Keith McMillen Instruments QuNeo

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Musicians, DJs and producers use hardware controllers to get away from using a mouse and computer keyboard to interact with their music software. A good controller transforms the act of digital music production into a more natural, tactile experience. Any advancement that makes the interaction between musician and computer more expressive is a big deal, and that’s why the new QuNeo from Keith McMillen Instruments has so many people excited.

The first thing you notice when you see the QuNeo is the wealth of colorful LED lights that are visible beneath its buttons, pads and touch faders. What may not be so obvious at first glance is that this controller shares the exact dimensions as an Apple iPad 2. That means that any accessory that can be used to mount an iPad (such as an IK Multimedia iKlip) can also be used on the QuNeo. These borrowed dimensions are a nice convenience, but the exciting innovations behind the QuNeo are its pressure, velocity- and location-sensitive pads, sliders and rotary sensors.

In a sense, the QuNeo can do everything that an iPad can't do. If you're using it to trigger a virtual drum instrument, it will react to how hard or softly you strike the pads, and it will also register how much pressure you apply to a control without striking it. The controls are also similar to an iPad because they are multi-touch responsive. You can use two fingers on its sliders to adjust and pinch parameters. This is why Keith McMillen Instruments refers to the QuNeo as a 3D Multi-touch Pad Controller.

Another remarkable thing about the QuNeo is its dazzling light show. 251 multi-color LEDs come alive on the device, using only bus power from a standard USB port. The staggering amount of lights dramatically increases the amount of interaction and communication between human and machine. The sliders double as VU meters, the drum pads transform into a multi-level step sequencer, and the LEDs stay illuminated to remind you how you had adjusted a control. It's an inspiring amount of visual feedback, and it ultimately makes using the QuNeo more fun.

Most rotary controllers are essentially intelligent knobs. The rotaries on the QuNeo go much further. They're capable of measuring angle, pressure and distance from the center. They can do everything from acting as virtual DJ decks for scrubbing and scratching, to triggering and stretching samples.

As a manufacturer, Keith McMillen Instruments is well-versed in the rough world of foot controllers (its SoftStep and 12 Step foot controllers are among the most highly-regarded in the industry). The company’s designers know how to make a product that can survive getting stepped and stomped on constantly. The same robustness in design is found in the QuNeo. It's ultra-thin, ultra-light, and really tough.  

The QuNeo operates as a class-compliant device. Out of the box, it can be used to control music software simply by connecting it to a USB port. The QuNeo can easily be mapped to communicate MIDI or OSC information. It can also be used to control MIDI hardware with the addition of the Keith McMillen MIDI Expander, which is an external box that adapts the QuNeo's USB MIDI into standard MIDI ports.

More advanced users will appreciate the Open Source Developers Kit, which enables you to write your own code for the QuNeo. There are no limits to what can be accomplished with this controller. Hackers, DJs, electronic musicians and experimentalists of all stripes can have a powerful new tool in their hands.

This is a unique product that first surfaced as a Kickstarter project. Not only was the development of the QuNeo fully funded within 24 hours, it quickly became the most funded music-technology project in Kickstarter history. As exciting as it sounds on paper, from all of the reporting done at the 2012 NAMM show, the QuNeo is far more impressive in person. Get your hands on one, and get deeper into your music.

Pad Sensors 16
Slider Sensors 9
Rotary Sensors 2
Switch Sensors 17
Multi-Color LEDs 251
Square Pad Velocity Levels 127
Dimensions 7.31 x 9.5 x 0.34" (18.57 x 24.13 x 0.86cm)

The QuNeo is a new product that's expected to arrive at B&H in April 2012.