Music company Roli is know for its range of soft, rubbery keyboards that let musicians bend and squish notes to change their sound. Getting this sort of control from a normal computer screen might seems impossible, but Apple's pressure sensitive 3D Touch feature has opened up new dimensions on the smartphone. To take advantage of this, Roli has released a new iOS app named Noise, which turns the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus into a responsive, miniature keyboard.
Noise is all about synth — don't expect a nice grand piano sound
The free app comes with 25 preset instruments, from "Dirt Organ" to "Smoky Rhode," and allows for an impressive amount of customization. Each instrument's sound can be modified in terms of qualities like reverb and fuzziness, and in the case of looping synths (those which play a repeating pattern when you hold your finger down on note) you can change aspects like the speed of the loop.
However, it's the reproduction of the five "dimensions of touch" that you get on Roli's full-sized keyboards that's most impressive. These are strike (how hard you hit the key), pressure (how hard you press it), glide (moving side to side on the keyboard), slide (moving up and down on individual keys), and lift (how quickly you remove your finger from a key).
The pressure sensitive dimensions aren't as noticeable as the sliding and gliding
The pressure sensitive dimensions (strike, pressure, and lift) only work on the 6S and 6S Plus, but the other two (glide and slide) work on any iPhones running iOS 9.0 or later. It's a good job too, as this pair are the most effective and fun way to mess around with sound on Noise. In our brief play with the app, the pressure sensitive dimensions were actually the least noticeable aspect, although for professional musicians, this subtle, extra control is presumably much more appreciated.
And Roli certainly intends this to be more than just a fun app for amateurs. Noise can connect to a range of digital instruments and sound systems using a MIDI over Bluetooth connection, and there's also the option of buying new sounds, including acoustic instruments like a steel string guitar and double bass, and, of course, even more synths.
Roli's isn't the only musical app to take advantage of the pressure sensitive screen of the 6S and 6S Plus (Native Instrument's iMaschine 2, for example, uses 3D Touch for its pad controller), but it is does offer an impressively simple and powerful keyboard for musicians of all stripes. Plus, you can't really argue with a free download.