thetechnobear's Recent Posts

I own a Soundplane (and an Eigenharp Alpha) but not a Continuum, however I was recently lucky enough have an opportunity to play with a Continuum for a few hours , and explore it... (so some of this may not be 100% accurate, and consider as an 'initial' impression)

First Id say... they are completely different instruments, each has its own merits, both are fantastically made by people who are passionate about what they do.

because of this its 'dangerous' to compare, by 'specs' alone, the feel and the way you play with each is quite each is different, and because both are so expressive, this will come across in the music.

the most obvious difference is the feel, the Soundplane has a wooden easy gliding surface, which gives a little bit... the Continuum a very soft surface which you can really dig into. (the newest models are very sensitive on the surface too).
Neither is better or worst, just different...
Id say I preferred the Soundplane BUT I believe that was due to familiarity - Ive really no idea, if after a month it would still be the case... I think, probably Id end up thinking both have there merits. (my friend who owns the continuum, really liked the soundplane too)

one thing, that is very surprising, is the surface area of the Soundplane is close to the size of the (half size) continuum ... yes the continuum has 44 notes, and the Soundplane 30 cells, BUT the cells on the Soundplane are quite a bit wider. In fact, I was quite surprised how narrow the stripes were on the continuum.
(again no issues either way, but was a surprise to all, when we put them side by side)

and yes, I do love the grid nature of the Soundplane, to give you a bigger note range... or you can use it as 30 'long' keys like a continuum, best of both worlds :)

Next big difference - the continuum is completely standalone, no computer required (assuming you are talking a newer one, which includes the DSP), as well as MIDI output (unfortunately only MIDI DIN, oh it also has CV output)
the Soundplane requires a computer (currently Mac), initially might seem a disadvantage, but it does have the advantage of 'flexibility' which I like (its also open source software)

both Soundplane and Continuum have good midi options, so called 'voice per channel' midi, done in the same way... and yes you can connect to any synth.
additionally the Soundplane has OSC which has many advantages (resolution/speed) , but is not frequently supported.

assuming its a newer continuum, then it has a built in sound generator, which produces some 'native' sounds, and also the Eagan Matrix.
You almost certainly have been hearing the EaganMatrix, which frankly, is fantastic!
The reason for this, is Edmund Eagan has produced (100+ ?) presets which are built explicitly for the continuum, and make use of its x/y/z very intricately, its his skill in building these presets which is amazing, they aren't built as normal synths sounds and then added expression... the expression is the starting point!
( It does seem though, that the Eagan Matrix seems pretty complex to program yourself, and even seasoned Continuum players are over the moon when Edmund releases new presets)

Is this possible with the Soundplane?
the short answer is yes, but you will have to build the presets yourself.

there is no lack of synths to do this with, and you can connect anything...
the obvious choice are Madrona Labs Aaalto and Kaivo (Aalto you get with a Soundplane),
also I can recommend most of U-HE synths (Bazille/Ace are really fun), also Reaktor is great fun too and something I'm using more recently.

the only 'drawback' is we don't seem to have many people sharing Soundplane specific presets, and it takes a bit of learning, to come up with ones that are good... let alone to the level of detail that Edmund Eagan has put into his.

Im actually seeing this as a challenge, and have started working hard on building some more complex patches, trying to use Edmunds approach of using expression as the corner stone... lots to learn, but its a fun journey into sound design!

So fundamentally the Soundplane can 'sound' as good as the Continuum, but the Continuum has an built-in sound engine which shows it off really well.

(BTW, you can actually plug a Soundplane into a Continuum and play the EagenMatrix synth... we didn't get around to trying this, but my friend has plugged his Eigenharp into it, and it worked well)

a parting thought...
the soundplane is connected by a single USB cable to my computer, and is compact (and slim), this means it permanently lives in front of me on my desk. which means I use it all the time... I think sometimes just its look makes me want to touch and play it.
Ive been very surprised how often I just start noodling with it unconsciously... my Eigenharp has been getting jealous :)

I doubt that would be the case with the continuum (due to its depth/connections etc), which Id probably put on a stand like my other synth...

anyway back to the beginning... seriously they are really different, each with its merits, each having a different approach... if you can try both that would be ideal

I would be happy with either/both... in the same way as my Soundplane and Eigenharp complement each other rather then compete.

