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Miselu C.24: 24-Key Keyboard That Fits on Your iPad

Miselu's abortive Android-based Neiro has been shelved, with the obvious eminence of iOS in the music app space. Rather than trying to make Google's platform work for their hardware keyboard, Miselu decided to bring their design expertise to make a keyboard for the iPad. The C.24 is the result!

I had the opportunity to see it in action yesterday during an interview on Skype. After a moment of somber reflection on the death of Android's last hope for the musician market, I was immediately intrigued by the design and technical forethought that went into this portable keyboard. There is already an array of iPad keyboards, but Miselu is bringing some new features to the table in a package that fits over the iPad, like a case, when neither are in use.

The most welcomed new feature in their design is the larger keys. I've got medium-sized hands, but struggle with the typical "mini-keys" that are common among portable keyboards. Miselu's C.24 has keys that extend out from the body to provide nearly full-sized depth. This retractable keyboard design is really cool when seen in action, but I'm curious to see how it plays.

A combination of magnets and infrared sensors provide the bounce-action and velocity-sensitivity found in traditional keybeds. Once again, I'm anxious to get my hands on one to really try that out. I was paying close attention to the demonstration in the interview, and I was reasonably impressed by the key-action; the bounce seemed about right, or at least right enough.

I'm a little concerned about the stability of the iPad in the "groove" that it rests in, especially when propped on your knees on a bus or train. They also showed off a modular element to the design, where developers can manufacture their own hardware controls that slot into the keyboard. I felt this was a little overly optimistic, and so far no developers have signed on to participate with their own modules.

Having said all that though, this thing is $100 on Kickstarter right now for the first 1,000 backers. At the time of this writing they are already at $20,000 of their $100,000 goal in the first 10 hours, so they have a real shot at making that goal. The next 1,000 backers will have to cough up $150, with the retail price falling somewhere between $150-200. They hope to be shipping to backers by November!

Comparisons to Akai's MPC Fly face-flop are obvious. I think Miselu have a much better shot with this, since there are far more keyboard players out there than MPC-pad players. Also unlike the MPC Fly, which only really worked with the Akai MPC app, this has true CoreMIDI support and is customizable from within the iPad via an app. I'm personally pretty excited about this, and I've been promised a demo unit in the coming weeks.

You can see the usual flashy 3-minute intro video on their Kickstarter page, but I think more of you will be interested in this interview with Miselu's Vice President of Design, Mike Prichard. You get to see several of the prototypes and he answers the question I'm sure you are asking: Why the hell is this 24 keys instead of the usual 25?

Reader Comments 27

I've tried a couple of portable keyboards, none of them satisfactory. This looks as though it will address all of the shortcomings I have experienced. Plus it will have the benefit of being able to plug 2 together. I travel a reasonable amount and to be able to take a 4 or even 6 octave keyboard away will be absolutely brilliant.

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Chris

Hang on... £20,000 in the first ten hours - this casts a dark shadow of doubt over the idea that the iOS music community is really small and not really supporting app developers!! Explanation anyone?

Is it just that the most vocal developers just happen to be the least successful financially?


Going to have to be some pretty good explanations because this does NOT add up!!!

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Baddcr

I saw someone mention recently that there were only 1,000 sales for one app, but that is definitely not an average for music apps or indicative of the community size. This site alone sees well over 1000 uniques a day, and not everyone cares to follow blogs for news. There is definitely an audience for music apps.

From my own informal polling of developers I'd bet on sales in the range of 5,000-10,000 for average-to-mediocre synths, in the first few months.

It connects via bluetooth? Isn't that going to cause serious latency problems? Are there any other successful bluetooth midi controllers out there?

July 09, 2013  | person_outline sonicflux

needs a name like Miselu 'maglev blu' or something...(C dot 24!?).

July 09, 2013  | person_outline a1

C.24 is almost at $30,000 right now, but with just 279 backers. So the market might be small in terms of # people, but not as small in terms of how much they spend :) This is also reflected on the App Store - music app prices are far higher than other consumer categories.

Tim's estimates seem about right. But it varies *significantly* by genre / category. Synths probably do a lot better than guitar apps. DAWs probably do a lot better than synths. E.g. guitarism is probably the highest-grossing guitar strumming app right now, yet it just makes minimum wage and has sold about 6,000 units in 2013 at a price far lower than most synths. Not complaining, this is just the way things are. We all heard similar comments from Amidio and Fessaboy back on "that" thread.

In general the winning formula is probably to make higher-priced professional-grade apps ($10 and higher) rather than trying to keep the price low to "make it up in volume". E.g. Nave, Thor, Turnado etc.

