A-100 Standard/Touch Sensor Keyboard / Sequencer Project
Preliminary without obligation

Insiders will know that there have been many suggestions and discussions since we announced the touch sensor keyboard more than three years ago. Unfortunately the discussions did not help us to focus on a final design as there were too many contradictions in the suggestions and we did not see the thread running through the story. In the meantime we have built three different prototypes of the touch sensor keyboard and two prototypes of the normal keyboard with moving keys. Now we started a new approch and hope it will satisfy all customers: as for many other projects we support now a modular concept, i.e. the keyboard and the additional functions (like sequencer) are separated units. Consequently the user is able to decide if he wants the touch sensor or the standard version of the keyboard and if he wants to have the additional features (like sequencer) available. In the following the new approach is presented (at the end of this page the former concept is still available but this is no longer valid). 
Overview A-100 Keyboards
The main idea is to separate the keyboard from the control section and to offer a standard version (with normal keys) as well as a touch sensitive version of the keyboard. So the user can decide if he prefers the touch sensor version or the normal keyboard. The keyboards can be used as simple monophonic CV/gate controllers even without the controller unit. In addition the keyboards will be equipped with an output that tells the controller option which keys are pressed at the moment. As we do not want to introduce a new interface Midi will be used for this purpose. Consequently the keyboards will be simple Midi keyboards too.

Two A-100 keyboards with CV and Gate outputs are planned:

  • a keyboard with standard keys (already available, see A-100CGK)
  • a keyboard with touch sensitive metal plates (so far no release date)

Both keyboards can be used as stand alone devices with external 9V power supply and in/outputs at the keyboard or in combination with an A-100 frame. In this case a multicore cable is used to power the keyboard from the A-100 frame and the Gate, CV and Midi outputs are available at an A-100 front panel too. The Midi output is intended in the first place to drive the planned A-100 keyboard/sequencer controller but can be used to control other Midi equipment too (but the keyboards are not Midi keyboards in the first place).


Standard version of the A-100 keyboard

A-100CGK (with 4 octave keyboard and metal case)

OEM version of the A-100CGK with a 2 octave keyboard built into a DIY case The same DIY keyboard with an A-100 suitcase on top

Prototype of the A-100CGK (OEM version with a 3 octave keyboard)
(the picture shows also the passive "interface board" that is planned to make the CV and Gate signals available at a normal A-100 front panel with 4 or 6 HP) 

The keyboard with standard keys A-100CGK is equipped with Gate, CV1 (pitch), CV2 (velocity), CV3 (after touch) and Midi outputs. The electronics inside the keyboard can be used in combination with 2, 3, 4 or 5 octave keyboards. But only the version with 4 octaves is available with a suitable metal case (see above picture). The other versions are available only as OEM products without housing. The housing has to be built by the customer (see above example with 2 octaves).

Six buttons with assigned LEDs and a three digit display are used to adjust the keyboard parameters ( e.g. assign mode, retrigger mode, transpose, Midi channel). The Midi output is intended in the first place to drive the A-100 keyboard/sequencer controller that is in the planning stage, but can be used to control other Midi equipment too (but the keyboards are not Midi keyboards in the first place).


An additional controller box that will be probably equipped with 2 wheels, a joy-stick, some buttons and switches is in the planning stage. The box will have probably the same depth and height as the keyboard case and can be mounted next to the keyboard. It will be probably equipped with several CV/gate outputs and can be used in combination with one of the keyboards or as a stand-alone unit to control analog equipment (several CV outputs controlled by the wheels and joy-stick, some gate outputs controlled by the buttons or switches). We also think about the possibility to add some inputs for foot switches and foot controllers.


Touch version of the keyboard with metal plates as touch sensors

Third version of the Touch Sensor Keyboard NAMM 2010

The latest prototype shown at NAMM 2010 is equipped with 16 uniform metal plates and uses a new working principle (no longer the hum noise of the fingers but the capacity change of the pads). We will start a poll after the NAMM 2010 to decide if the TKB will be manufactured at all and which version (if applicable). The number, shape and dimensions of the pads can be adjusted to the customers wishes but we will be able to manufacture only one or maybe two versions (e.g. one with a keyboard layout like version 1 and 2 and another with a non-keyboard layout like version 3). In any case it is planned to separate the control until (i.e. the potentiometers, sockets, LEDs and so on) from the touch section. The touch section could be like a module (i.e. assembled like a module to the frame) or a separate box with a cable that leads to the control module (or external control box for stand-alone applications).


