Sensel Discontinues Morph Controller, Focuses On Laptop Touchpad Market

Sensel has announced that it is discontinuing the Morph, it’s expressive multi-function music controller.

The Morph is a highly sensitive multi-touch control surface that can sense overlays, letting it ‘morph’ to be used as a keyboard, drum pad, x/y controller and more.

The company says that challenges of manufacturing the Morph have forced them to pivot to focus on their enterprise business solutions.

Here’s their announcement:

“Ever since we sold out of Morphs in 2021, many of you have been eagerly awaiting updates about the availability of the Sensel Morph. Today, we can provide some closure and announce that unfortunately, Sensel will no longer be producing the current Morph.

Like many of you, we feel like we were able to only scratch the surface of the potential of the Morph, and we’re disappointed that we can no longer produce it. Production challenges were myriad: the unavailability of what was once a widely available microprocessor, the lack of supply of the resistive ink that was used for the Morph’s pressure sensor, travel restrictions, and internal competition with the rapidly growing demand for Sensel’s enterprise solutions.

Over the past year, we explored many avenues to restart production: pitching investors, partnering with other music companies, creative arrangements with high-volume manufacturers, and redesigning the Morph. In the end, we had to make the difficult decision to shift our focus to our core enterprise business, especially in the laptop touchpad market. Sensel’s technology is currently being used in the haptic touchpads of Lenovo’s X1 Titanium Yoga and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio, and will be featured in several other models in the near future. We’re thrilled to enable the next generation haptic touchpads for Windows laptops, and to get our tech into the hands of millions of users.

For those of you who backed the Morph on Kickstarter or purchased one after, we sincerely thank you for being a part of the Sensel journey and helping us get to where we are today. We still can’t wait to see what you create. And for those who signed up for our back-in-stock notifications while we’ve been sold out, we apologize for the long wait and for not being able to fulfill your requests.

Making the Morph and seeing what creative people could do with it was incredibly rewarding. From the same controller, we saw virtuosic finger drum jams, slick productions, tripped out visuals, and interactive installations. The creative minds that got behind the Morph were just awesome. As we move forward with our enterprise business, we hope to influence those markets with what we’ve learned, and work with innovative tool-makers to bring the creativity and richness-of-interaction of the Morph to everyday consumer devices like laptops and phones.

Down the road, we will also rethink the Morph product line and potentially bring another consumer product to market. While there are no plans to do so right now, we welcome all feedback and suggestions.”

Sensel has a FAQ page on their site for Morph owners.

29 thoughts on “Sensel Discontinues Morph Controller, Focuses On Laptop Touchpad Market

  1. Sad. I’ve got one and it’s an interesting piece of kit. But I’m interpreting this as “we can’t make a profit off of it” and I’m not surprised. There’s a tremendous amount of innovation in the electronic music biz, and I’m constantly amazed by some of the niche products that make it to market. But we can’t expect manufacturers to just give stuff away. Where’s that post-scarcity economy when we need it?

    1. I think the statement is pretty clear. If you can’t buy the parts you can’t make the product. Countless small businesses are going through this reality right now.

      1. Yep, we ran out of The NDLR before end of 2021 and we can’t make more without its microcontroller. We could switch microcontrollers if there were any to be had, but there’s not. Fortunately we recognized that stock was getting low on the MRCC’s MCU and bought a bunch before they were gone or we wouldn’t have anything to sell.

  2. The Morph wasn’t throwaway-cheap, but I found it tempting as the best MPE approach for me. The overlays made it quite broad. The size was super desktop friendly as well. If a slick design like this couldn’t catch fire, what else does MPE that’s even half as friendly/ergonomic?

    Maybe that’s why its not catching on as a notably major thing in the field, despite the growing list of manufacturers who are offering compatibility. I don’t think you’re going to see pop bands rocking out on an Osmose stack…

  3. I was one of those on the waiting list. … bummer! I don’t suppose it’s possible for any other company to take this Concept forward? It feels like a promising new species just went extinct!

  4. someone should add that they’re dropping support for it. not even open-sourcing their app. enjoy.

  5. Supply chain issues, I bet. Probably have to completely redesign the Morph. You could probably license the tech if you feel you have a killer concept.

    1. Nope. Inflation = supply chain = cover for this guy. Sorry, no one is buying it. No one in the target can afford it. High inflation, general malaise, can all do this.

      1. It wasn’t that expensive, I bought a Morph with a free overlay and free shipping for $199 a couple of years ago. If you were in the industry you would know. Ship dates for parts last year got pushed to 2022, now they’re pushed to 2023. No need for conspiracy theories, the world is crazy enough right now.

  6. One of my favourite controllers, despite shortcomings. I’ve been a big fan of MPE since getting an Eigenharp Pico and then a ROLI Lightpad M Block.

    Like others, I really like the Morph’s form factor and, in fact, its sturdiness. Easy to carry around in a backpack along with a 9.7″ iPad Pro. The Buchla Thunder overlay makes for a different approach to playing, which has expanded my approach.

    To me, Sensel’s pivot isn’t an indictment of MPE controllers. The Erae Touch is up for a MIDI award. Luminary (née ROLI) has revitalize a Seaboard model. Artiphon is (slowly) improving support for the Orba. Roger Linn is still making the LinnStrument. Though Haken Audio has refocused, it’s still making MPE+ controllers and its work with Expressive E on the Osmose might pave the way for more collaboration. There are also more synths which support MPE, both software and hardware.

    The overall concept behind the Morph might not be a dead-end either. After all, the Joué is somewhat similar in concept and, as far as I know, it’s still in production.

