ROLI Seaboard RISE 2 Makes The World's Weirdest Keyboard Even Stranger

First establishing itself to musicians and music producers in 2015 as the first "truly expressive" digital keyboard, ROLI RISE returns in 2022 with its fourth keyboard model, which improves on its immediate predecessor, the Seaboard RISE 49 — a 49-key midi controller keyboard that uses a unique touch-responsive surface instead of physical black and white keys. It sounds like this new model expands upon the touch-responsive design that was first introduced with the Seaboard RISE 25 in 2015, but it offers even more touchpad precision and a sleeker chassis this time around.

As you can see in the video above, the ROLI Seaboard RISE 2 lets musicians sustain notes and pitch them up and down by holding and moving their fingers across the top bar of the keyboard. Conceptually, it's a bit like a hammer-on technique — when guitarists slide their fingers up and down the strings of a guitar to create a pitch-up or pitch-down, or portamento — but it's completely digital and looks far more dynamic in practice than using a pitch wheel or automating the portamento in-software. The ROLI Seaboard RISE 2 can be plugged into any MIDI-compatible device or even into a tablet or phone — via USB-C — where the signal is processed through a digital audio workstation.

How the ROLI Seaboard RISE 2 improves over its predecessors

The 25-key ROLI Seaboard RISE 25 has been available to musicians since 2015, but it was expanded into 49 keys in 2016 with the ROLI Seaboard RISE 49. In an official press release, ROLI called it a "favorite instrument of artists as diverse as AR Rahman, FINNEAS, Jordan Rudess, Grimes,, RZA and 40." The Seaboard RISE 2 is basically a modern update to the Seaboard RISE 49, but it's also a much higher-quality device. Instead of plastic, the Seaboard RISE 2 is made of platinum blue aluminum. Instead of using outdated ports, it can connect using MIDI Out and USB-C.

The new surface, called Keywave2, is supposedly even tighter and more responsive than its predecessors as well. While the earlier keypad looks sort of rubbery, the RISE 2 features "precision frets" that are subtle at first glance — they sit higher on flat keys and lower on natural keys — but could give a good amount of feedback to help musicians register their finger placement on the keys, much like traditional keys normally do. It also comes with the esteemed Equator2 synth plugin and over 1,400 presets. You'll be able to pre-order the ROLI Seaboard RISE 2 keyboard today for $1,399, but there's no exact release date. For now, ROLI is launching its new keyboard in batches.