We are currently in the midst of a golden generation of MIDI controllers. No longer are you confined to various guises of MIDI keyboard or MPC-styled drum pads. Push, Maschine and Launchpad have really led the way with the new style of triggered MIDI pads but with Ewis, MIDI pedalboards and all sorts of knobs, sliders and even XY pads, there is a hell of a lot on the market to choose from.

Croatian product designers Zvuk Machines’s Zvuk9 is currently going through early rounds of fundraising on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. One of their creators Ratko Nimac reached out to me by e-mail this week extolling the benefits of their prototyped controller and I was seriously impressed.

The Zvuk9 appears to have some of the characteristics of the ROLI Seaboard with some of the Keith McMillen-esque features all built into an SPDS-come-Push type controller.

Check out their campaign here.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

A few years ago, I was planning to buy a MIDI controller. I was tired of using a mouse and a piano roll when playing VST synths. While walking down the street thinking about what MIDI keyboard to choose, I saw a guy playing a Hang instrument. Watching his hands move, I thought “isn’t this more enjoyable then pressing keys on a keyboard?”

The unexpected thrill of this eureka moment made me immediately phone my friend Ratko with an idea to make a MIDI controller shaped like a Hang instrument. We quickly realized a huge potential in adding X and Y controls to each pad and, since our first conversation about it, we were hooked. After thinking about it a good while, it seemed much more logical and natural to change the playing surface to square pads and create a square shape for the controller overall, so we went with it.

Now, more than 3 years later, we have fully functional prototypes of an expressive MIDI controller and control surface that is much more than just another pad-based MIDI controller.

The Zvuk 9 features:

  • 9 pressure, velocity and position sensitive, MIDI assignable XY pads
  • Aftertouch (channel or polyphonic)
  • 15 programs for storing settings (scale, tonic, split status, XY controls, on/off status for notes, aftertouch, and X and Y)
  • 7 predefined scales available and 10 user scales available
  • Transport controls: play, stop, and record etc

There’s more detailed videos on the campaign page and on their Vimeo.

I guess the Zvuk9 has some of the similar appeal to the aforementioned Seaboard, but at a fraction of the price. I drew similarities with Keith McMillen products too, in particular the QuNeo, having similar multi-functional pads that cram a lot of user functionality into a small space.

Size-wise it’s looks more similar to that of an Ableton Push. One of my biggest gripes with Push is the sheer weight of it, coming in at larger and heavier than my Macbook Pro it seemed a fantastic studio tool but not something I would take live.

The Zvuk9 clearly doesn’t compare in terms of functionality to Push, nor does it claim to, but some of the scale quantised pad playing draws obvious comparisons. Sadly I couldn’t easily find dimensions or weight statistics about the Zvuk9 but at a cursory glance it looks of a similar size to Push.

Honestly, I’ve had my hands burned before with vaporware Kickstarter campaigns but I’m led to believe this is a rare occurrence.

The Zvuk9 is estimated for completion in spring 2018. Retailing at around £790 (~$1065) it’s not on the cheap side but there’s Indiegogo perks with up to 36% off for early-bird backing.

Read more about Zvuk Machines here.