EXCLUSIVE: Portable Musician at NAMM 2013: Taking Charge with the AlphaSphere

First day of NAMM 2013 was awesome!  As I was walking through the arena in search of portable goodness, I stopped at an interesting-looking booth and was greeted immediately by a British accent, but no cup of tea!  During the day I saw some alluring products, but the one that most caught my eye was the AlphaSphere, which was being showcased at this booth that was occupied by Nudesine, a UK-based company.

I’ve seen the controller on the Internet, but never had the chance to get hands-on with it, so today was my lucky day. The AlphaSphere is a beat pad style MIDI controller with pressure sensitive pads that, oddly enough, squish and stretch down when pressed, as if the user is stretching a balloon. This MIDI controller is unique in build with its spherical shape, which is unlike the shape of any other beat pad controller on the market. It comes with its own software to help the user map it to the user’s liking, or modify it for use with the user’s favorite DAW’s. The LED lights within the controller add flair that is great for impressing crowds—as if making beats from a ball isn’t enough!

In a video that I will attach soon, I do a small demonstration of launching one-shot drum samples from the bouncy pads. It was actually a lot of fun! What I found useful about the layout of the controller was the differently sized circular pads within the sphere. With this arrangement, you can map certain sounds to be in specific areas so that they are readily recognizable, such as kick drums/bass lines in the big circles and hi-hats and other higher pitched samples in the smaller ones. Because the AlphaSphere is a MIDI controller, you could potentially do a lot more with it than what I show in the few glorious seconds provided in the video, such as use it to control DJ software or even mix video!

I see a lot of potential for the AlphaSphere, which in my opinion is still in its beginning stages. The company has promised that it will be releasing a new model in the upcoming months. Hopefully, the company will implement X/Y MIDI capability, which I feel would work very well with the AlphaSpere’s type of physical tactile control. I mentioned to the booth that LEDs within the pad-like buttons themselves would be quite interesting as well as helpful. The representative responded right away that button LEDs would be in one of the product’s next implementations!

Although I feel that the AlphaSphere is still young as a product, and there are currently more capable controllers available, there is no doubt that it is unique and crowd-pleasing and capable of evolving into a much more complex and functional electronic instrument. The company is currently taking preorders on its website (www.alphasphere.com) at £1200 per controller. That’s a bit pricy, but if flashy/unique is part of your show, then the AlphaSphere is the portable gear for you. I can’t wait to tell you what other cool toys NAMM is showcasing!

—Rahfee Zahkee

Rahfee Zahkee is a Live Beat Productionist/Controllerist and DJ. He can mix all genres and create new songs and remix them live using self-programmed MIDI controllers, effects, sampling, and mixing techniques.

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