There’s so much great tech and geekery I’m looking forward to in 2016: this could potentially be the start of virtual reality proper; I’ll be getting my first “smart” bike; and don’t even get me started on No Man’s Sky. Surprisingly, the one gadget I’m most desperate to get my hands on this year is a musical instrument: the Instrument 1. Almost a year has passed since Artiphon started their Kickstarter project and raised $1.3 million, reaching their target in less than 6 hours. I’ve been eyeing it up since the first glimpses in 2013 and pre-orders are finally shipping early this year. I’m just casually freaking out here, it’s cool.
Artiphon’s Instrument 1 is a device that can be used as a guitar, drum pad, piano, synthesiser, violin, and many more instruments. You aren’t limited to an initial set of sounds, as smartphones and computers can be used to design new sounds and invent new instruments. You want a guitar that works differently and lets you play two notes at the same time on the same string? Sure. Add some distortion to that violin? Not a problem. Don’t want to strum? Then tap it, or bow it, whatever you want.
The Instrument 1 went through a few iterations in development before it became the sleek device it is today. It’s now 23.5 inches long an weighs 1.7 lbs. Two 3W stereo speakers provide the sound but you can also connect to an amplifier or headphones. Artiphon have created an iOS app that will allow you to customise the instrument presets and tunings. The Instrument 1 is compatible with MIDI over USB and Lightning, so it can also be used as a digital instrument for apps on iOS, OSX, and PC. Artiphon claims the rechargeable battery will last over 4 hours of continuous playing, which should be long enough for a gig.
As a drum pad, you have 12 different pads that can play individual sounds or start loops. These same pads can also be set as 72 keys if you want to play like a piano. Either way, the Instrument 1 is pressure sensitive and promises to deliver an experience that feels like playing a real instrument. Maybe you prefer rocking out with a guitar. The Instrument 1 has ridges that feel like strings, which also detect pressure and allow slides and other techniques you would expect from the real thing. The strings can detect frets like a standard guitar, or ignore them if you want to play with a fretless sound or use a violin. You can even use an iPhone as the bow if you don’t want to use the keys on the bridge!
There will be purists bashing the device, asking why I don’t just play real instruments. Where to begin? Experimenting with new sounds using traditional instruments? Making sounds that are impossible on traditional instruments? What really draws me to the Instrument 1 is that I live in a London flat and I’m not filthy rich. Ideally I would have a studio with my own drum kit, string instruments, keyboards etc. Most people can’t have an entire studio of instruments at home, but it might be possible with a digital instrument. I often play my guitar and dream up entire songs in my head. The drums, the bass, the synthesisers, the violins… they all remain in my head. With Instrument 1, I intend to record full song ideas in the comfort of my home and experiment with them on my computer. I’d be surprised if purists can’t see any value in all this.
You can pre-order the instrument starting at $399 (£279.35 plus £35 for international shipping). It comes in black and white, and there’s also a Gig Edition for $449 (£314.35), which includes a strap and case.
Main image © Artiphon