Expressive E Unveils Osmose, A Groundbreaking ‘Augmented Keyboard’ Synthesizer

Today Expressive E, in collaboration with Haken Audio, have announced Osmose, a new augmented keyboard synthesizer.

Osmose pairs an entirely new expressive keyboard mechanism, called A.K.A.©, with the EaganMatrix sound engine by Haken Audio, that was specifically designed for expressive electronic instruments. The company says that Osmose enhances the synth players’ interaction with the keys, “making the player one with the sound.”

Here’s the official video intro:

Osmose offers the musician an elevated experience by introducing a new landscape of physical gestures, allowing them to interact with sounds, producing music like they never have before. Osmose developers explain that “It does this while not only respecting, but also enhancing the player’s existing keyboard skills.” Every note can be articulated independently with unique expressive possibilities.

Here’s an overview of the expressive performance options:

A patented mechanism that delivers three dimensions of control on every single key makes these gestures possible. This new technology is named A.K.A., short for Augmented Keyboard Action.

Expressive E took an Osmose prototype to Los Angeles several weeks ago, to show the keyboard to a number of artists there. Here’s a look at the reactions from Ron Avant, J3PO, Peter Dyer, Jordan Rudess, Bill Laurance, Kaela Sinclair, and Virtual Riot:

How does it work?

Osmose developers explain: “The objective behind Osmose is to create an instrument that provides new expressive playing possibilities that keyboard players have always desired. Achieving that objective requires a perfect union between an expressive keyboard mechanism and a sound engine. Consequently, Expressive E has partnered with Haken Audio to integrate its powerful EaganMatrix sound engine into Osmose.”

Built for instruments with continuously expressive gestures such as the Continuum Fingerboard, the EaganMatrix is arguably the most powerful expressive synthesizer on the market. Its modular sound engine combines many types of digital synthesis, including physical modeling, additive, subtractive, FM, virtual analog, granular and spectral synthesis.

Here, Edmund Eagan, creator of the EaganMatrix explains what all of this means:

Osmose’s large library of editable internal sounds are all custom-made to take advantage of Osmose’s expressive A.K.A. technology. The diverse sound set of highly detailed acoustic and electronic sounds, from raw synths to smooth organic textures, were carefully crafted to react to a player’s slightest movements. Each Osmose preset makes use of the keys’ three-dimensional sensitivity in a unique way to create effects such as strummed notes, vibrato, legato, layered dynamics and much more.

External synth interface

Osmose can also interface with computers and other instruments, as a MIDI controller with support for MPE and MPE+ sounds, polyphonic aftertouch, a Multichannel MIDI mode, and global pitch bend controllable from every key. The user can also configure the Osmose as a standalone MIDI controller from the onboard display, with no need to connect to a computer.

Using Osmose as a MIDI Controller:

Technical Details:

In addition to the A.K.A. expressive keys, the musician can radically change a sound’s timbre, texture, harmonics and effects directly and intuitively with Osmose’s front-panel macro controls. “For the ultimate performance experience,” the mod wheel and two continuous pedal inputs can also adjust the macros. The Osmose user can even adjust the sensitivity of the keyboard’s three control dimensions.

  • Keybed: 49 full-size keys with A.K.A. technology for three-dimensional control
  • Polyphony: Up to 24 voices with Layered and Split modes
  • Top Panel: 8 encoders, 9 buttons, pitch slider, modulation slider, color LCD screen
  • Pedal Inputs: 2 continuous pedal inputs, assignable to sustain or synth parameters
  • MIDI: MIDI In, MIDI Out/Thru, USB Type B
  • Audio: 24-bit D/A conversion, 1/4″ stereo headphone jack, two 1/4″ jacks for main stereo output
  • Software: A Mac/PC editor lets users create and edit the EaganMatrix sounds,
    as well as assign the three A.K.A. key movements to multiple parameters.

Pricing and Availability

Osmose’s retail price will be $1799/€1799. Until December 31, however, Expressive E is taking a limited number of early reservations at 40% off its regular price ($/€1079/ instead of $/€1799) in its web store, with an initial deposit of $/€299. The $/€299 deposit will reserve a unit on the Osmose waiting list; the remaining balance will be due when the product is available to deliver, estimated for the summer of 2020.

For more information about Osmose, including musician and technical videos, visit the Expressive E website.

42 thoughts on “Expressive E Unveils Osmose, A Groundbreaking ‘Augmented Keyboard’ Synthesizer

  1. Is it just me or you can sort of hear what appears to be quite noisy key strikes? That’ll be a big issue. Not fan of the design either, those elevated keys somewhat upset my aesthetic sensitivity…

        1. I thought the same thing when I first listened — serious keyclick. I’m more impressed by the keyboard than I am by the synth sounds.

  2. Osmose appears to strike a good balance between traditional keyboard capability (velocity, playability, etc.). and new methods to control sounds via each key.

