Nonlinear Labs C15 Synthesizer Now Available To Pre-Order

Nonlinear Labs has announced that the C15 – a new high-end keyboard synthesizer – is now available to pre-order.

Nonlinear Labs is a new company, founded by Native Instruments founder Stephan Schmitt. The company was founded with the goal of making advanced electronic instruments for performing musicians, focusing on playability, expressiveness, quality, and durability.

The C15 is a polyphonic instrument with a digital sound synthesis architecture. The goal of the audio engine is not to model analog machines of the past or to play back samples or complex waveforms, but to focus on creating sounds that can be dramatically influenced by how you play.

The signal processing structure has been condensed down to an essential, yet powerful arrangement of carefully chosen components. The only signal sources are two sine wave oscillators. They are connected to each other and to a feedback bus for phase modulation and their signals are processed by two wave-shapers, a comb filter, a multi-mode filter, and a chain of five stereo effects.

The signals are generated in real-time by digital algorithms. The core components are two sine wave oscillators feeding a structure with phase modulation (often referred to as FM), waveshapers, a delay-based resonator, a multi-mode filter, and a chain of five effects. Feedback signal paths also play an important role in the sound character and responsiveness. Together, these elements generate organic and complex sounds with a natural instrument behavior.

The C15’s human interface has been designed for two purposes: playing and sound design. The instrument features a Fatar keybed with semi-weighted long-arm keys. There is a specially-designed ergonomic pitch bender, two very long touch strips (ribbons), and connections for up to four pedals.

The instrument itself is made primarily from wood, steel and aluminum.

Every parameter can be directly selected by a button. The C15’s functions are software-defined, but have a dedicated haptic control surface. In addition, a graphical user interface can be displayed and edited on any device that has a browser and Wi-Fi. The interface is optimized for touch screens and can be intuitively zoomed and panned with common gestures.

See the Nonlinear Labs site for a large collection of video and audio demos.

Phase 22 Synthesis Engine:

  • 2 Oscillators (sine wave, phase modulation, frequency randomization)
  • 2 Shapers (sine curve, adjustable foldback and asymmetry
  • Ring Modulator
  • Comb Filter (tunable, with allpass and lowpass)
  • State Variable Filter (multi-mode, 2-4 poles, FM)
  • Feedback Mixer (4 input signals, shaper for the sum)
  • Feedback bus with 4 destinations
  • Output Mixer (stereo, 4 input signals, shaper for the sum)
  • 5 Stereo Effects: Cabinet (amp simulation), 8-pole Gap/Band Filter, Phaser/Flanger/Chorus, Echo, Reverb
  • 3 ADBDSR Envelopes, adjustable attack curve
  • Velocity sensitivities for envelope levels, attack times, and release times
  • 4 Macro Controls, assignable to up to 86 target parameters
  • 8 Hardware Sources, mappable to the 4 Macro Controls
  • Number of parameters: 317
  • Resolution of the parameters: typically 1000 steps (250 … 15000 steps)
  • Resolution of key velocity, ribbons, bender, aftertouch, pedals: 4000 steps
  • 12-voice polyphony, variable Unison settings
  • Scale parameters for micro-tuning the 12 steps of the octave

Play Interface:

  • 61-key (5 octave) Fatar keybed with semi-weighted long-arm keys
  • Note-on and note-off velocity sensitivity
  • Monophonic aftertouch
  • Two 800 mm touch strips (ribbons), each with 33 LED dots
  • Ribbon modes: absolute, relative, combinable with return-to-center
  • Lever (magnetic force loaded) for pitchbending and similar applications
  • Control panel with an OLED display (128 x 32 dots) and four buttons
  • Output volume potentiometer (at the front)
  • Headphone level potentiometer (at the front)

Parameter Editing:

  • 4 Selection panels, each with 24 buttons and LEDs
  • Labeling by exchangeable magnetic overlays
  • Edit panel with an OLED display (256 x 64 dots), an incremental encoder, and 18 buttons
  • The ribbons are also assignable for parameter editing.
  • User-definable Init preset and Default values
  • Randomize function
  • Graphical user interface on any WiFi-enabled device running a browser, unique zoom-and-pan navigation, enabled for touch

Preset System:

  • User-definable banks
  • Unlimited number of presets per bank
  • User-editable infos per preset
  • Search function to find presets by name or tags in the infos
  • Morphing transition between presets.

