I really like the way the I1 works with the Roli Seaboard app on iOS. I wonder if anyone’s tried it with Equator, their full synth software which I presume works in a similar way. Would quite like to try that running in Ableton Live.
Yes it works quite well with Equator on my Windows 10 system. Still working out the controller configuration though since the Artiphon documentation is sparse. roli docs are actually more helpfull.
Yes! The ROLI Seaboard is amazing. The Equator synth is amazing. The difference is the way that the the Seaboard is designed around these main 5 “dimensions” of expression The I1 is I would say capable of different dimensions, but as it isn’t designed to them it feels less expressive. One main example I’ve seen is just the default octave for each of the sounds is lower than appropriate for a guitar reference. That’s easily adjustable. There are some quite amazing sounds on the Equator synth!
Thanks for the replies! Looks like it would be worth a go. I wonder if you might be also able to assign tilt on the I1 to one of the unused modes of expression, thereby adding a new dimension?
Great question! If you get that figured out post it here! I don’t think technically you’d be adding a dimension, but just assigning one of the dimensions to the tilt. It may be helpful to think of tilt as the “Mod Wheel” as the tilt is specific to the I1.
Bumping this thread because there’ve been some Equator users in other parts of the conversation recently, and I don’t think the answer to this one has been posted.
Despite its phenomenal MPE capabilities and expressive sound design, Equator is a difficult synth to program patches for because it’s primarily designed to work with ROLI hardware. In particular, it privileges its own hardware’s keyboard-oriented model of “five dimensions” of touch which it calls Strike, Glide, Slide, Press, and Lift, and whose associated MIDI messages are note-on velocity, pitch bend, channel pressure, brightness, and note-off velocity.
When you control Equator with the I1, you get useful visual feedback from the five 5D Touch monitor grids. Notice in particular how in Fretted mode with bend turned on, the yellow dot travels up the Press curve as you increase pressure, then Glide starts to move when it hits the top; this is the point where the I1 switches from sending out Channel Pressure to sending out Pitch Bend.
But though the I1 natively handles four of the five ROLI dimensions reasonably well, if with varying degrees of expressive sensitivity (brilliantly for the pressure-based dimensions, less so for the velocity-based ones), the way ROLI and Artiphon hardware use CC74 Brightness is very different. The I1 sends Brightness only from the bridge triggers in bowed mode, whereas ROLI map it to the position of the finger on the length of the key. This puts the Slide dimension of expressiveness mostly out of reach (and permanently dimmed) for Artiphonists, and doesn’t use it particularly well even in bowed mode.
The even bigger limitation of Equator is that it marginalises CC1 mod wheel, the absolute bedrock of expressiveness in all other MIDI controllers including the I1, but in Equator mapped to the RISE left fader, which in turn is mapped in the RISE controls to the modulation source Macro 1. So one obvious thing to do is to remap CC1 to CC74 and use accelerometer tilt on the I1 to control the Slide parameter in Equator patches.
There are two ways to do this. One is to use MidiFire (or PC equivalent, if there is one) to remap CC1 to CC74, which has the advantage that you can then immediately play any Equator patch with all five dimensions of expressiveness. The other is to do it at patch level in Equator, which does a fantastic job of completely concealing the fact that you can in fact use mod wheel as a controller by clicking on (of all things) the top-right corner of the RISE Controls panel in the Modulation Panel, selecting Macro 6, and assigning CC1 as Other Controller. (Here’s a well-hidden ROLI support page with a useful GIF.) Then in the Modulation List you can enter Macro 6 instead of Slide as a Source. (Or of course you could just use Macro 1 instead of Slide, as that’s already mapped to CC1 by default.)
One of the things on my list to try is remapping CC1 to CC74 with Midiflow or MidiFire on iPad to use with the presets in Noise. My favourite Noise expansion pack, Rafael Szaban’s Floatation, isn’t even available for Equator yet – but Noise is basically just an Equator preset player, so it should be possible to play the presets with tilt for Slide just as in Equator on desktop.
Gave Up and Scrapped My Instrument 1
That’s a pretty thorough guide to using Equator, Nick, and thanks for posting. I’d also discovered many of the hacks you mention but I’ll just add a couple of points.
As you mentioned, you can reassign CC1 to the same functions as CC74 in an Equator patch by editing the patch and remapping everything that’s assigned to CC74 to CC1. Its pretty laborious and you have to do it for each patch you want to use (there’s no way I can find to do this globally).
You mentioned using the Rise midi mapping to control Equator’s macros. It’s worth mentioning that you can also map CC9 (which is generated by the I1’s control knob) to one of the macros giving you another method of control.