(sorry for long essay :))

(p.s. of course I've not mentioned the price difference which is quite large... but you know that already :))

ok, with quantisation ON,
when you slide it will slide automatically to a quantised note.
the portamento dial helps control the rate of the slide, so that you get a smooth slide (so no bumps unless you you set it to 0). the vibrato control allows you to adjust the amount of 'movement' within a cell.

(there is also a note-lock and glissando feature)
it actually works well, and when using quantised, I leave on defaults and its great.

I believe (and it feels like) if you turn quantising off, then vibrato/portamento have no effect, as you can obviously control this directly (as quantisation is not 'interfering'

yes, both X and Y (and Z) are completely continuous.

One thing to be aware, y is not note quantised.
i.e. if you have the SP in 'rows in fourth mode', i.e. tuned like a guitar,
you don't slide UP/DOWN for notes, only across ...
this makes sense... as you are using y for timbre control, so it wouldn't make sense to slide to the cell above/below.

so like the continuum, Y is never quantised.

the continuum has a slightly different note quantisation 'modes', its probably best to read the manual to understand them. (explains better than I can), but in practice they are similar.

Im planning on making a small addition to the Soundplane software (its awesome that its open source, so we can make our own mods), which will allow for a 'percentage' of quantisation, rather than just on/off. This the continuum allows, and I think could be useful, particularly when you start to learn to play un-quantised. (as i am at the moment)

so summary, soundplane and continuum, have slightly different models, but to the musicians /end result - I think they are pretty similar, and both even with quantisation on, you cant really hear it... except that you are always in tune :)

ok, I feel a bit dumb about this... Ive just realised I can get a much more comfortable position playing the soundplane if I tilt it by 25-30 degrees!

I should have tried this much sooner... not only did i experiment alot with playing position on the eigenharp, but Ive also seen lots of musicians doing this with the continuum!

for me it not only is much more comfortable, getting a much better wrist and elbow position (similar to the one taught for piano), but also much better board visibility.

having a look back at YT videos, Id say about 50% tilt the continuum, and at quite different angles, YT example

Im going to make a small stand, with an adjustable angle to see how I get on with it....
im also considering trying to find a position such that it can place above my conventional keyboard. perhaps a bit like this

are others using a non-flat or different playing position..

"computer-based configuration side " cool - but without access to the firmware, there is not much someone could do to extend the functionality of the module?

Id guess its unlikely the firmware will have features, that are not already exposed in some way by the configuration software.... the only thing, that would allow is probably porting to a different platform ... but you could write it cross platform to start with - no?

I think the posts here, show that there are quite alot of ideas, about what the module could do (even within hardware limits)... some of these could be 'niche' and not work ML pursuing, also microprocessor boards are limited in resources, so even if you could add all features, its possible the board would not have the cpu/memory to do so.

no big deal either way... I'm sure you will do a great job, it was more a question, and something I don't really see a downside too...

Recently Ive been exploring how to use virtual modular synths to create expressive synths for the soundplane (and other expressive controllers), these video show how to do create a synth using Max7, for use either standalone or with Ableton Live.

if you enjoy, let me know.. and I could cover some more advanced concepts (e.g voice muting)


part 1 of video

personally.... (and hence why I asked, as I'm interested!)

  • I have contributed quite alot to the Eigenharps software (EigenD), created about 5 agents ... including ones that integrate with Madrona Labs software (t3d/soundplane), and recently added MPE support, and got the Eigenharps working on a Raspberry PI2 !