Second Prototype of the Touch Sensor Keyboard NAMM 2007 / Musikmesse Frankfurt 2007

The touch version of the keyboard will be equipped with probably 25 metal plates (2 octaves) that respond to the touch of a finger (no moving parts). For the first two versions of the TKB the hum noise inducted by the sourrounding mains was used as working principle. But we found that this principle does not work perfect in all cases (changing mains intensity, different mains frequencies 50/60Hz, indoor/outdoor, problems with increasing humidity and some problems more). This is why we are about to try another approach with capacitive sensing. At present we cannot prognose a release date or price for the TKB. If we are satisfied with the results the TKB may go into production about end of 2010 (without any obligation).

As an option we think about a pressure sensor below the keys that measures the pressure applied to the metal plates. The touch keyboard will be probably equipped with outputs for Gate, CV1 (pitch), CV2 (pressure) and Midi. Due to the nature of the keyboard velocity measurement is not possible and even the Midi output is monophonic only. Suitable supports to mount the keyboard case into a 19" rack at different positions and angles are planned for the touch version of the keyboard (not possible for the normal version as the width is more than 19"). We also think about a DIY version of the TKB, i.e. only an electronics without the metal plates that can be used to connect any metal plates that have to be added by the user.


Sequencer Controller

A separate controller section (probably a separate 19" case, not an A-100 module) will offer the additional functions that were included in the keyboard in the former concept. This is a first draft of the controller section (only for discussion, controls shown are only an example):

The controller receives it's information from the keyboard (touch or normal version) and generates the corresponding functions similar to the former concept. We think about several rows with 25 potentiometers each (three in the picture, with a common row of LEDs) that can be used for different functions. Above the potentiometers and LEDs the 25 single gate outputs will be available. The number of 25 is chosen as this corresponds to the planned number of keys of the touch keyboard or the 2 octaves version of the normal keyboard. The distance between the potentiometers is the same as for the keys of the keyboards (~ 14.1mm). A smaller version of knobs has to be used as the A-100 standard knobs are too large for this distance. When the keyboard is placed directly below the controller the potentiometers/LEDs/sockets will align with the keys. The sockets right of the potentiometer rows output the voltage of the corresponding row, i.e. the voltage that corresponds to the position of the potentiometer addressed at the moment. For each of these outputs can be (probably) chosen if it is non-quantized or if any quantization is active (like A-156 or maybe even with free programmable quatization table). The upper right socket will be probably the common trigger output that outputs a trigger whenever another gate (i.e. one of the 25 single gate outputs) becomes active. All other in/outputs (probably four CV and four gate outputs, clock/start/stop inputs) will be located at the left side above the blue/white LCD. In the picture above only 6 of these sockets are shown. The buttons and LEDs below the LEDs are used to select the desired mode and to program the entire device. Maybe a rotary encoder will be added too. Even more than one controller can be connected to the same (or another) keyboard to have more functions available (e.g. more sequencer rows). Here are some ideas how the controller could work:

Monophonic mode
In this mode the controller converts the data coming from the keyboard in this way: The key touched/pressed on the keyboard is used to address one of the  potentiometer/LED/socket columns (if more than one key is pressed a certain selection mode has to be chosen, e.g. the last one or the highest one or the lowest one). The sockets located right from the potentiometer rows output the voltage that is adjusted with the potentiometer addressed at present (quantized or non-quantized). The gate output of the currently addressed column (the socket above the LEDs) becomes high, all others remain low. In addition a "normal" CV and gate output is available (CV#1 following the 1V/octave standard, and Gate#1). If the normal keyboard is used an additional velocity CV (CV#2 ?) is available.

Polyphonic mode
In this mode the controller converts the data coming from the keyboard in this way: The keys touched/pressed on the keyboard are used to generate several CV and gate signals (probably four of each) like a polyphonic keyboard. In principle nothing but a polyphonic Midi-CV/gate interface. The corresponding gate output of each active key becomes high, all others remain low. So far we have no idea how the potentiometer rows can be used in this mode in a useful way (maybe first key addresses row 1, second key addresses row 2, third key addresses row 3).