On the iPad, if you use the Noise AUv3 plug-in in a host like GarageBand, Roli seem to have mapped many of the controls so that CC1 works in a similar way to CC74. For instance, in the ‘Strings and Horns’ patch, tilting the I1 morphs between the strings and horns sounds. As both GarageBand and Noise are free apps, they are well worth downloading for an I1 user. Also, many of GarageBand’s own instruments are MPE compatible and work well with the I1.
A great feature request for the I1 editor app would be to be able to assign the tilt function and the control knob to any CC of your choice. Then you could select CC74 and it would work great with Roli software. As Roli are still one of the main players in MPE software, this would be great.
So far as I can see there’s no way of using the I1 with the standalone version of Noise (unless you’ve found a way round this, Nick?) but it works very well with the AUv3 in GarageBand.
Another thing I’ve been experimenting with is using a second midi controller (I have a Roli Lightpad) with the right hand whilst playing the I1 with the left (in one of its one-handed playing modes). So you can control CC74 that way (eg using the Lightpad as an X/Y controller). Incidentally, another fun thing you can do is playing chords on the Lightpad while soloing on the I1. I’m thinking of doing a YouTube video to demonstrate this. I’ve also been using the I1 with Cypher and Strobe but that’s another story.
Fantastic, David! I’d completely forgotten about CC9 from the knob, but this is the ideal use case – it means you can use the knob as a mod wheel and tilt as your Brightness control, which turns out to work great with Equator. Here’s how I set it up in MidiFire (built on top of an old MidiFire scene I use for monitoring Artiphon MPE output, so the right-hand side is just a grid of monitors for different MIDI event types to tell me what’s going on). The two lines of StreamByter script are doing all the actual conversion work here, and then the MidiFire output at the bottom is what’s driving Equator.
And you’re absolutely right about Noise doing something with the CC1 mapping on iPad. I did vaguely wonder why mod wheel tilt seemed to work so well with the iPad presets, but it never occurred to me to take a look at the built-in ROLI keyboard display in the AU, which does indeed show Artiphon tilt controlling the slide dimension. What’s weird is that if you do the controller swap on iPad (mod wheel to brightness, CC9 to mod wheel) it doesn’t seem to make any difference; both the keyboard display and the sound behave exactly the same. But it may just be that I’ve missed a leak in my MIDI pipeline somewhere; I used MfxConvert for the iPad setup because MidiFire isn’t AUv3, but I couldn’t get it to work with MfxConvert on desktop, so it may not be working as I think it is. (In the screenshot below, the left-hand MfxMonitor shows the pre-converted signal from the I1, and the right-hand one the converted one I think is going into Noise. This isn’t a great AUM setup as the MfxMonitors crash on the slightest provocation and it was quite hard to get the shot at all.)
You’re also right about the standalone Noise on the iPad being essentially useless; even the AUv3 doesn’t work in iOS 9–10. But thanks to the iOS 12 jailbreak I can now get into the Noise soundpacks on iPad and confirm that they’re just regular Equator presets in readable XML with their associated soundfonts, so I’m going to try copying them to desktop and getting them to work in Equator. Unfortunately I can’t see an obvious way of getting desktop Equator patches to work in Noise…
Customize midi channel for every note
[Edit: I figured this out in the end; see third post below.] No dice on that last (exporting Noise presets from iPad soundpacks to desktop Equator). Or not quite none, because the .equatorpreset files can be opened and inspected in Equator, and even played where they use existing desktop samples and oscillators, but desktop Equator uses .roliaudio samples with .roliinstrument soundfounts, whereas Noise on iPad uses .sfz with .flac samples. So what you get when you open an iPad preset in Equator is something like this:
– where Sample 1 is one of the Equator built-in ones, but Sample 2 is specific to that particular Noise soundpack. If you click to download, you get a download fail. On the assumption that the desktop filetypes were just generic ones under a fancy proprietary label, I tried renaming all the .flac files to .roliaudio and the .sfz to .roliinstrument, but that just gave me a different version of the download instruction. It’s not a complete waste of time, because you get to see how the Noise preset is built, and you can switch in a different onboard sample for the missing one. But only the onboard samples actually play.
Thanks for sharing that, Nick. I haven’t used MidiFire but I attempted to do a similar thing with with Bome Midi Translator. I’ve recently tended to move away from complex midi setups and try and work with the capabilities of the I1 and Equator as is. I find it’s very easy to spend a lot of time on these questions and very little time actually making music! Software can sometimes be a weapon of mass distraction! I’m not surprised that it’s difficult to export patches between Equator and Noise. Roli are actually very generous in the amount of free stuff they give away and they clearly need to protect their products to some degree. Have you tried Roli Studio? It’s a host for all the Roli synths (Equator, Strobe and Cypher) so you can combine patches from the different synths in one VST. It’s free to download in beta at the moment and also has a useful chord generator and arpeggiator. Seems to work very well.
