ROLI has made a name for itself with weirdly tactile, expansively flexible musical instruments, and its ROLI BLOCKS promise to bring that to the mainstream. The British company built its reputation among electronic musicians for its rubbery-buttoned keyboards that allow for hitherto-unachievable levels of expression; problem is, even the smallest Seaboard RISE is $800. On paper, therefore, the much cheaper BLOCKS make perfect sense, but how do they hold up in practice?
Currently, ROLI has three different types of BLOCK. The core is the Lightpad, a 3.7-inch square, priced at $179.95. It has two buttons along its edges, for controlling power and Bluetooth pairing, but is primarily controlled by the rubber top surface made up of 225 cells and backlit with a 15×15 LED matrix.
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