    At the same time, it sounds like we’re some ways away from the ideal poly-expressive controller. I know that some keyboard players think of the Osmose as the ideal package. Personally, I perceive other layouts to be more interesting, including grids with chromatic rows in fourths (which works on a number of controllers from the LinnStrument to the GeoShred app).

    I keep thinking about what MIDI 2.0 might mean for those poly-expressive controllers and synths. And Ultra Wideband wireless. And MTS-ESP for tuning and mapping. Even CV, which the EaganMatrix Module supports.

    MPE was designed as a transition or stopgap. Several parts are rather clunky. MIDI-CI and MIDI-PE should help a lot. Reducing this kind of “friction” could have a fairly big impact on the market, though it’ll probably remain a niche within a niche for a long time.

    Otherwise, experiments with haptics and XR might eventually produce something useful for us. Especially if we find a way to design a controller for music which also caters to a bigger market, as Sensel has tried to do. Ultraleap might have the right strategy after all.

    I do wish Sensel the best of luck in its new role.

    1. Midi MPE is indeed a bit clunky as it was an afterthought on a protocol agreed in the eighties. Nevertheless I don’t think the protocol really matters. I mean my old Matrix 1000 allows receiving one voice per separate MIDI channel (called guitar MIDI) as do all multitimbral synths, if you assign the same preset to each of their MIDI channels. Then all these instruments can be adressed with added polyphonic expression without MPE.

      What I tend to say is that these polyphonic capabilities are out there and not a lot has been done with it in the past decades.
      The obstacle lies instead in the way this added expressiveness is to be reached, and that search ain’t over yet. Just look at all current MPE controllers and how they create expression: fairly different one from the other.

      I’m a traditional keyboard player and even the Roli didn’t do it for me. It just didn’t feel right: I must press down a distinct key somehow! That’s why I believe a lot of keyboardists are in the market for something like the Osmose that can be played as well with the skills they already have, or they may settle for a slightly less expressive instrument such as a poly aftertouch keyboard.

      However, musicians that do not care about traditional keyboards will remain wanting user interfaces like the Erae, Morph, Linnstrument etc.

      We haven’t seen the end of the story yet. My prediction: the whole market will be staring at the Osmose, and check its success, regardless whether it’s reliable or not. If Osmose can’t meet the demand, other companies may say “there is clearly a market for it and we can do better or cheaper”.
      So the longer it takes for the Osmose to get out on the market, the longer we all may need to wait for the ultimate MPE sensation. And even if I’m not going to buy one, I can’t wait for it to be released 🙂

      1. i never notice the matrix-1000 have this! thank you, i will have fun with it!

        the problem i had with “guitar midi” or “mono mode” with some vintage synths (mks-50) and mpe controllers is voice allocation. if you play one note, release it and play the same note again it will play the same voice (no round robin) great for guitars solo’s but not so great when playing pads and other long release sounds with mpe controllers.

    2. The Joué is still in production, correct, but, a bit alike sensel here, just the “Joué Play” consumer version. I appreciate that they put all the technology and their know how into their new unit, even as an pay-for-unlock-pro-option, but for me as a pro user – got the last black limited run, which is awesome and improved from my old 2nd gen (post-kickstarter-run) – it’s a bit unfair that it was discontinued in 2021, short after the limited run, to focus on the Play. They continued support, but it hurts to never be able getting different colored 1/3-pads, and the Play, even in Pro-Mode, isn’t a replacement. It lacks the magnets, it lacks the 2/3 and 1/3 – modules, it lacks the clever engineered concepts and replaced it with four swappable well-thought, but generic layouts.

      I mean, i see the point about re-focus the brand, but as a pro user, i feel a little bit… ignored? But you need to get food on your table, as they’re saying…

  7. I still have and us my Morph. I have it setup in a Grid like the Linnstrument. The innovator’s overlay is a lot of fun.

    I use it on the road to practice and also at work as a custom button pad.

  8. ” In the end, we had to make the difficult decision to shift our focus to our core enterprise business”
    Bye bye, music market. We make way more $ with laptop components.

  9. Morph+Buchla Thunder: It looks great on paper, but I’ve hardly ever used it, I prefer the Keystep37 or an mobile app, I’ll probably put it up for sale someday.

  10. I love my Morph. It’s a great controller for some of the more esoteric Kontakt instruments like Thrill, Morphestra and Cinemorphx. They are selling offthe remaining stock of overlays for $10 each right now.

    1. yeah I am too a fan, I ended up picking up a couple of the overlays I never got around to picking up in the past like the buchla and the sound-art overlay and they throw in a case for free – bummer to see they are discontinuing it but it isn’t going into the trash bin anytime soon

    1. They invest allot in their technologies, if they continue making it to other markets no reason to give it for free, and anyway its a x,y,z controller that sends midi, if you are lucky to have one you are not restricted in anyway to continue using it.

    2. it sucks but I understand not going open source because they are basically still producing the product in other forms (since the sensel touchpads are basically smaller versions of the morph) so it isn’t like they aren’t currently selling the technology, just not as a music device

  11. I really enjoy the Sensel. I’m an Erae Touch owner too and love it mostly because I can use sticks on it, but the sensel is so much more sensitive. Also, the bluetooth capabilities were really appreciated.

    Too bad about this but I can understand why they’d focus on laptops. Music is a passion and motivator for all kinds of innovation. But in the end embedding their tech into something someone else sells, and sells millions of, like a laptop, makes more sense. Hopefully the Sensel folks come back to a musical application in the future.

    1. they should actually focus on not making touchpads but the entire half of the clamshell. If they did that then you could have an overlay for the keyboard and touchpad or pull the whole thing back and make it into a fully different console interface.

  12. Call me crazy, but I’d like to see ROLI do some kind of lower-cost alternative to the Eigenharp Alpha.

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