  • I'm actively contributing to Axoloti , added MPE support, and also USB midi output capablities (and have contributions 'in the works' ), its also getting me used to micro-controller coding :) (STM32F4)

  • and contributed a little bit here too (for the soundplane)

... and I've got more ideas, ask Randy :)

from others... on the modular side... the most obvious are new firmware (extensions) for mutable instruments... 'bees in the trees' and 'parasites' (and sheep?)

then there is the OWL pedal, which has a bit of a following.

probably are more, but those are the ones i know of... (but the 'makers' community is full of projects)

on the software side, Reaktor user library is kind of 'open source' code... and its absolutely huge :) (also Max projects)
(whilst not strictly open source contributions to the original product... they do extend the original product, are free/open, and end-users download them)

don't get me wrong, open source, is not 'easy', if your lucky you will get a few dedicated followers/contributors who can 'help out' or add features for the community, how many depends on interested parties with the correct skill set.

also interestingly for you (ML) open source, potentially opens the door for 'bending', your module if its keenly priced, some buyers might 'bend' it to other needs, i.e. just using the hardware but for a different purpose (e.g. they might create a midi to cv firmware for it), thus increasing your market.
(there are quite a few circuit bending examples out there... or the classic 'robot hoover' story)

Cool - will start building my modular once you start taking pre-orders :)

Voices - I guess most won't have high poly count ( I can't afford it) so think some of the extra touches will be more about zones. Eg 4 voices + a couple of sliders / x/y grids - the later of course could use less cv outputs ( eg a vertical slider only needs y) .
Due to this, i think it would make sense for this info to be in the zones presets - so setup on a computer.
I like the idea of alway having a default preset available, in case you haven't loaded one etc.

Will the firmware be open sourced? of course "voids warranty" as you may need jtag to unbrick. ( works for mutable )

Btw on virtual modulars I rarely use gate with the SP, I just use Z, and can derive a gate from it.
if you do this, then 9 cv could give you 3 voices?
( but perhaps gate is more necessary on a real modular ?)

Note in practice I tend to use z as an envelope, so gate is a mute point.

Will you have an expansion board (or something) to allow for more touches, I'd like 4 :)

Also, yarns has a mode that allows you to choose how to distribute the cv outputs, eg you can choose to have 2 outputs with G/P/V/CC (=8 outputs) or 4 with just G/P

No, everything is voice independent.

The best way to experiment with this:
In a daw create multiple tracks, that send into the same instance of Aalto on different midi channels. ( how you do this varies from daw to daw)
Then put notes on each track, as also modulate a Cc ( eg mod wheel / 1) differently in each track
The experiment routing the CC in Aalto to different targets

You will see each voice/channel is independent.

( you can also send different pitchbends on different channels)

Btw: I think this is from v1.6 onwards.

I think everything ( most ?) , is voice independent

I think the misunderstand is, you are thinking the sequencer activates the voice?, but it's the other way around ... The voice is triggering the sequencer. In that sense I suppose it's closer to an arp than a sequencer.
In practice with free running oscillators the difference can be pretty subtle.

EDIT: got to play with it a bit more, which I've been meaning too for sometime.

Yup as I said, its voice independent...
so you can do neat things, like run the loop at different rates... this is how it can become an envelope, or a cycling LFO for a voice... this also works nicely in combination with the envelopers, when move to seq mode... so your key trigger initiates the seq and then the sequencer trigs the envelopes... (great fun in combo with the soundplane altering seq rate and gate level)

with key trig on/loop off, its very obvious as you can start the seq independently, and hear as the rate etc affects.
but its also true when key trig is off (and loop on, so its free running) here you will only hear the independence, if you are changing its parameters differently per voice.
(in this sense it works exactly the same as the LFO)

its great fun to play with this on a soundplane.

but if you have got a soundplane then you can still have the same fun,
in midi, send different notes and CCs on different midi channels and the route the CC to the sequencer controls.

