A while back, I wrote about the QuNeo, a reasonably priced, multitouch music controller, packed with triggers and modifiers. The folks at Keith McMillen Instruments were kind enough to set me up with a QuNeo so I could put it to the test.
The QuNeo itself is a lightweight and compact USB/MIDI/OSC controller, measuring just 9-1/2″ (w) x 7-1/4″ (h). It’s just over 1/4″ thick and weighs under a pound, so it can easily be tossed in your backpack if you like to travel and perform. It’s also been designed to be spill-proof, an added bonus if you like to have the occasional drink while playing.
The controller itself offers 16 touch-sensitive trigger pads, as well as nine virtual sliders, two virtual wheel controls and 17 additional programmable buttons. It’s ideal for controlling software like Ableton Live, Traktor, and even can be used with Garage Band.
What makes the QuNeo unique is the fact that its pad can sense pressure, velocity and location, which means you can have fine-grained control over your inputs, not available with most other input devices. One of my favorite things is that you can use this technology to do things like pitch bending when you move your finger across the surface of each pad. Each input is backed by colored LEDs, which can provide visual feedback when playing or adjusting settings.
One thing you’ll quickly learn with the QuNeo is that each of its 16 drum pads is actually comprised of multiple trigger points. So you can set not just each pad to trigger a sound, but each of its four corners can act as a trigger. Though if you prefer that the entire surface of each pad trigger the same note, you can set the QuNeo into one of its drum controller modes. Each pad can be used to sense velocity so depending on how hard you hit the pad, the note or track you play can change in amplitude.
To use the QuNeo, I had to simply install the latest software (PC or Mac), select which music apps I use, and connect the device to an open USB port. There’s also a small amount of configuration in each music app to tell it which controller you want to use. I then selected which of the 16 pre-installed preset modes I wanted by pressing the mode button in the top left corner, then selecting the pad which corresponded to the preset number. Factory preset modes include predefined drum and grid modes as well as settings for popular music applications including Serato, Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Traktor, Reason, Battery, and even for controlling Korg’s iMS-20 and BeatMaker iPad synthesizers.
Once in Ableton Live 9, I was able to use the default Ableton Live presets, which provide easy access to clip playback and track recording controls. This allowed me to quickly play, mute and manipulate clips by touching the corners of each button. I was also able easily assign individual buttons, sliders and wheels as MIDI trigger using Ableton’s standard MIDI assignment interface if I wanted to override the presets.
I did find it a little tricky to assign triggers to MIDI inputs directly in Ableton, only because each one of the QuNeo’s pads outputs multiple trigger codes based on where you press. That said, you can always build a proper set of presets using the QuNeo preset editor if you want to skip Ableton’s built-in MIDI assignment screen. QuNeo’s editor allows you to create your own set of assignments for any of the triggers, providing a tremendous amount of control over how the interface is used.
Overall, I’ve found the QuNeo to be incredibly flexible and robust. Since it’s completely programmable, you can truly make it match your individual workflow, whether you’re into live performance, or are looking for a controller for studio recording.
However, with great power comes complexity. First off, you’ll definitely want to watch the video tutorials for your music software of choice up on their website. You’ll also need to really familiarize yourself with all of the presets which are listed in the manual, and then memorize which triggers are assigned to each button, slider or wheel. This isn’t a unique challenge to the QuNeo – all programmable controllers have similar constraints. Someday, I’d love for the buttons on these things to have OLED or LCD screens in them so you could see what’s assigned to each one at a glance, instead of relying on memorization.
Since I wouldn’t consider myself an expert musician by any stretch of the imagination, here’s a video showing off some QuNeo performance techniques from some talented performers:
The QuNeo lists for $199(USD) and is available from a variety of retailers, including Amazon. Keep in mind that if you want to connect the QuNeo directly to a MIDI synthesizer, you’ll need to purchase the optional MIDI expander box for about $50.
Disclosure: Keith McMillan Instruments provided the device for review in this article. However, all reviews are the unbiased views of our editorial staff, and we will only recommend products or services we have used personally, and believe will be good for our readers.