Roli’s redesigned Seaboard Rise keyboard offers more precise playing

Roli's redesigned Seaboard Rise keyboard offers more precise playing

Roli has been building unconventional musical instruments for nearly a decade now — the company’s first product, the rubber-keyed Seaboard piano was first revealed back in 2013. It was originally released as a full size, 88-key piano, but a few years later Roli unveiled the smaller and more affordable Seaboard Rise. But since then Roli has mostly focused on other pursuits. That changes today as the company has just announced the Seaboard Rise 2, a totally revamped version of the older keyboard that is up for pre-order today. 

Probably the most significant change here is a new “Keywave 2” playing surface that has what Roli calls “precision frets.” To explain what’s different here, you first need to know how the Seaboard differs from a traditional piano keyboard. Instead of having totally distinct keys for each of the 12 chromatic tones, the Seaboard keys are designed so that you can slide between them seamlessly. Those keys were undoubtably the biggest differentiator between the Seaboard and a traditional keyboard, as they let users easily bend pitches, add vibrato and generally conjure up sounds that are trickery to pull off with normal keys. 

That’s all well and good, but not having distinct keys made it challenging to hit a note right in tune, a pretty major concern when you’re trying to play the Seaboard in a more traditional fashion. Roli says that the newly designed keywaves (the term it uses for its version of traditional keys) have been tested to be more precise and intuitive, letting traditional keyboard players have an easier time picking up the instrument and translating their skills to it. Of course, it’s the kind of thing that people will need to test out in person to verify Roli’s claims, but it’s good to note that they’re taking this into account with the new model.

Beyond the new playing surface, the Seaboard Rise 2 has a redesigned aluminum chassis that comes in a “platinum blue” color scheme; from the pics, it looks like a classy dark gray. Either way, Roli says the new casing is more durable than before, something that touring musicians should appreciate. Unsurprisingly, the Seaboard Rise 2 includes USB-C and MIDI ports for connectivity. 

Roli

Finally, the keyboard includes several different software suites. The company’s own Equator2 MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) suite, which costs $249 on its own, is bundled alongside the more basic Roli Studio. The “lite” version of Ableton Live is included as well. 

The initial run of the Seaboard Rise 2 goes up for pre-order today, priced at $1,399. The Seaboard Rise 2 comes in a four-octave, 49-key version only. The original Seaboard Rise also had a more affordable 25-key model, but Roli says that the 49-key option was by far the more popular, so they’re only going with that one this time out. As for when it’ll be available, Roli says that batches of keyboards will ship in order of when they’re pre-ordered, and the first group will ship in October. 

The Seaboard Rise 2 is also notable as its the first hardware product Roli is releasing since the company filed for administration in the UK, a process similar to filing for bankruptcy in the US. The company reorganized under the brand name Luminary Roli and said at the time it would focus on beginners rather than professional musicians. The launch of the Seaboard Rise 2, definitely a product focused on professionals or advanced music enthusiasts, seems to contradict that a bit. But, Roli still offers its light-up Lumi keyboard, which was originally released alongside software that helps teach users how to play the piano. The company also offers a more advanced model called the Lumi Studio. Regardless of the Seaboard Rise 2 not exactly being a tool for beginners, it’s probably a good sign for Roli’s future that it’s releasing its first new product since filing for administration. 

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