October 26, 2012

Keith McMillen QuNeo Overview

We first saw the QuNeo in 2011 when it went from a being Kickstarter project with modest ambitions, to a full blown “holy crap we raised a lot of money” project. Buoyed by enthusiasm, the prototype that could next introduced itself to us on the floor at NAMM this year, where we got to see a capable Keith McMillen rep demo the device with Ableton Live.

I know what you’re asking: what the heck is a 3D Multitouch Controller? Well, in this case, it is a very slim little control surface, not completely unlike a Novation LaunchPad. 16 square pads, two circular pads, a number of arrow buttons and a slew of slider type pads. Each different kind of pad sports a different kind of LED light for visual feedback and the majority of controls are touch sensitive. Herein lies the difference that makes it standout from the LaunchPad, as the touch sensitivity allows for performance functionality that simply can’t be gained from simple latch/momentary type buttons found on devices like the launchpad. It also allows the MIDI capabilities of the unit to serve as pretty capable note and drum pad type entry methods for sequencing.

Despite being so slim in design, the unit feels very sturdy to the touch, and does not make one feel that it is likely to break en route to, during, or after a performance. The only real caveat to working with the QuNeo I can see is that one needs to spend a little time in preproduction adjusting the sensitivity of the device as well as locking down the increments of any parameters it might be controlling. With capable and easily mappable software like Ableton Live, this is completely realistic. We have also seen capable hands map the software to a number of other packages including Traktor Pro. That said, this thing is definitely ideal for the tweaker that likes to spend Saturdays mapping things into infinity.

The QuNeo also comes with a number of templates for established DAWs. I worked with the standard issue Ableton mapping for the purposes of demoing and overviewing the unit. The current iteration of the Ableton template appears to be slightly different in functionality with the version that existed at the time the manual was made, but this is hardly an uncommon situation. Masterminds with more time to dedicate to the unit have created sets and performances executed completely within the functionality of the QuNeo that are both a pleasure to watch and listen to. However, I couldn’t get what appears to be a very device limited step sequencer template to do what I wanted it to with any other devices, but I am sure with a little time and elbow grease even this could be worked around.

Overall, I found the device a joy to work with, and was quite thrilled to get a little hands on time in with one. I have yet to meet a surface like this, at least in an Ableton context, that makes me say “this is the only one of these I need.” In fact, I could easily see myself using a QuNeo, LaunchPad and an APC40 alongside one another for a performance, and would feel that with each I did truly have all the tools I could need at my disposal. If you’re into having the latest, greatest in toys that you can make do exactly what you want them to, it’s probably worth picking one up.