its very cool, I remember reading in the manual how the sequencer could be used as a Env/LFO or even an oscillator (for FM), but never got around to playing with it... but its actually very simple to do. (mixing with the repeating ENV2 is fun too)

the only thing I wish is could do, is to mix (multiply) the sequencers output with another modulator (in particular Y axis), so that I could increase/reduce its overall impact on a target from the controller.

ooohhh.... so now I have to go play with it in Kaivo :)

Roger Linn - "Next month the 5 main Polyphonic Multidimentional Controllers (PMCs)-- LinnStrument, Continuum, Seaboard, Eigenharp and SoundPlane--are announcing a new MIDI Polyphonic Expression specification"

Randy, do you have any info on this, are Aalto/Kaivo/Soundplane going to support this?\
I guess if its just settling on the continuum messages, then the Soundplane already supports this, assuming its not a requirement that its supports 14bit, though this would be easy enough to add.

MPE could, hopefully, make things a lot simpler for expressive controllers, and with more controllers appearing hopefully adoption will be more likely.

I do love my soundplane, it brings synths alive :)

I like using the matrix on Xils version of VCS3, and it does have the advantage of almost unlimited expansion, and I think provides a better overview of current modulations and routings (as wires don't cross) than the patch-bay.

but on the flip side, Aalto is MUCH less fiddly to use, and I think more intuitive initially.

my fear is the patcher is getting hemmed in, there are a few extra modulation sources (e.g OSC strips) and targets (e.g. envelope control, wet/dry levels) that would appear a lot of work to add in the UI... whereas the matrix would be easy.

I cannot imagine, how this concept is going to work with the 'future' full ML modular, I don't think they'll be enough exposed space on one edge of each modular.

but having both, I think may be a lot of extra dev work, for little benefit.

perhaps, Aalto could move to a system similar to the make noise modular?
so allow wires to go between any location in a module (like bazille/ace etc), but have a CV shared bus, which allow some of the more common CVs to be made tidy in the middle.

I say this, as I think in UI terms, this shared bus could be quite similar to the current patch bay concept, but perhaps just a little more organised (=rigid) e.g. run the bus in parallel lines, with same colour cables, and possibly take a little less space, so that the modules can have more space... which could then be used for the extra CV inlet and outlets.

another idea, would be to extend the patch bay, along the edges of the modules, so have some space between each module, and route the cabled up there and into the side...
not very conventional, but would keep the module face clean, and the inlets could be closed to the associated control (vertically).

but hey, UI design is hard... cramming too much functionality in, makes things complicated and ultimately less useable, and I think the clean design is one of the reasons why I use Aalto so much. ( I also use Valhalla plugins for a similar reason), and Im confident Randy has considered all the above before, and decide against, or has 'a plan' :)

an interesting article, relevant to playing a soundplane

I think most of us stick with the fourths layout, so the above article is relevant.
(i tried alternative layouts, but didn't find they had any advantages, though i do like chromatic too)

what the article does show clearly (actually RL posted before) is the reliance on using adjacent cells (possible on the LS, but not currently on the SP). but you can also see from the diagram the other possibilities, and its interesting to find these, and see if they are comfortable.
of course scales/chords are not everything, but they are a pretty important foundation to playing pieces.

my general observation, would be the LS shapes lean towards a more 'vertical' fingering for chords, this is not surprising... as the horizontal can be a stretch, and in this manner the LS has more rows (perhaps to accommodate this?)
but is this natural? ergonomic?
Im not so sure...think (or better try) how you need to hold your hands, and particular your wrist, it tends to need to be rotated... (unlike a piano where it stays parallel to the keys),
but perhaps this 'the technique' for grid playing?

in 'fairness', I'll say on the eigenharp, I do similarly rotate my wrist (particularly in the right hand) and its not an issue...
so its an observation, not a criticism.


btw, a few of us euro eigenharp players gathered a few weeks back, and it was very interesting to hear/see about different playing styles and approaches to the instrument, I learnt a lot (as did others I think) about techniques that Ive been slowly trying to incorporate.
this is why Id be fascinated to hear how others approach the soundplane...
with such a 'blank canvas', Im sure we all take a slightly different approach,

I thought it would be interesting to start a topic to see how people play their Soundplane, and tips and techniques they have developed.

