ROLI Expands Blocks System With Lightpad-M

ROLI has announced an addition to its Blocks system of MIDI controllers with the Lightpad Block M – which they say offers a ‘more sensitive and precise playing experience that is on par with ROLI’s premium instruments’.

Features of the Lightpad M include:

  • Microkeywaves. Inspired by the wave-like undulation of keywaves on the surface of ROLI’s Seaboard instruments, the microkeywaves of the Lightpad M provide additional tactile feedback on an already sensitive surface. They mark a major revision from the flat surface of the original Lightpad Block.
  • A redesigned silicone surface layer. A deeper, softer silicone layer — topped with 225 microkeywaves — enhances the pressure-responsive control of sound that defines the Lightpad Block.
  • Brighter surface illumination. The Lightpad M is 50% brighter than the original Lightpad Block. It features a higher contrast display and a much richer range of color definition.

ROLI has also updated Noise to version 3.0.

The newest version of ROLI’s freemium app introduces improvements to clip launching, clip editing, and user-interface navigation as well as new acoustic sounds. They’ve also added an Audio Unit for iOS, which lets you play and edit with 400 sounds in GarageBand.

Pricing and Availability

The Lightpad M is now available for $199.95 (£189.95, €219.95), and will be available soon at retailers, including Apple stores.

22 thoughts on “ROLI Expands Blocks System With Lightpad-M

  1. I bought a pair of these from the Apple store on a whim. They were so complicated to set up that i had to return it the next day. If you just use their ipad software, your kind of ok but once you want to dive into using it in Logic Pro, you find yourself looking through pages of online support and manuals. Once you get it set up, then your back to those pages to figure out how to do more than strike a single key on an instrument. Even with the block with chords and scales, just hitting the chords and scales button wasn’t that simple. It was about 5-6 hours of wth and “I think I got it, nope”.
    Its a great tech hidden behind a convoluted set up.

  2. I have a different user experience, I found it very easy to use with the Noise.

    To use with a DAW, was initially limited but after the blocks dashboard was released it bacame much easier.

    There are faults with the software/hardware but this new release is fixing the hardware side of things, and new the software is getting better with every release.

    1. Ya, they make it look easy in those videos so I’m glad it worked out for someone. I’m no computer and DAW noob so I had to give up after a few hours. Didn’t want to be stuck using noise. And the dashboard was fine but I just couldn’t navigate presets or get the to block to respond to the changes.

  3. I certainly hope this series doesn’t have the connection dropping issues and latency problems of the first Blocks. I bought two Lightpad Blocks and both Control Blocks when they were first released and the Bluetooth connection was so bad I ended up returning all of them. It’s a shame because had they worked as advertised I’m sure I’d still have them and use them frequently. The battery life was also terrible for the Lightpad Blocks. I was running the recommended hardware with their current software (at the time) and it was still just a miserable experience. It soured me on Roli and has a made me hesitant to buy a Seaboard Rise even though I know from experience that they function properly and offer a great playing surface. Perhaps I just feel betrayed that a company that does something so right (Seaboard) could release something so massively flawed? Any Blocks users here? Have the connection issues been fixed? Can you just boot up 2 Lightpads, 3 Control Blocks, and the Seaboard Block and have them all function seamlessly over Bluetooth with the NOISE app and Blocks Dashboard without the connection dropping randomly? If so then I may have to give them another shot.

  4. I can’t figure it out from the info available: can you use these to develop your own musical applications, the way you can with a Launchpad or whatever, by sending MIDI (or something) back and forth to it? if so, what does the input look like? what dimensions of input do you get and at what resolution? at its core, is it like a grid of inputs?

    1. The MIDI implementation is pretty straightforward. It’s standard MIDI, except that in order to get individual control for each note, it uses 1 channel per note.

      The key messages it sends are:
      – Note On: with initial velocity
      – Aftertouch = pressure
      – Pitch Bend = horizontal moves,
      – Timbre = MIDI CC 74 = vertical moves
      – Note Off: with note-off velocity.

      1. thank you! and is it a grid? what size? one midi channel per note…. so is it a 4×4 grid? or is it larger and it just maxes out at 16 simultaneous signals?

        1. Yes, it’s a grid – it can be up to 15×15 LEDs I think, but the firmware probably limits you to 5×5 max.

          As to MIDI channels: you should be OK unless you have more than 10 fingers, and in practice I doubt you’d use more than 4 at a time.

          You can actually constrain it to use less than 16 MIDI channels (because you have other gear for example) and then it rotates through the allowed range.

  5. Who are these for?

    It looks like ROLI is trying to pivot from being a manufacturer of a high-end niche product, to a mass market manufacturer.

    But these sort of seem like a solution in search of a problem. And an expensive solution.

    You’re going to spend for 500 bucks to put together something basic with these blocks, where you could get a really powerful controller for that.

    The only one that makes sense to me is the little expressive keyboard, which could be cool for mobile use.

    1. Yep, I agree. You could even go niche with these and offer them to the eurorack folks. Give me a module that has this interface for a tap tempo LFO with all sorts of interactive CV outs and it’s on like Donkey Kong!

    2. agree. I guess they’re for non-musician gadget type people wandering around the apple store. All this stuff was definitely in their original business ‘plan’ when they started. Back before they released the seaboard they had so many employees and so much invested in such a niche you could tell they got a bunch of money from somewhere. I was bewildered and thought for sure they were jumping off a cliff and would disappear after a couple years (how do you make enough money selling seaboards and related stuff to pay back investors and keep it going?). They’ve proven me wrong so far so doing something right… they definitely see a market we don’t.

  6. I feel a little like a guinea pig (not that there is anything wrong with guinea pigs). I bought the first version and wished that the surface was a little less hard and wished that the resolution was a little better and faster. And then they come out with this one which I feel should’ve been version 1. BUT, I’ll say that I love the company overall and their customer service has been fantastic. I own a Seaboard as well and love it. I just wish they would offer a trade in for the new version. As is, its still pretty good and useable.

  7. Is it just me or does all of this make the $299 ROLI Seaboard Block look like the sweet spot buy for most people? If you like the technique but aren’t looking to drop large money on it, it seems like the best option. Even if some of the add-on Blocks have meaningful issues at the moment, this thing still provides a lot of what a ROLI is for. I take a better view of it because the well-matched Equator synth is impressive, with 200 sounds on tap. Its pretty far removed from the world of step-sequencing. Weird is good.

  8. Does anybody know if this device can work in standalone mode as a XYZ pad, sending 3 different CC messages each per axis?

    Thanks in advance.

  9. …confirming that all the complaints about the original lightpad were, in fact, a hardware issues that will never be solved by updates.

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