Creating synth music is almost one half actual music and one half stage performance. And the tools needed to create such music isn’t exactly accessible, much less portable. When ROLI came out with its BLOCKS system, it was clear that the company was on to something. But as with any first gen product, BLOCKS experienced some growing pains. Now, ROLI is addressing some, though not all, of those with a second gen Lightpad Block M and the latest NOISE 3.0 update that promises to make creating music a more pleasurable experience.
Back when we reviewed the first Lightpad, our fingers came out a bit sore. Not because we became truly addicted to the process of using it to create music. It was more because the build quality and sensitivity of the block left some things to be desired.
As if hearing and answering our prayers, the new Lightpad M addresses exactly that. It now sports a silicone surface layer that is not only thicker than the previous Lightpad’s rubbery top, it is also more sensitive and softer. ROLI promises it puts the Lightpad M on par with the Seaboard RISE, which is exactly what we had hoped for.
ROLI also gave its NOISE software a bit more love. It already addressed the lack of exporting functionality back in the May update. In version 3.0, NOISE gets the ability to launch and edit clips, some new acoustic sound packs, and integration with Apple’s popular music-making GarageBand app.
One complaint that ROLI is unlikely to address is the price. In fact, it has gone just a wee bit higher. Whereas the original Lightpad cost, and still does, $179.95, the new Lightpad Block M goes for $199.95. It might not be that much alone, but the BLOCKS system is meant to be used with other blocks, bringing the total cost ownership a lot higher. Then again, the added cost might be well worth it to give your fingers some much needed comfort.