Ive only had a soundplane a short while, so I'm still learning to play it, but my approach is to treat it as 'a unique instrument' which will needs its own techniques/approach.
( I learnt this was the best way for me, when I started with the Eigenharp)

Some basic questions:

a) Playing Surface (i.e. notes) or Control surface ( x/y, sliders)

b) Preferred layout

c) Single part (eg solos), Multipart (e.g both hands)

d) What do you find difficult?

e) What do you enjoy doing most, or is unique to the Soundplane?


I use Kaivo on 3123, and then in Aalto (v)1.6.1 set its offset to +1, so its on 3124
I used to have the same issue with 3124 and was working with 3125 but, either Aalto v161 or the new soundplane software fixed it (I think it was the later?)

looking forward to a new Kaivo with this though, partly for splits, but also so I can have one instance for the soundplane and another for my eigenharp. (over osc)

Ive been thinking about split support... and got some ideas brewing for that :)

as you say, ambient and slow moving stuff is a joy to play on the soundplane :)

chords - interesting, I will try these, i guess sometimes I focus too much on the centre row rather than bridging row 2 & 4 as you are.

Eigenharp, breath is a great addition, its very sensitive and its great to 'breath life' into synthesised sounds :) generally the Eigenharp is very different to the Soundplane, very lively, precise, sensitive, quick - all make it very expressive. of course it lacks the the continous nature of the soundplane, but for me thats what makes it a perfect complement to the soundplane. I love them both :)

(btw sorry leesifer didn't see your comment, so been awhile to reply)

@randy, cool, the touch tracker is the heart (or brain?) of the soundplane, looking forward to your new work on it :)

a few months ago I got a soundplane, but did seriously consider a linnstrument. I've also got an eigenharp, and also recently was able to spend some quality time with a continuum.

chords.. perhaps have a look at this [url=]thread[/url], it details how Im playing chords, and also the current limitations. (that Randy is working on :))

first, id say the soundplane/eigenharp/continuum all feel completely different, none is better just different and id suspect the Linnstrument will be different again. what works for you will probably be down to what you want to play and prefer.

the big deciding factor for me (except the beautiful look and feel), was the Linnstrument can only slide in the Y axis for one cell, unlike the soundplane/continuum which is fully continous.... so in that regard, yes its closer to the continuum. (but again, the continuum is a very different beast, due to pressure axis/eagen matrix )

also at the moment, the 'standalone' nature of the linnstrument, is important to some, but for others (like me) not as important, or the potential CV box for the soundplane could be perhaps important to some.

whats important to you?

your welcome, enjoy :)

ok, did a bit of checking on the windows side...

at the moment libusb does NOT have winusb iso support implemented,
however there is a patch available that makes iso support available liubusb via libusbk... which has the advantage, it works on older versions of windows but is more hassle to install.

I may be 'digging' in this area in the next few months (with the soundplane and eigenharp), if I do, I'll let you know.

Ive recently developed stuff for the EigenD/Eigenharp using libusb (including isochronous io), currently Ive tested with linux (including PI2) and works fine.

For the Eigenharps, Eigenlabs wrote (contracted? unfortunately its the only bit I don't have the code for) a small driver, which basically replicated an iso transport into userspace with a 'generic driver'

my understanding though, is that from Windows 8.1 this is no longer necessary, as WinUSB supports it... Im quite tempted to now test this, as libusb* supports this, so theorectically my code should work as is :)

*this assume libusb, has been updated to support the new iso functions in winusb, Ive seen "issues" asking for it to be added, but have not checked the code yet to see if it was.

I think libusb would be the way forward, when this happens as you will get both linux and windows (and also potentially OS X) with the same code base, but it does look like it would be 8.1 would be the minimum supported version, without going the Eigenlabs route.

btw, it may be possible the Eigenlabs driver could be used, as it has no specific eigenharp code* in it, it just forwards requests from a userspace layer into the generic driver...