Yes, sorry, David – I made it look much more complicated than it is by including all those monitors, but it’s actually extremely simple (particularly compared to Bome, though that does have the advantage of working on Windows as well). All you actually need in MidiFire is this:
– and then you’ve got a setup you can use on both Mac and iPad. (You can AirDrop a scene straight over and it’ll work immediately.)
I think the incompatibility of patch formats between Noise and Equator is just about iPad peculiarities; most of the paid in-house (as opposed to third-party) soundpacks in Noise are available free in Equator, but they haven’t caught up with the Floatation one yet and I really wanted to see how some of these were made. I can’t design patches in Equator to save my life – it’s just too challenging to assign all those modulation touches in ways that sound and play anywhere close to what ROLI’s extraordinary sound design team come up with – but I do like to see what’s going on in all those gorgeous presets, and the Floatation set in particular is one I can’t keep my fingers off.
Unfortunately the ROLI Studio Player beta is only available for owners of ROLI hardware – fair enough, as I’m sure it’s the hardware sales that keep them in business, but I’d installed their annoying always-phoning-home ROLI Connect to clutter up my menu bar before realising this…
This is probably of interest to nobody but me, but the penny eventually dropped that .sfz is what Equator uses for user samples. Sure enough, if you simply drop the contents of your Samples folder from Noise – there’s just the one for all soundpack samples – into the user Samples folder (located at [user]/Library/Containers/com.mixage.musicdevicehost/Data/Documents/ROLI/Equator/Samples), and the .equatorpreset files into the /Presets folder at the same address, everything will load and play correctly. Some Noise soundpacks like Cinematica are already all in Equator anyway, but things like Stadium Rock and Floatation aren’t, and even the Fundamentals in Noise are only about half of them in the full Equator package. I think I’m off to buy some more soundpacks…
Going through some of the Noise soundpack presets in Equator, I see why CC1 works so well in Noise when it doesn’t in Equator: all of the Noise presets deliberately avoid CC1 as a modulator, so it’s simply remapped in-app to CC74 so that it can control slide. So no need for MIDI hacking at all with Noise, and excellent news for Artiphonists, who can use 5D touch with it out of the box in a way that isn’t possible with Equator.
A small footnote to that last (and then I’ll stop!): unlike Noise, Seaboard 5D on iOS doesn’t do the CC1=>CC74 remapping, so you do need to do that externally in Midiflow or MidiFire to be able to use the Slide dimension with Seaboard. (Set the MIDI input to MidiFire or your custom Midiflow port rather than directly to the I1, and make sure MPE is on, which the settings interface makes it easy for dolts like me not to do, with bend range set to 48 or whatever you’ve set in the Artiphon app.) But it’s well worth it if you’re using the I1 with Seaboard; it makes an absolutely huge difference to the expressiveness you can get out of it. Again it’s all standard Equator presets under the hood, though this time using .wav rather than .flac for the soundfont samples. It’s notoriously uncooperative on the inter-app front (no IAA, no AUv3, no MIDI routing from outside the app), but is free and runs on systems back to iOS 9.0.
Bass guitar right-hand technique
Start Up With Ableton Live
Equator is having a Black Friday sale till 5 December, if anyone’s on the fence: £89 is I think something like a 40% discount on the regular price. It’s far and away the most expressive synth for I1 use – and better, I think, with I1 than with ROLI’s own hardware, which I don’t find as sensitive and responsive. Their other MPE synths Cypher and Strobe are also on sale (and unlike Equator offer demo versions), but Equator is the one to go for. If your I1 hasn’t yet had made contact with the Mellow Duduk preset (which I see is also Roger Linn’s favourite; also free in Noise and Seaboard 5D for iOS), it hasn’t lived its best life.
Equator is on sale again, with 30% off till 16 July, along with the FXpansion MPE synths Cypher 2 and Strobe 2, and if you have any ROLI hardware it’s the same discount on upgrades to the full versions. ROLI have also posted a useful 90-minute Equator tutorial video and updated their existing text-only MPE page with a couple of useful new pages here and here.
It’s also worth checking out the Equator soundpack bundles, as ROLI have sorted out their licensing so that desktop Equator purchases are also valid in Noise for iOS and vice-versa, which means that even if you don’t have Equator you can save money on something like the Pop Party bundle over the separate pack prices in Noise. (Most of them are priced the same, though, and the 30% discount doesn’t extend to soundpacks.)