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The Vortex: the world's first USB/MIDI Keytar Controller

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January 19, 2012

Alesis has unveiled the world's first USB/MIDI keytar - the Vortex - with a built-in accel...

Alesis has unveiled the world's first USB/MIDI keytar - the Vortex - with a built-in accelerometer, 37 pressure sensitive keys and a host of buttons, sliders and controls

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Noted rock vocalist and bass player Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and more recently Black Country Communion) has often been quoted as saying that, for him, much of the 1980s was just a blur. It's probably just as well, or he might have had a hard time dealing with the emergence of the keytar - a strap-on keyboard that has a little neck with a number of parameter-changing buttons on it. Okay, I admit it, I'm not a great fan of the Jan Hammers and Jean-Michel Jarres of this world, but those who want to emulate these digital music innovators without digging deep for a Korg, Roland or Moog original can now rejoice with the release of the world's first USB/MIDI keytar - the Vortex from Alesis.

Debuted at NAMM, the Vortex features a playing area made up of 37 pressure-sensitive keys, above which are velocity-sensitive pads and transport and patch select controls. There's a volume slider and pitch bend placed for thumb control on the neck, with nine front-facing controls to occupy the fingers, including a touchstrip, and buttons for octave selection and sustain. Alesis told us that users can re-assign any of the controls to any function or parameter, if the default setup doesn't suit the performance need.

The Vortex features a playing area made up of 37 pressure-sensitive keys, above which are ...

The neck of the new keytar also has a built-in, MIDI-assignable accelerometer that allows players to increase the instrument's volume by body movement, control the modulation or filter cut off, or change the pitch with dive-bomb antics - something that iPhone and iPad gamers should take to immediately.

"Today's keyboard player has no limitations of sounds because you have your traditional synths, your sound modules, you have software on your Mac and PC, you might even use your iPad for sounds," Alesis told us at the NAMM show. "So we've created a control instrument for all the sounds you already have."

The Vortex features both traditional MIDI and USB MIDI connectivity for maximum device compatibility, and comes automapped for popular software synths and digital audio workstations (DAW), but a user can of course custom-create their own.

When connected to a Mac or PC, the 2.2 x 35.1 x 10.6-inch (55.88 x 891.54 x 269.24 mm), 6.5 pound (2.9 kg) Vortex is bus-powered, but can also get its juice from four AA-type batteries when hooked up to a MIDI module or iOS devices like the iPad, or via a DC adapter (not supplied). The unit comes with an adjustable strap, which attaches to standard pegs on the neck and body, and a standard USB cable (a 32-pin Apple cable will need to be purchased separately if connecting to an iPad).

Alesis is suggesting a retail price of US$399 when the Vortex is made available during Q2 2012, but says that the street price is likely to run at around US$249.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
5 Comments

The first, I think not... The yamahe SHS10 had midi capabilities...

Jabboson
19th January, 2012 @ 02:13 pm PST

I guess the new bit is the accelerometer? The rest of it has been done before I think!

Jonathan D Jenkins
19th January, 2012 @ 11:03 pm PST

Midi has actually been around for quite a while since the early 80's. As far is Keytars having midi certainly the vortex isn't first. As for as a usb port well technically it's not first either becuase the Berhinger UMA25S. Is a shoulder midi controller that has USB, Plus Audio interface capabilities. Now as far as the Accelerometer! This is the first Shoulder Keytar Controller with that option. for a live demonstraion see

www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKh_ppIKIBg&list=HL1357199028&feature=mh_lolz

J Black Jackson
2nd January, 2013 @ 11:44 pm PST

I just got the Alesis Vortex and I am new to key tars and midi controllers. I downloaded a dvi to use it and I can't get any sound out. I used the cable that came with the Vortex. Anything I am not doing right?

defenderdrew
20th January, 2013 @ 12:09 pm PST

I'm the same as defenderdrew. just gone one for my son for xmas and no volume at all.

Suzanna Gentle
17th October, 2013 @ 06:06 am PDT
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