Undo System:

  • Unlimited undo for all user interactions, including sound editing steps
  • Undo list with support for different editing branches (tree view)


  • Main audio outputs (L, R) (TRS, balanced by transformers)
  • Headphone output at the front (TRS)
  • 4 inputs for analog controls, such as pedals (TRS, flexible pin-assignment)
  • USB host connector for data exchange and software updates


  • Base unit only: 900 x 290 x 100 mm (width x depth x height)
  • Including panel unit: 900 x 410 x 160 mm (width x depth x height)

Pricing and Availability

The Nonlinear Labs C15 is available to pre-order now for 4000 € (includes 19% German VAT), with availability in May 2017.

21 thoughts on “Nonlinear Labs C15 Synthesizer Now Available To Pre-Order

  1. “The C15’s functions are software-defined, but have a dedicated haptic control surface.”

    I’m confused… Is this, like, a thing? Or is this technobabble for “you can turn the big nob in the middle”?

    Otherwise, nice keyboard sounds nice. (tu)

    1. They talk about that on the site. It’s designed to be an expressive instrument, so it’s designed around the idea that you’ll map expressive controllers built into the instrument to the parameters that you want to control.

      So instead of ‘robo vibrato’, it’s intended for players that want to actually physically play the vibrato, etc.

      1. It’s a deeply flawed vision. LFOs can be used for a hell of a lot more than vibrato. It’s a hugely useful and frankly essential tool for sound design. They mention ‘sound design’ as well as ‘playing’ so it fails on this count for me.

  2. There’s a lot of noise pertaining to everyone rehashing old analogue designs and a fair amount of comment bemoaning the lack of innovation. Well this seems, if not ground breaking, at least new and challenging. Yes it is expensive, but nothing like when the Fairlight was launched, but it paved the way for a whole new type of instrument. And how brave of them to use Ikea timber finish.

    1. It’s weird, I’ll give them that. At this price it’s a high-end buyers market anyway. Nobody is saving up their weekly allowance to buy this thing. If I had 5k to throw away on something, I’d buy one. I don’t, so I won’t.

  3. instead of like 50 rows of buttons, why not put 4 hi-res multi-touchscreens on there?? so much more functionality and if the only thing you need is a bunch of momentary button type switches, they can easily cover that, but touchscreens can also do so much more while giving you endless display options…

    the UI design is boneheaded, sorry

  4. Ok. That’s better. I feared for the worst but it appears more rounded than I thought. There’s quite a bit of Bazille in the signal path. I understand a bit more why they’ve only got one knob: you map what you want to modulate or adjust to the ribbons etc. This is for performance. Then you can use a touchscreen for sound design and parameter access. This lets touchscreen tech take the place of expensive knobs.

    Mono after touch is a bit mean but it does save money. I.e. You only need one after touch sensor rather than 61. This also limits how keyboard splits work out. No inclusion of something like “Touch keys” to give you CS80 style Uber control.

    Price? Think Modal and it prices ok. Thankfully no “evolving pads” in the demos (or at least the ones I looked at).

  5. “Yes! I’m sick of having knob-per-function synths, let’s go back to good old fashion button pushing!” said nobody ever

  6. whats about external controls ? I like to use breath controller. The feature list says: USB for data exchange. what does this mean ? only preset exchange , controlling by a sequencer ???

  7. “Phase 22 Synthesis Engine:

    2 Oscillators (sine wave, phase modulation, frequency randomization)
    2 Shapers (sine curve, adjustable foldback and asymmetry
    Ring Modulator ”

    I’m guessing the engine is a modern take on Casio’s Phase Distortion Synthesis (CZ range of synths)
    PD was Casio’s answer to FM if you will
    Lot’s of potential but difficult to program and with very little as far as a tactile interface goes

    This looks interesting, but, performance orientated ? why no knobs or sliders ??

  8. Not to worry, Behringer is releasing one of those for 500 euros!
    He will also add a Super Knob and D-Beam Controller. Yehh! The downside: it will have mini keys and be 1 and a half octaves long but should still fit in the back pocket of your jeans. Looks I am going to be getting 10 of those!

  9. “So…many…buttons… – not…enough…knobs… !!!”

    Seriously, if this is so-called “innovation”, I’m completely unaware of it… (!?)

    This thing is “parameter/value hell” to begin with.

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