Design idea: monophonic and polyphonic mode are available simultaneously and distinguished by the Midi channel only. E.g. if the controlling keyboards transmits data on channel 1 they are used for the monophonic mode as described above. CV#1, Gate#1 and CV#2 output monophonic pitch CV, Gate and velocity CV. The column is addressed by the key. Channel 2 is used for polyphonic mode. CV#1...4 and Gate#1...4 output polyphonic CV/Gate (no velocity CV). Maybe a duophonic mode with velocity CV is available too. We don't think that a 4 voice polyphonic mode with velocity CV is necessary (4 additional CVs required, each CV needs an expensive  digital/analog converter). Consequently a small switch on the keyboard (channel 1/2) decides how the keyboard data are processed in the controller.

Analog sequencer mode
Several analog sequencer modes are thinkable. The keyboard can be used e.g. to turn on/off single steps (toggle function or only the steps corresponding to the currently touched/pressed keys are active or the steps between two touched/pressed keys are active or ... ) or define the first/last step of sequence or to transpose the sequences. Another idea would be to have the sequencer running while the monophonic or polyphonic mode is active (i.e. the keys are used to play "normal" but not to control sequencer functions). In this case the key-addressing of columns will be not active.

Digital sequencer mode
In theory the controller could also be used also as a simple digital sequencer, i.e. the information coming from the keyboard is used to store a sequence (step by step or real time) in the internal memory. But we believe that it makes more sense to include these features in a second controller with different controls and displays that are more suitable for a digital sequencer.

These are the first ideas only and maybe some suggestions will be added or cancelled.


Former version of the A-100 Touch Keyboard
For discussion only. This concept is no longer valid

A100 Touch Keyboard/Sequencer
vorläufige Ansicht von oben (unverbindlich) / provisional top view (without obligation)


vorläufige Ansicht der Anschlüsse an der Rückwand (unverbindlich) / provisional view of the rear connections (without obligation)


Das Foto zeigt den Messe-Prototyp 2005 / The picture shows the prototype of the Frankfurt music fair 2005

Hier das wichtigste in Stichworten
  • 25 berührungsempfindliche Tasten (keine beweglichen Teile)

  • eigener Drucksensor unter jeder Taste

  • Drehregler (Drehpotentiometer) für jede Taste (eventuell zusätzlich eine zweite Potentiometer, dies wird jedoch den Preis erhöhen)

  • Gate-Ausgang mit LED-Anzeige für jede Taste (25-fach Gate/Trigger-Einheit

  • 2 CV-Ausgänge pro Taste

    • CV1 (gesteuert vom jeweiligen Drehpotentiometer, d.h. eine 25-fache CV-Quelle)

    • CV2 (gesteuert vom Druck auf die betreffende Taste)

  • Gemeinsame Ausgänge im Keyboard-Modus (voraussichtlich an der Rückseite):

    • Gate

    • Tonhöhen-CV (d.h. die "normale" CV mit 1V/Oktave)

    • Potentiometer-CV

    • Druck-CV

  • Gemeinsame Ausgänge im Sequenzer-Modus (voraussichtlich an der Rückseite):

    • Gate

    • CV (gesteuert von den Potentiometern, in Halbtonschritten quantisiert)

    • CV (gesteuert von den Potentiometern, nicht quantisiert)

    • Druck-CV

  • Verschiedene Sequenzer-Betriebsarten:

    • An/Abschalten der Steps durch Berühren der Tasten

    • Nur die Stufen mit berührten Tasten sind aktiv

    • Nur die Stufen zwischen zwei berührten Tasten sind aktiv usw.

