There is no doubt that smartphone- and tablet-based apps have had a huge impact on music creation. Examples of note include commuters on a New York subway train being treated to a band performing their single using virtual instruments on iPhones, artists recording and releasing of full albums created using iOS apps like GarageBand, and a certain Icelandic chanteuse outing a fully interactive multimedia experience for tablet users. While there seems to be plenty of plastic devices that extend functionality and creativity beyond the touchscreen (from the toy-like Fingerist to the now available for pre-order iTar), if you yearn for wood then you're options are a little less abundant. After spending two years in development, the first images of Artiphon's intriguing, hardwood-bodied INSTRUMENT 1 for iPhone have been released ahead of a product launch in early 2013.
The INSTRUMENT 1 is a pro-level musical device designed to push the music-making capabilities of an iPhone beyond the limitations of its touchscreen and so extend the functionality of the hundreds of music creation apps available on the iOS platform into exciting new territories. It features a sustainable hardwood and bamboo body of ergonomic design that can be held like a guitar, mandolin, violin, lap steel or upright bass, and a force sensitive virtual fretboard (with six virtual frets and strings) and strum interface for expressive performance.
The hand-built device benefits from a pair of built-in quality stereo speakers and a 30-watt class-D amplifier, as well as various inputs and outputs (including 0.25-inch stereo instrument jack, MIDI in/out and USB) that allow it to interface with a wide range of professional equipment. Its rechargeable internal battery makes it a portable offering, and means that it won't prove an extra drain on the docked iPhone's battery, and there's a 12-volt power input, too.
There's what looks like a single coil pickup next to the iPhone dock on the front, but looks can be deceptive. Artiphon's Jacob Gordon told us that it is in fact "a patent-pending MIDI strum section designed to reference a classic single coil pickup but it works directly with your fingers, like a pickup you can touch."
It has onboard controls for volume, instrument modes and octave switching, caters for multitrack recording on the device itself, and the production INSTRUMENT 1 that finds its way into the hands of iOS users next year will be about 24-inches (61-cm) long.
Artiphon's team is currently busy developing its own app for configuring the device and is looking to work with other developers on new MIDI apps in the near future, but says that the device will already work with any CoreMIDI-enable iOS app, thousands of audio apps, computer software, and other synthesizers.
"Artiphon is working on multiple products, including others instruments and different types of sound devices that will be compatible with universal standards like Bluetooth," said Gordon. "The INSTRUMENT 1 is the first in a line of products, hence the name."
Pre-orders are set to begin early next year and it's expected to retail for under US$1,000. INSTRUMENT 1's creator Mike Butera will be taking the pre-production prototype to CES 2013 in Las Vegas (January 8 - 11) and NAMM in Anaheim, California (January 24 - 27) for its first public showings.
Gizmag will be keeping a close eye on the development of this instrument, and we'll bring you more information as it becomes available.