Keith McMillen Instruments Launches K-Board Pro 4 Expressive MPE Keyboard

Keith McMillen Instruments has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of the K-Board Pro 4 expressive MPE keyboard MIDI controller.

The K-Board Pro 4 is the latest example of a growing category of controllers capable of Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression (MPE) – which introduces new dimensions of control to keyboard performance. K-Board Pro 4 sends attack velocity, release velocity, continuous pressure, horizontal position, and vertical position data.

The controller is based on a traditional keyboard layout, but is based on KMI’s Smart Sensor Fabric technology, the core of all their MIDI control surfaces. The keys are made of resilient silicone and the controller has no moving parts, so it should be very durable.

K-Board Pro 4 is USB powered and class compliant to ensure both portability and compatibility with MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, as well as MIDI capable hardware.

The K-Board Pro 4 is available to project backers starting at US $400. See the Kickstarter site for details.

27 thoughts on “Keith McMillen Instruments Launches K-Board Pro 4 Expressive MPE Keyboard

    1. Don’t know if it has 5 pin, but MIDI’s 31500bps data rate is a completely inadequate choice for handling the data flow produced by these sorts of controllers. These require USB MIDI. Even if you put 5 pin on it, it’ll suck and be useless unless you’re disabling the MPE controller info, in which case why even bother with this, just use a conventional keyboard.

      1. Funny, on LinnStrument it’s just the opposite. Quoting the FAQ:
        “Q: I’m getting occasional stuck notes / spontaneous notes that I didn’t play / random garbage MIDI messages. What’s wrong?

        Use the MIDI OUT jack instead of USB, because LinnStrument sends USB MIDI data at 3.7 times the rate of the MIDI OUT Jack.”

        1. Hi Friend. Not sure if you misunderstood my comment or the LinnStrument FAQ which you excerpted only a part of. It is completely in agreement with what I said above. The problem exists with older instruments with 5 pin 31250 baud vintage and low powered instruments. They can’t handle the controller density of modern instruments. The LinnStrument FAQ correctly points out that users will need to disable sufficient degrees of motion of the LinnStrument to use it well with some old vintage instruments in order to use them with 5 pin MIDI, rate limit the messages (causing zippering, ug!), or use the LinnStrument’s lower rate output method that was designed to handle this problem, but which is absolutely not the best answer for serious work.

  1. These keyboards that have a very short key-travel are off-putting to me. I suppose I could acclimate but I have come to believe that having an actual moving key (with some mechanical resistance/weight) allows me to better control my dynamics than simply the speed of my finger striking a nearly immobile button.

    But if I’m being honest, it is more that whatever type of training it might take me to control that type of action is not something I want to learn, as it would cause me to have to re-adapt every time I go to a “normal” keyboard.

    1. I get where you are coming from in that with the kboard that I have here things like pitch bend and using the x/y on the keys can be weird and offputting but at the same time I like that I can comfortably use it as a drum and key controller without throwing 2 things in my backpack – I feel like the quneo though feels nicer for the expression – so I would need to get my hands on one to see how it does.Either way I like the option of not just pressure/velocity and axis but being able to use location on the key to control, I can see that being really useful

  2. Very nice. However, ditch the handles on the sides that serve no purpose. Give me as desk space as possible. Also, I wish McMillen would add knobs to this (at least 4, 8 would be ideal) and not the flat touch knobs. Just regular knobs.

  3. A whole year to back a project is too far out. 6 months maybe. But Sept 2017? Roli or another company might have something else out by then.

    Also MPE controllers need to be key-agnostic you can map to custom scales like Thumbjam or Shoom on an iPad. iPad is still closest to MPE ideal for me sans proper velocity.

  4. hmm, “the future of….” when have we heard that before. Problem with this is the same with all the others, they are great tech no doubt but they just make the gear and then leave the rest of the really laborious stuff to us, like setting the thing up to use. What these things lack if out of the box usability, out of the box it will be a keyboard but not much else, its the mapping that makes this and this is the really tedious bit which puts people off.

    Various manufacturers have tried to get around this with automap and other stuff, it sort of works but doesn’t really and is generally annoying.

    This of course can be argued about any midi keyboard and i still fall into the trap every time when buying a new one, i fall for all the promises and then just end up using it as a normal keyboard, basically most people are lazy which makes complicated stuff niche buys.

    How do you deal with that, well you cant, there will never be a keyboard that maps everything because the idiots in the industry can be bothered to get together to write their software in such a way that all parameters are in the same place and work the same way. Some basic parameters are I guess like filters and envelopes but not all, and not all use midi CC, its a total mess.

    Well here are two ideas.

    1. get in bed with a VSTI dev and pay them to bring out a special version of a decent synth with presets designed for your new keyboard, this way you can get some synth joy right of the bat with zero setup. Obviously you’ll need to ensure you’ve created bullet proof midi maps for at least the top two DAWS.

    2. If you dont want to pay for a DEV / VSTI Pick a poplar daw like ableton and build a proper keyboard map for it to make use of ALL its functions. Then pic 3 popular VSTI’s say one paid and 2 free and build a project in ableton around these synths and the keyboard. Explore and configure the presets to make best use of the keyboard.

    Then make this project downloadable so people can literally plug in, turn on and experience this properly at the point of sale.

  5. I get your point, but there is some value to personalizing how these controllers are used.

    If a developer forces (or even entices ) me to use the controller with their pre-conceived notions of how it should work and what it should do– I might miss out on some way of using it that is more suited to MY way of thinking, playing and working.

    Yes, it is time consuming. Yes, it is tedious work Yes, it may require manual reading. However, hopefully you do all that work, take good notes and then you are mostly done. You get to playing, and making tweaks as needed.

  6. bad timing , at least in my household .I’d been waiting to hear about this , but the month before Xmas doesnt find the spare cash for such investments .

  7. I have one of their cheap K-boards and absolutely love it. Think I got it for £35. Might not be great for piano style playing, but its incredible simple to play and a genuinely useful (for me) expressive controller for synths – the tilt and pressure sensitive controls on the keys are what make it. Seems to map automatically out of the box to what you would expect, and easy to map to other parameters. Can see this just being all the same but more – also better suited to the typical keyboard player.

    1. I had a K-board and felt pretty much the opposite. The “expressive” parts were inconsistent and impossible to control, the feel of the the thing made me sad after getting used to the pads on Maschine, and it basically died in less than a year (it would fail to trigger notes 3/4 of the time, except immediately after a firmware reinstall, at which point velocity was unusable… as soon as I tried to adjust velocity it would stop triggering again).

  8. Would be great to know how this feels compared to the ROLI Seaboard RISE which has a much smoother textured silicone surface.

    Note that you don’t see anybody doing big pitch-bends in this video demo, just vibrato, whereas you can smoothly glide by 4 octaves on a RISE 49.

    The other major problem is which synths you can drive with this, although JUCE now supports MPE, there are precious few VSTs out there (other than ROLI’s own Equator) that are capable to reacting to all these degrees of modulation.

    1. It’s really great that Logic synth’s support MPE, they have per-channel pressure & pitch-bend. However both all these controllers (ROLI, Roger Linn, Keith McMillen) provide (many) more degrees of expression that Logic’s synths allow for.

  9. It’s fantastic but I personally would like a 2 1/2 octave size so to be able to have it fully mobile.
    At that size it’s in the backpack with my iPad , interface , headphones and I’m off and running.
    Oh ! Did I mention , have it so it can go directly into an iOS device ?
    Now that would be cool beans for sure !!!

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