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Adil Sherwani (Rhism)

Bluetooth Low-Energy is a different beast from the ol' Bluetooth of yore. The latency has been surprisingly low on Bluetooth LE, and has been used in a couple of projects for wireless iOS MIDI. I believe this is the first major project to use it though.

@sonicflux

Actually, Bluetooth has less latency than regular network MIDI (over wifi), and there was even an app that came out called BlueMIDI that worked from newer iPhone/iPad to newer Mac (both need to have BT 4.0) that worked really well with near zero latency. Overall it was a little buggy when I used it and I don't think an a update has come through on the app or client side, unfortunately.

July 09, 2013  | person_outline gatearray

oops, you posted while I typed... yeah, what Tim said! :)

July 09, 2013  | person_outline gatearray

This is an absolutely brilliant design. It may even sway me from saving for an OP-1. I really hope the C.24 will be a massive success, as there is absolutely nothing out there right now that comes anywhere near the brilliance and ingenuity of this design. Well done guys!

July 09, 2013  | person_outline tom_tm

Tim and gatearray,
Thanks for the info. I'm looking forward to seeing how well it works in practice. I was basing my latency question on my experience using bluetooth speakers and experiencing unacceptable latency. Of course, it has to transmit a lot more data for audio than for MIDI.

I really hope this is a success because it does seem to be quite a slick design.

July 09, 2013  | person_outline sonicflux

The Fishman TriplePlay MIDI controller (a hexaphonic pickup system that you attach to a guitar) uses Bluetooth LE, and it's really fast; I've tried to get an exact measurement, and it's something in the 20ms range, maybe less. The Fishman has a transmitter on the guitar, which goes over Bluetooth to a USB receiver; I've hooked it to my iPad using the CCK, and I can't perceive any latency between hitting a string, and the MIDI note sounding. When recording into DAWs, the 20ish ms latency that I think is there between audio and MIDI may be compensated for in various ways by the DAWs (and this latency *includes* the delay necessary for the DSP!). Whatever the latency, Bluetooth LE is fast, and I've been really impressed with the Fishman unit.

The C.24 looks pretty neat; it'll be interesting to see if it actually takes off.

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Fessaboy/Secret Base Design

FWIW, iPad 2 users will be connecting this through the CCK and a cable, not Bluetooth...

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Zymos

Ok thanks for the clarification - I think I need to go back an reread because I've obviously got hold of the wrong end of the stick somewhere!!

As an additional note I have lived very happily on not much more than minimum wage working part time and having lots of free time to shop for and cook (and even grow) my own food! If I ever find myself at a loose end I may well give this app programming lark a try :)

Update on the patch sharing/shop website - Ive dropped behind on it: been away an also not been very well with a virus thing - blergh!! Got an away job on tomorrow but hoping to have another crack at it later this week!!!

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Baddcr

It was down at the bottom in the "fine print"
"Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection requires iPad 3, iPad 4 or iPad mini"

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Zymos

Looks like a cleaver bit of engineering, not for me though.
My ideal setup includes a much larger tablet/computer, like the Dell XPS 18" or the Sony VAIO Tap 20". If these guys can engineer this same design for a 18/20" all in one computer, then I'll freak out.
My iPad and my Nexus tablets are fun, but are just too small and the processing power to low to take seriously.

July 09, 2013  | person_outline Friendly

I would think there is a short life to the income stream of an app like the above mentioned Guitarism. Once it has been purchased, the developer doesn't make any more from that purchaser, and instead she/he/they must depend on new business, which probably declines over time after it hits it's peak sales. I'm only guessing. That's the way most record sales go, and those are the closest thing in my experience that I can relate it to.

@Baddcr – I have been "fabulously" wealthy and I have been as poor as a serf. Now-a-days I am somewhere in-between, and I can only say that the more money I made, the more stress and chaos I had in my life. At my highest income and net worth, I was miserable. At my lowest income, I was at least happy.

There may be a point to that. Thanks for the update on the site. No pressure

July 09, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

@Friendly – I find it kinda funny that platinum level recording artists ARE taking iPad for music production seriously, while you are dismissing it. They must see something in it that you don't. I'm not trying to pick a fight. I just don't like to see useful tools degraded and dismissed when I know for a fact that they are quite capable in the right hands.