*hmm we'd have to check its not castrated the vendor ID... you could perhaps even talk to John to see if he might work with you on a derivative driver?

in midi mode , it appears fast slides are generating 2 touches. (

( I say midi, its probably unrelated to midi, as you will see below - but its where its easiest to see/hear)

e.g. say you fast slide across the entire surface, you will see (correctly) one slide for the whole slide, but you will see (incorrectly) additional small slides (which look almost independent)

params: quantize on, glissando off, note lock off (everything else default)

replication: easy use midi mode, aalto, patch default, sustain=max, rel=0 and voice = 1 (important) , then slide fast. you will hear the note stop before you reach the end.

ive not fully debugged, I can see in midi monitor 'additional' touches are on different midi channels - this seems to indicate msg->mData[0] is different, as this is used for channel i.e. different touches.

this is also 'confirmed' by the fact if you set max touches = 1, then the problem goes away... presumably as the rogues additional touches are being ignored by the touch tracker.

but oddly only one touch shows on the graph,

not a big problem, but seeing as you are looking at touch tracking, perhaps something to test

it was a fantastic weekend, "we were like kids in a candy store", really inspiring to play so many different instruments.

fascinating to see how the Soundplane/Continuum/Eigenharps all take a different approach to expression, and feel like completely different instruments, each a unique character... we saw that even playing the same synth/patch on different instruments, results in a completely different sound.

Christophe was amazing on the continuum, Ive come away thinking about the techniques he uses, to see if I can perhaps adapt some of them to the soundplane.

oh, and amazing to see how many of us had Aalto/Kaivo paired up with an instrument... there is something about physical modelling and these instruments that just 'feels right'

select carriers - I can't reproduce this one.

hmm, odd, I tried this a few times, and it happened each time. Im now wondering perhaps if it was all 'in the same session' , perhaps a restart of the app would have fixed it, i.e. a quirk, if I get it again, I'll try to get some more info on what is going on.

It's important to me to have nice sensible defaults going forward.

fair enough, more an observation... always tricky, with these kind of things, but as you say better to have it 'correct' going forward.

cool, will give it a go tomorrow

now I can start in earnest on the new algorithm.

exciting news

played now for a couple of sessions, does feel better...

there appears to be a new bug (, now if you do "select carriers" ... the SP will initially not do anything, until you also hit 'recalibrate' - not a biggie, but might catch a few out.

cool, will test it :)

Im a bit surprised you have moved the offsets, I know the labelling of the notes was wrong, but I would have thought most, would have got used to note positions, so changing the offset might cause some confusion. (I know you can transpose)

I thought you would probably just change the note names, I know inconsistent with guitar tuning, but id assume its what most users have got used to?

the soundplane software (1.2.4) has introduced a bug which meant it only connects on the default port - Id already reported to Randy. But Ive also now debugged it, and supplied the details of the fix to Randy.

for details see :

its a trivial bug/fix so hopefully ML will release it

note: you will need to use Aalto 1.6.1, as 1.6.0 also had a bug related to using multiple OSC addresses, and also incorrectly reported 't3d connected, when it wasn't'

ok the issue is in :

void SoundplaneController::doOSCServicesMenu(int result)

the parameters in resolve passed in incorrect order.

Resolve(getServiceName(result - 1).c_str(), kUDPType, kLocalDotDomain);

should be:

Resolve(kLocalDotDomain,kUDPType,getServiceName(result - 1).c_str());

have you had a chance to look at the multiple OSC issue I reported via email?
(ie. when using osc offsets, so I can have kaivo and aalto running, worked in previous release of SP software)

if not no issue, then I will fork repo, and fix it... but don't want to duplicate effort.



p.s. any chance of a tag/branch on the madronalib/soundplane repo for released versions. i.e what makes up 1.2.4