Original Erae Touch was one of the interesting ones MPE controllers will come out in the last few years. But less than three years on the market. So it was a surprise when Embodme arrived NAMM 2024 With Erae II, the next iteration of the customizable controller with significant improvements and one unexpected new feature.
Now, it’s important to note that the version of Erae II I was able to test was a very early prototype. There were a few bugs, there were definitely some rough edges in the construction. But the company has enough time to overcome them. The Kickstarter campaign starts on February 15th, with an expected ship date of June.
But the vision is already clear. The main surface is largely the same, a single smooth expanse with RGB lights underneath. These are used to display different layouts that can be customized. This includes standard keyboards, grids, faders, step sequences, and more. can be. The design is definitely more subtle even at this early stage. He also admits that while controller customization is a big plus, he was perhaps too reliant on the desktop app and gamepad to control settings.
The updated version has a row of buttons at the top for quickly changing layouts, controlling the new MIDI looper, and accessing other settings. There is also a small but high-resolution screen placed next to the treadmill in the upper right corner. Viewing angles on the screen were solid and sharp enough, but its size can pose some challenges. I’m not going to judge it with this very early version of the software, but I had to squint hard to make out the tiny text that displayed all the MIDI assignments.
The supervisor himself was very responsive. The new sensors (16,000 of them must be special) were able to track my shifts and subtle changes in pressure with incredible precision. The company claims that the gaming surface has sub-millimeter accuracy. Obviously, I won’t be able to actually test it on the show floor, but suffice it to say, it was accurate.
I can already tell that Erae requires enough nuance to get really expressive results from the aftertouch. Surfaces don’t have much of an effect, so small changes in pressure can cause large changes in sound.
One of the surprising things is that Erae II has swappable skins Sensel Morph (RIP) or Joué Play, but also, no. The unit I played had a silicone cover like the original, which the company says is intended for those who want to play the Erae II with a drum stick. However, it will ship with a white cloth designed to improve feel and responsiveness for those playing with their fingers.
Changing skins is a bit involved. Embodme saw the Erae as a live performance device, not just a studio tool, so he wanted to make sure the covers would be reliable and stand up to abuse. So you actually have to unlock the framework to get a new skin. Since the display in Erae is already customizable, having custom designed skins isn’t a concern, just different materials.
Embodme has also added a ton of new link options. The original only had a USB-C port and a TRS MIDI output. But the Erae II will have two MIDI output ports, one MIDI input, two USB ports that can be either host or device, and 24 configurable analog outputs that can send gates, triggers, and CVs to external transmitters.
Obviously, it’s way too early to know exactly how well the Erae II will fit into real-world use. But it has a promising feature set and an interesting design. If you want to be among the first to get your hands on it, you’ll be able to back it on Kickstarter starting February 15th for early bird prices of either $549 or $649, depending on how early you jump. It will retail for $799 when it goes on sale later this year.