July 09, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

@ZenLizard I totally agree with you, trust me. I've seen really creative and inspiring artist do amazing music with the awesome tools developed for the ipad. I'm not dissing it, I'm just not satisfied with the status quo.
My desire is to have a tool that i can place both of my hands on, with room to spare, with the kind of multitasking found on a macbook or PC.
Jordan Rudess maker of Morphwiz demoed his multitouch app on a 20" Lenovo A720. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jrv46eJ5j24&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Just imagine more of your favorite iOS apps allowed to use more screen real estate.

July 10, 2013  | person_outline Friendly

Ok it's iPad sized per 24 keys, but what's to stop it being used with any platform with the right software?

July 10, 2013  | person_outline Bianca

@ZenLizard About that 20 inch touchscreen thing on Windows: Ask yourself one question - where is it? Where can you buy it today?

July 10, 2013  | person_outline Sebastian Dittmann

Well I totally get why some people want more screen real estate, whether or not it is ready for prime time. For myself, the iPad is big enough, and I use a MIDI keyboard that I've had for years when I need it. I was just kinda floored when here we are in a thread discussing Nave, the most capable and awesome sounding synth I have had the pleasure to use in more than 30 years of experience, and yet it was suggested that the iPad can't be taken as a serious pro music tool (at least that is how I interpreted it). I've used just about every legendary synth of those 30 plus years and the decade before – even owned a few. It is against all those that I am comparing, and Nave is the synth I think I've always been waiting for. That is obviously subjective, but objectively, Nave is clearly capable. So are a lot of other iPad synths and music tools. The DAW I owned a little over a decade ago couldn't deal with everything that the iPad runs smoothly. I think the one I owned 5 years ago could have, and these were both top of the line machines.

I'm not having any trouble with Nave either, aside from the occasional randomly replaced wavetable (which has actually resulted in some very happy accidents). My recorded and copy/pasted waves go in just fine and work without crashing. I'll bet the problems that other people are having will be cleared up with Nave's first update. I could always do without the fancy graphics, but they don't seem to have skimped on the important stuff either from where I'm sitting, so I don't find myself caring that much.

July 10, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

good stuff, Zen, 100% agreed!

...and I think Sebastian may have meant to direct his comment at Friendly? but no matter— he's right, too! :)

July 10, 2013  | person_outline gatearray

Nice idea, but if it is a separate piece I don't see much advantage over something like the Oxygen 25, but if it is also a cover like the Logitech typing keyboard, it will be great.

On that subject, is there a way to use my Logitech (or any) typing keyboard as a piano keyboard? If not, that ability would be a great app.

July 11, 2013  | person_outline Eric

The computer can be bought from Lenovo or Amazon.com or Best Buy or MicroCenter (You don't have to use Lenovo, you can choose other brands with similar form factors like the Sony Tap 20, Dell XPS 18, or Toshiba PX35) . The app can be bought in the Windows Market Place.
We all have different studio setups, that's cool and awesome. Some people want to solely use the iPad as the brain of their studio, I don't. I want the iPad as one of many instruments in my studio.
Why so much opposition to options, people? We can have iPad sized instruments and gigantic TV sized instruments. In my studio I want a gigantic TV sized instrument and an iPad sized instrument.
I have a feeling this is about brand loyalty more than anything else, I'm not brand loyal at all. Diversity and openness keeps the mind free to create and destroys stagnation. I've used Korg, Yamaha, Casio, Moog, Roland synthesizers. I've had Ford, Toyota, Honda, GM cars. I wear Levi, Calvin Klein, Wrangler blue jeans, ya know what I'm saying?
Why is this one 10" arm processer tablet so special and sacred that a simple mention of wanting more horsepower like a Core i7 Haswell processor and more screen real estate an unacceptable request.

July 13, 2013  | person_outline Friendly

@ Friendly

You'll get no argument from me about diversity of brands and tools. Any tool that works for anyone is a good tool, as far as I'm concerned. Any brand that does the job is a good brand. I was responding to this statement that you wrote:

"My iPad and my Nexus tablets are fun, but are just too small and the processing power to low to take seriously."

The mistake I made, I guess, was interpreting that statement as a put down of two particular tools – one being the iPad. Whenever I say that something can't be taken seriously, I mean that it isn't capable or it's not worth considering, so that is what I thought you were saying.

I decided that the iPhone was too small for me to use as a music making device (in general), but I still "take it seriously", because I know that it is capable, and that some folks are doing really amazing things with it. Does that make sense?

Hopefully that clears up the misunderstanding. There were never any ruffled feathers here. It was more like astonishment.

July 13, 2013  | person_outline ZenLizard

@ZenLizard I'm a pretty good artist/musician, a horrible writer. ;-)
I totally respect all forms of creativity and self expression (except jug bands.)

July 13, 2013  | person_outline Friendly
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