    • .... und verschiedene mehr 

  • Start- und Stop-Taster für den Sequenzer-Modus

  • Interne Clock für den Sequenzer-Modus (Regler Nr. 25)

  • Ext. Clock-, Start- und Stop-Eingänge für den Sequenzer

  • 19" Metallgehäuse (kann als Tischgehäuse benutz werden oder im 19-Zoll-Rahmen z.B. unter dem A-100-System montiert werden)

  • eventuell zwei-stimmig (d.h. 2 CVs und Gates für 2 Stimmen)

  • eventuell MIDI-Ausgang (die Regler können dann im Keyboard-Modus z.B. 25 MIDI-Controller erzeugen)

  • eventuell zusätzliches 3-stelliges LED Display zur Erleichterung der Bedienung

Anmerkung: Diese Information ist nicht als verbindliche Produktankündigung zu verstehen. Es ist nicht sicher, ob und in welcher endgültigen Form dieser Artikel in Produktion gehen wird. Wir stellen auf der Musikmesse im März 2002 den Prototypen vor und werden die Produktionsentscheidung vom Kundeninteresse abhängig machen. Der genaue Erscheinungstermin, die endgültiges Eigenschaften und der endgültige Preis stehen noch nicht fest, da auch die endgültigen, von unseren Kunden gewünschten Eigenschaften den Preis beeinflussen werden! Wir werden im Dialog mit interessierten Kunden in den nächsten Monaten die endgültigen Eigenschaften und den daraus resultierenden Preis endgültig festlegen. Einige der oben aufgeführten Eigenschaften beeinflussen den Preis sehr stark (z.B. separate Ausgänge für Gate, CVs für jede Taste, Drucksensoren unter jeder Taste, zusätzliche Potentiometerreihe) andere weniger stark (z.B. MIDI out, duophone CV/Gate-Ausgänge, zusätzliches 3-stelliges Display).

An outline of the main points:
  • 25 touch sensitive keys (no moving parts, each key reacts to touching with the finger)
  • separate pressure sensor under each key
  • control (rotary potentiometer) for each key (maybe even an additional row of potentiometers, but this would increase the price considerably)
  • gate output with LED display for each key
  • 2 CV outputs for each key
    • CV1: controlled by the corresponding potentiometer (i.e. 25-fold CV source)
    • CV2: controlled by corresponding key pressure (i.e. 25-fold gate/trigger source)
  • common outputs in keyboard mode (probably at the rear panel):
    • gate
    • pitch CV (i.e. the "normal" keyboard CV with 1V/octave)
    • CV controlled by potentiometers
    • CV controlled by key pressure
  • common outputs in analog sequencer mode (probably at the rear panel):
    • gate
    • CV controlled by potentiometers (quantized in semitones)
    • CV controlled by potentiometers (not quantized)
    • CV controlled by key pressure
  • different sequencer modes:
    • turning on/off the active steps by touching the keys in toggle mode
    • only steps with keys touched at the moment are active
    • only steps between two keys touched at the moment are active
    • .... and maybe some more
  • Start and Stop button for sequencer mode
  • internal clock for sequencer mode (probably control #25)
  • ext. Clock, Start and Stop inputs for sequencer (and possibly arpeggiator) mode
  • desktop/19" metal case (can be used as desktop keyboard or mounted in an 19" case e.g. below the A-100 system)
  • possibly duo-phonic (i.e. 2 CV and gate outputs for controlling 2 voices)
  • possibly MIDI output (potentiometers may transmit 25 MIDI controllers in keyboard mode)
  • possibly additional 3 digit LED-display

Remark: This information is not an obligatory product announcement. We do not guarantee that this device will go into production. At the Frankfurt music fair in March 2002 we will show the first prototype. The decision on the production will depend upon the customers inquiry. The delivery date, features and price are not yet fixed. The delivery date and price will depend upon the customers wishes. Some of the features mentioned above will have a significant influence on the price (e.g. pressure sensors, separate outputs for CVs and Gate for each key, additional row of potentiometers) others not that much (e.g. MIDI out, duophonic CV/Gate outputs, additonal display). After consultation with interested customers and observation of newsgroup discussions we will decide the final features and price during the next few months.

 

Breite/Width: ca. ? TE/about ? HP, Strombedarf/Current: ? mA
Preis/Price:
ca. Euro 300.00 - 400.00 (noch völlig unverbindlich, hängt von den endgültigen Eigenschaften ab)
about Euro 300.00 - 400.00 (still completely uncertain, depends upon the final features), i.e. about US$ 300.00 - 400.00

lieferbar ca. ? (Preis, Termin und Eigenschaften sind noch völlig unverbindlich)
available about ? (price, date and features are still without obligation)