Personalizable MPE MIDI Controller for Digital and Analog Instruments

The initial version of the Erae Touch, a unique MPE controller, attracted a lot of attention; however, it has been available for less than three years. As such, the unveiling of Erae II by Embodme at NAMM 2024 was somewhat unexpected. The Erae II, a significant upgrade of the original customizable controller, was introduced with a novel special attribute.

It’s necessary to mention that the prototype of Erae II that I had a chance to examine was still in its early stages, complete with a few bugs and some unfinished elements. Nonetheless, the company has plenty of time to resolve these issues. The crowdfunding campaign is set to kick off on February 15th, with an expected delivery date sometime in June.

The primary objective for the controller is evident in its design. The primary screen remains largely unchanged, maintaining its sleek appearance with RGB lights beneath it, which are utilised to represent different layouts that can be customised. In comparison to the original, the design has been considerably improved, even at this early development stage. It recognises that the original controller’s customisation feature may have relied too heavily on the desktop app and play surface for setting adjustments.

The latest iteration comes with a series of buttons across the top for easy swapping of layouts, managing the new MIDI looper, and accessing other settings. There’s also a small, high-resolution screen in the upper right corner next to a jog wheel. Although the screen’s impressive visual angle and sharp resolution stood out, its small size might be challenging. While I won’t pass judgment based on the current version of the firmware, some of the smaller text was difficult to read.

The responsiveness of the controller was highly impressive. Equipped with 16,000 new sensors, it accurately tracked my glides and pressure variations. Claiming sub-millimeter accuracy for the play surface’s precision, it would be difficult to prove such a claim, but it was undoubtedly precise.

It was also evident that the Erae requires a fair amount of subtlety to produce highly expressive results with the aftertouch. Due to its limited surface give, minor pressure changes can affect the controller’s sound significantly.

A standout feature of the Erae II is its interchangeable skins, similar to the Sensel Morph and the Joué Play. The model I tested had a silicone outer cover intended for drumstick use. However, it will come with a white fabric cover, which is intended to enhance the feel and responsiveness when played with the fingers.

Switching the skins is somewhat complicated as Embodme designed the Erae as not only a studio tool but also a live performance device. This design approach ensures the covers are secure and durable. To change a skin, the frame must be unscrewed. The focus is on offering various materials, rather than different layouts, as the display on the Erae is customizable.

Adding to the appeal, various new connectivity options have been introduced. Unlike the original, which only came with a USB-C port and a TRS MIDI out, the Erae II will have two MIDI out ports, a MIDI in jack, two USB ports (capable of being a host or a device), as well as 24 configurable analog outs to connect to external gear.

While it is too early to predict the Erae II’s performance, its impressive design and features promise potential success. Those interested in getting their hands on it first can back it on Kickstarter from February 15th, with early bird prices set at $549 or $649. However, when it hits retail later in the year, the price will rise to $799.