    1. Thanks for the explanation. But to be honest, I still wonder what the advantages over ThumbJam are.
      Along the lines of MIDI assignments: What I would really want to spend money on would be an expressive iOS controller with pre-configured expression assignments for the standard instruments of various DAWs. Because assigning MIDI CC sucks.

      1. Main advantage is that the playing “surface” is in the space around you, not the 4″ of your iPhone screen. Your arm movement becomes part of the playing rather than just your thumb(s). Dont underestimate the significance of body gesture in inspiring your music composition. It’s the foundation of the energy of performance.

        The gestural element in AC Sabre is much more sophisticated than in Thumbjam or SoundPrism. One example: Vibrato – You can have a ±24 pitchbend yet still set Sabre to have a ±1/4 step vibrato which you control the subtle dynamic of in realtime with your “shake” motion. You have scale-locked pitchbending that aligns with the beams (ie. the Sabre note grid).

        In terms of MIDI assignment in AC Sabre: You can customise the output CCs to whatever you want including mono/poly aftertouch. You can quickly MIDI learn them to your synth controls. The “roll” axis is pre-set to CC1 which is the Mod Wheel meaning you usually get some love out-of-the-box with your existing synth patches. Yeah you may want to do some sound design and configuration just like you do with your MPK, MIDI Twister, Korg Nano, or any other piece of MIDI kit but I’ve worked hard to make it as painless as possible…

  3. Most of what he played was in the pocket. And the bends and trills weren’t exactly easy to pull off. This might be a case of “it looks easy until you try it.”.

    What you saw and heard took some skills. But yea, it was all pentatonic.

    1. its a software feature – “Scale-synced, velocity sensitive note play” and “Harmonies, trills, arpeggios…”

      as in, you dont have to hit the “correct” keys… they are all “correct” already via the software

  4. Seems great!! Would be nice to see some tutorial or demo to get a better idea of what it’s capable of. Thank you for the hard work and the passion Hari.

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