    I love the continuous control based on the entire throw of the key. Seems much more user friendly and easier to control than regular aftertouch. I think 49 keys is a good size. I could see this being a good 2nd keyboard for special sounds. Has a reasonable number of additional controls and pedal ins. So glad to see standard MIDI DIN. The inclusion of a powerful built-in synth makes this almost a no-brainer.

    A user would probably need to let go of some expectations about the feel of the keys. Based on some of the close-ups on the throw and aftertouch, it seems like it will probably feel a bit “mushy”. But that’s a small sacrifice for the added dimensions of control. You’d use this for what it is good for.

    Would be very nice to know what the velocity scan rate is, whether it supports high-resolution velocity, and some more specs about resolution for the other controls, generally.

  3. What happened to Eigenharp? To be honest the demos (apart from the funk groove )did v little for me.
    Thank goodness for the budget end of the market.

    1. Some of us still have them. They faced manufacturing issues a while back, which was a bit of a set back. I love the expressiveness of mine, but coming from a non-guitar background made the layout a bit interesting to get used to. I think the price point and the standard layout that a lot of people are used to are big bonuses to the Osmose.

    2. If you’re interested in hearing more about the Eigenharp line, there are some groups online for owners. Let’s just say that it isn’t the MPE instrument with the clearest roadmap.
      (I bought a Pico a few years back and I still hope it can become truly useful. Support isn’t really there.)

    1. Knowledgeable real musicians know that polyphonic expressive CV interfaces are a thing, so you could hook this up to your modular.

      Assuming your modular is big enough to handle it, of course.

    2. I’m one of those nobodies. And I’m not a real musician, either. MIDI is a 90’s (and 00’s and 10’s and 20’s) thing.

      A joke is a little string of words that makes a person laugh. That a joke.

  4. I think this is the one for me among the expressive keyboards. Clearly the prototype used did not look like a finished product. Clearly 3D-printed. It will probably look a lot better as a finished product. I’m dying to try this with a big modular synth, but I don’t know if there are any MIDI-CV interfaces that can support all the expressive features. Would love for it to have a ton of CV outputs. Still waiting for that no-compromise CV keyboard.

    1. The Osmose is fully compatible with Haken Audio’s CVC (16 CV outputs) and Evaton’s µCVC (4 or 8 outputs). The connection is through dedicated high speed i2c, no Midi or USB required.

  5. I think this is the one for me among the expressive keyboards. Clearly the prototype used did not look like a finished product. Clearly 3D-printed. It will probably look a lot better as a finished product. I’m dying to try this with a big modular synth, but I don’t know if there are any MIDI-CV interfaces that can support all the expressive features. Would love for it to have a ton of CV outputs. Stilling waiting for that no-compromise CV keyboard.

  6. I certainly hope the finished product is more polished (even keys, etc). But I won’t be risking early adoption on this one. Will wait for some honest reviews to come out and would rather pay full price for that peace of mind.

  7. What like to know what specifically is meant by “sub-millisecond” in terms of scan rates. Needs a fast scan rate for next level velocity, and for smooth, high res modulation.

    1. Sub millisecond means the data capture rate from the playing surface. On the Continuum, this vast amount of continuous data is intelligently optimized, and reduced by over a factor of one thousand to a Midi stream, output either internally into the EaganMatrix or through external Midi or Mid over USB. Any good expressive controller needs this type a data handling.

    1. From what I’ve read it’s more like they turned the Haken Continuum into a keyboard. This uses the same sensors and sound engine as the Continuum.

      This is a good thing, because the Continuum has the fastest and most sensitive response of any of the expressive instruments and its synth engine is the most powerful expressive synth available.

      From what I’ve seen, the synth engine in this, EaganMatrix, is deep and complex, though. So I’d expect that learning to program it will take some effort, compared to a knobby synth.

    1. I thought the same thing. I wasn’t able to connect to their webstore earlier, though. It must be getting crushed with traffic. I’m going to try again tomorrow.

      1. I was able to get in and place the order not too far back. No risk, you can cancel any time before final payment and get your deposit back. (Unlike Indigogo/Kickstarter.)

        That it has the Eagan Matrix built in and running standalone is incredible. 5-pin MIDI’s definitely way too slow for this sort of controller (any MPE instrument really) and USB MIDI has latency and jitter problems when running the Matrix on a host. This looks like it’ll be incredibly responsive. Also has split and layer and 24 note polyphony, and a full featured physical modelling engine. Holy crap man. How crazy would someone have to be not to get this. I also love the case styling and the long keys you can see moving from the audience side.

        I have a poly-AT 3 axis keyboard already I bought, and another I’d previously made myself, but both are non-moving keybeds and I don’t have sufficient control of things on the commercial model to play AT smoothly. Levers are better for that.

        There was a multi axis moving key keyboard controller made back in I think the 80s or 90s, I used to know the guy that built it but I think it’s one of those things they only made one or two. I’m sure it was extremely mechanically complicated and probably had a slow response. Can’t recall the name of the instrument or the guy even at the moment, this was decades ago. It’ll come to me.

