Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Most Wanted V - A-100TKB Touch Sensor Keyboard

Perhaps best known for their non-moving touch sensor keyboards were the Electric Dream Plant Wasp and Gnat ( and the Electronic Music Studios EMS Synthi A * ) synthesizers that were produced during the late seventies/ the early eighties.
Doepfer's Touch Sensor Keyboard was announced a loooong time ago.
There have been many prototypes of this , and there have been many suggestions and discussions, but still there is no final design or release-date in sight.

Prototype #1
The first prototype (2005?) was a sequencer + keyboard all-in-one version, that looked like the original Sherman Filterbank, but with a keyboard with metal plates in front of it.
For their second prototype (2007), Doepfer decided to drop the sequencer, to give the buyers the chance to buy their own sequencer ( if they needed one ). This prototype is still my favorite, with it's 25 metal keys... simple and plain.

Prototype #2
In the first two versions of the TKB the hum noise inducted by the sourrounding mains was used as working principle, but they found that this principle did not work perfect in all cases (changing mains intensity, different mains frequencies 50/60Hz, indoor/outdoor, problems with increasing humidity and some problems more).

The Latest prototype, shown at NAMM 2010, was equipped with 16 uniform metal plates. Here is where Doepfer went for another approach, now with capacitive sensing pads.
Still, this was a prototype, and i bet Doepfer got a lot of feedback, but probably not enough (or maybe even too much) to make a final production-model.

From the Doepfer site: 
" The number, shape and dimensions of the pads can be adjusted to the customers wishes but we will be able to manufacture only one or maybe two versions (e.g. one with a keyboard layout like version 1 and 2 and another with a non-keyboard layout like version 3).

Prototype #3
In any case it is planned to separate the control until (i.e. the potentiometers, sockets, LEDs and so on) from the touch section. The touch section could be like a module (i.e. assembled like a module to the frame) or a separate box with a cable that leads to the control module (or external control box for stand-alone applications).
As an option we think about a pressure sensor below the keys that measures the pressure applied to the metal plates. The touch keyboard will be probably equipped with outputs for Gate, CV1 (pitch), CV2 (pressure) and Midi.
Due to the nature of the keyboard velocity measurement is not possible and even the Midi output is monophonic only.
Suitable supports to mount the keyboard case into a 19" rack at different positions and angles are planned for the touch version of the keyboard (not possible for the normal version as the width is more than 19"). We also think about a DIY version of the TKB, i.e. only an electronics without the metal plates that can be used to connect any metal plates that have to be added by the user. "

More detailed info on the whole TKB project HERE

* Thanks Marc


  1. Very cool - Synthi A also had a keyboard like this and it can work really well. I hope they will integrate the pressure sensitivity though as that would allow for much more expressive play. It would also be cool if you could route parts of the keyboard to different destinations, but that would probably be asking too much.

    Marc JX8P

  2. Thanks, i almost forgot about the Synthi, added it to the post. The first two versions had pressure sensitivity as a standard, so i guess the final design will have it too. The routing think is perhaps too much asked indeed... lol