Keith McMillen Instruments Launches KMI Labs

Keith McMillen Instruments, makers of alternative MIDI controllers and audio interfaces like the QuNeo, QuNexus, K-Board and Soft Step and 12 Step conrollers, have announced the launch of KMI Labs, a showcase for the technologies developed at the company.

Preliminary technologies showcased at KMI Labs include

  • smart fabric (which senses variation in pressure and changes resistance as it is compressed) used in the company’s MIDI controllers
  • the Acoustic Instrument Message (AIM) protocol, which performs a spectral analysis of the sound from each individual string to turn timbre into synth commands and can run over standard MIDI

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Roger Linn & LinnStrument In Wired

roger-linn-linnstrumentInstrument designer Roger Linn and his latest creation, the LinnStrument, are featured in a great article over at Wired.

It’s rare to see an article in a mainstream publication that accurately covers the more technical side of electronic music technology. In this case, author Rene Chun not only offers a good summary of the state of alternative MIDI controllers, but also includes some great perspective from Linn and Keith McMillen.  Continue reading

An Interview With KMI’s Keith McMillen

keith-mcmillenThe latest episode of the Art + Music + Technology podcast is an interview with electronic instrument designer Keith McMillen of Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI).

McMillen has been active as an instrument designer for nearly thirty years. In that time, he has managed music technology departments at Gibson, Harmon Kardon and other companies and created a variety of new instruments, ranging from advanced stringed instruments at Zeta Music to new types of music controllers at KMI.  Continue reading

Keith McMillen On The QuNexus And Why New Music Needs New Instruments

keith-mcmillenKeith McMillen has been exploring new ideas for electronic music instruments for nearly 35 years, starting in 1979 with his company Zeta Music and more recently with Keith McMillen Instruments. His most recent creations are the QuNeo and the just-released QuNexus controllers.

Synthtopia’s Elisabeth Lewin talked with McMillen about development of the QuNeo and QuNexus controllers in part 1 of our Keith McMillen interview. In part 2, McMillen answers some reader’s questions on his instruments, discusses the state of MIDI, talks about performing with his own group and more.

qunexus-keyboardSynthtopia: One of our readers asked, “What synths or software synths do you recommend using with your QuNexus controller?”

Keith McMillen: What synths? You know, we kind of passed on that by supporting all synths. We put in CV support and you can plug a MIDI expander into it, too.

Musicians are pack rats, a lot of them don’t ever throw or give any instrument away. And there’s a big resurgence in CV synthesis. And I think that people work differently if they have knobs and sliders and a bunch of patch cords in front of them.

For me, I don’t really have a preference for which synth people use with QuNexus. I think that there’s value in pretty much every version of synth that’s come out.

Synthtopia: That’s a really diplomatic answer.

Keith McMillen: (Laughs) That’s treacherous. I didn’t want to step in that one.

Synthtopia: You dodged that handily! Okay. Another Synthtopia reader asked when or whether there’ll be a Max developer kit for the QuNeo.

Keith McMillen: We are producing a developer kit for the QuNeo. It’s progressing and I expect something to be available within months. Continue reading

Keith McMillen Instruments’ QuNexus Controller Now Shipping

qunexus-keyboardKeith McMillen Instruments has just announced that they have begun shipping their QuNexus Smart Sensor Keyboard Controller to customers around the world.

The QuNexus features KMI’s Smart Sensor technology which transmits pressure, tilt, polyphonic aftertouch, and velocity. QuNexus also supports CV, MIDI, USB, and OSC, for maximum flexibility.

“QuNexus is the most important evolution in keyboards since the Erard Escapement was introduced to pianos in 1821,” said KMI founder, Keith McMillen. “QuNexus gives keyboardists forms of expression that were only available to string and horn players. Although playful in appearance, it performs and feels like a serious instrument.” Continue reading

Keith McMillen On Kickstarting A Music Controller Revolution

keith-mcmillenKeith McMillen (right) has been exploring new ideas for electronic music instruments for nearly 35 years, starting in 1979 with his company Zeta Music and more recently with Keith McMillen Instruments. His most recent creations are the QuNeo and QuNexus controllers, both developed using a ‘crowdfunding’ approach.

Synthtopia’s Elisabeth Lewin talked with McMillen about new instrument design, new music and how they intersect.

Synthtopia: Over the last 35 years, you’ve designed new electronic stringed instruments, MIDI mixers, created high-tech violin bows,  MIDI foot pedals, a pad controller and now the QuNexus keyboard controller. Why focus on new instruments?

Keith McMillen: Being able to transition from amplified acoustic instruments into a new era of music where the computer is an interactive participant in a performance is significant.

Pretty much everything is organized around the theme of being able to play live computer music in an ensemble. It’s a complicated request that requires many components. And I’ve been chipping away at it for 30+ years. The vision gets clearer as I get closer to the goal.

Synthtopia: It seems, with Moore’s law, that what is possible grows exponentially each passing year. Does your vision of an electronic music ensemble broaden or narrow as the technology gets better? Continue reading

Keith McMillen Intros QuNeo Multi-Touch MIDI Controller (Sneak Preview)

Keith McMillen has introduced QuNeo – a ‘different species of pad controller’ for electronic musicians, DJs, VJs and DIY hackers.

While it covers all of the functionality of other pad controllers, QuNeo adds the power of touch recognition in other dimensions. Each of the 27 pads, sliders and rotary sensors are pressure, velocity, and location sensitive. Even the 17 switches respond to how hard you press.

Here are the main features of QuNeo:

LED Light Feedback

A lumination scheme combines variably diffusive elastomers with 251 multi-color LEDs providing visual feedback that is immediately responsive and informative.

Trigger Pads

16 square pads provide 127 levels of Velocity response. And X-Y location. And continuous pressure. For each pad. Times sixteen.

Rotary Surfaces

2 rotary surfaces allow you to scrub, trigger, stretch, pinch and play phrases and sound files, manipulate continuous controllers and more . Each rotary sensor measures angle, pressure and distance from the center.

Multi-touch Sliders

9 touch sensitive sliders can be mapped to fader and effects controls. LEDs within each slider act as VU meters or remind you where you were. Multi-touch lets you select a length between two fingers to set stereo locations or filter resonances. Tapping a slider can mute or toggle any track or function.


The switches are located in smart groupings to select samples, fader banks, and transport controls. Each of the switches can scan up and down through files at speeds variable with your touch. Great for quickly locating that perfect fill or telling your looper you really meant it.

The Size of an iPad.

QuNeo is the size of an iPad and can fit in iPad accessories such as mic clips, stands and more.

Class Compliant and Open Source Development Kit

QuNeo works with USB, MIDI or OSC and will communicate with your favorite music software environments right out of the box. More advanced users and programmers can use the development kit and API to create their own code to respond to QuNeo’s sensor data. Hack away to control your world in ways never before possible!

QuNeo is under development as a KickStarter project. But McMillen has raised two thirds of the funds needed bo build the device already, and will probably be over the top after Synthtopia readers get a look at it.

It’s currently priced at $200. See the Kickstarter site for details.

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