This might seem trivial, but it’s significant: originally designed to have two axes of expressivity, the Exquis keyboard will now feature a third control axis (left/right)! Congratulations to those who guessed it from our teaser last week!

The myth of the 3 axes

Before narrating the story of this evolution, it is important to emphasize that even though the MIDI MPE standard does indeed propose three control axes per note, and one might believe that all MPE hardware implements these three axes, the reality is quite different. For example, did you know that the Expressive E Osmose does not offer control in the depth of the keys on the Y-axis? The control on the Y-axis is still there, but it’s moved to a second part of keypress, which is firmer. So, it’s not at all the same musical gesture as on a Haken or a Roli Seaboard, where it’s possible. We could provide more examples, but it’s time to debunk a myth: very few MPE-compatible hardware actually implement the three control axes defined in the MPE standard.

From 2-axis Exquis to 3-axis Exquis

At the beginning of the project, our goal was to create the best possible keyboard with two highly expressive and sensitive axes, all while keeping it reasonably priced. The idea was to offer a controller that encourages people to venture into isomorphic and hexagonal keyboards, especially those who are not familiar with them.

As you know, the Exquis keyboard was initially scheduled for release this summer, but the release date was postponed to November, mainly due to some design changes in the first half of the year (detailed in our blog).

We took advantage of this delay to experiment with a third control axis, and this summer, a prototype of 7 keys was created to assess its playability and feasibility for a future product. To our great surprise, the performance of this three-axis prototype quickly exceeded our expectations.

In terms of Exquis production, everything was in place to manufacture and assemble 2-axis keyboards for November: a pre-production run of a few units in September, validation, and then the launch of mass production. Fortunately, it was still possible to shift towards 3-axis Exquis keyboards without impacting production deadlines. So, we took the gamble of producing a pre-series of both 2-axis and 3-axis keyboards in parallel to ensure the reliability of both cards produced in quantities. You can easily guess the conclusion: the 3-axis keyboards passed the tests with flying colors!

We could have saved this major evolution for a future product, an Exquis Mk2 version, but it doesn’t align with our values and our commitment to limit our ecological footprint.

It was a race against time, but it is with great pride and joy that we confirm that you will receive a 3-axis control Exquis keyboard at no additional cost, and we are determined to deliver Exquis before Christmas!

We are currently working on adapting the 200+ presets originally intended for two axes to make them playable on three axes 😉