        1. “5-pin MIDI’s definitely way too slow for this sort of controller (any MPE instrument really” – this is completely wrong, Linnstrument works absolutely fine with 5 pin midi output, the amount of mpe data is way below the limits of midi.

    1. The EaganMatrix allows extensive patch editing. At least the version that comes as part of the Haaken products does. But it is by no means a conventional synthesizer. It involves a bit of a learning curve. The interface is quite unlike most other synthesizers and some of concepts aren’t found in any other synths that I am aware of. IIRC it was developed in Max MSP

    2. i surely hope so, this shouldn’t be a preset machine. Also, using EaganMatrix from the continuumini I hope they make a new interface for it.

    3. The Osmose sound engine is completely compatible with the Continuum sound engine, Presets can be shared, edited, started from scratch, etc. for either instrument from the same Editor.

  8. I was going to pre-order, but I think that there will be at least several new MPE “real” keyboards shown at NAMM, probably from the major synth companies if not some new startups. Summer 2020 is too long for Expressive E to be holding on to my downpayment.

    1. I wouldn’t be too sure on that. Polyphonic aftertouch, well probably as that is apparently in production. But polyphonic aftertouch is not MPE, as it is within the standard midi specification.
      But I guess some company could have included touch sensors in the top layer of the keys. and if the keys then support polyphonic aftertouch, it would offer in addition to this product, the slide. But such a controller from a small company, could easily cost as much as this, without a synth engine. I would also expect such a product to not be delivered by the time this is, unless this is massively delayed.

    1. That would have been nice. But it would probably been monophonic.
      I wish it came with a ribbon controler, or a ring like on the ondes martenot.

    1. Korg Prophecy was a great synth (I had one), but it wasn’t MPE and didn’t have the expression that this board is capable of. I also think in real terms it was as expensive if you put inflation on the MRP of the time…I have just pre-ordered the Osmose, comes out at around £800, that seems more than reasonable to me.

    2. > sounds like what the Korg Prophecy was able to do

      What the heck!? The Prophecy was monophonic, cost around the same, and its so-called physical modelling was not impressive sounding since it avoided all the Yamaha patents and just did simple stuff. Osmose’s sound engine Eagan Matrix is way beyond Yamaha, while including its now out of patent technology, and also does FM and other things, is modular, is 24 voice polyphonic. Osmose’s controller has a keyboard with polyphonic aftertouch, polyphonic lever angle, and polyphonic X axis motion.

      So, yeah… no.

    3. I dont know the list price of the Prophecy when new, but in todays money, it would probably not been cheaper than this.
      It was monphonic.
      It didn’t have polyphonic expression.

      I agree there are similarities in sound capabilities, but the prophecy and Z1, were in my mind underestimated. Had they been developed further, a product like this would probably been left in the dust by a modern synth based on that technology, if it had been in continious development. But then a product like this, would have probably also benn more than it is.

  9. I know I’m a skeptic by heart but I honestly don’t see anything there which I can’t already do with a high end pad midi controller, such as my Push and I suppose even my Maschine Mk3. I’ll admit that I’m somewhat new to the concept of playing with pads but seriously… if you want to become creative then – in my opinion obviously – you first need to lose the concept of confinement. And as much as I enjoy playing my keyboards they still limit you because it’s always the same thing you’re playing, the same scale(s) the same notes the same collection of sound. Just adding some variation doesn’t change that fact, heck, we already have this concept with aftertouch.

    If you really want to break away and become one with the sound you first need to start by taking away that sense of confinement I think. Thus taking away the whole keyboard and come up with an alternative.

    For me that’s either a Push or a Maschine controller (or both) because those force you to think “out of the box” which, for me anyway, seriously helps to improve creativity.

    1. This has both polyphonic aftertouch, and key “wiggle”. Push and maschine don’t. The Linnstrument does, however.
      The wiggle motion, should not be underestimated, as it is a motion many players does on keys and pads, while just triggering aftertouch that is assigned to vibrato.

      There are many scales that can be played on keys, if the person either learns or use a tool that changes the scale of the keys.

      A keyboard controller can play any sound of any of the pad controllers you mention. This has midi both over USB and DIN.

      What this offers over pad controllers, is a level of tactile feedback.It is much easier to develop muscle memory, on note triggers that actually moves, and it is easier to adjust to a different movement of another controller where to movement is slightly different, compared to the stummness of pads. But many skilled piano players still prefers to play on models they are used to.

      I agree that the keyboard interface isn’t optimal. But there really isn’t a single interface that can offer all-in-one, the pad interface no more than this. Strumming nad picking, needs strings, or something that emulates strings. Bow action needs an interface that responds to it. Different percussions, needs interfaces that responds to the expression of the instrument.

      I also do think, people need to disconnect the interface from the sound, when it comes to electronic sounds. Some absolutely want synthesizers to come with built in keyboards, despite a midi connection and a keyboard controller, would offer the same capabilties as a built in keyboard.
      I do think that it is possible to do a convincing piano perfomance on pads, with the right sound enginge, if the player knows their interface well. But that doesn’t mean that the pad is superior.

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