Artiphon Chorda Review: A Nifty Toy for Non-Musicians

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Artiphon’s entire factor is making easy musical devices that concentrate on delivering on the spot gratification. They’re sneaky gateways to the nerdy world of MIDI polyphonic expression, or MPE, which permits a participant to present every notice its personal distinctive timbre such as you would possibly on one thing like a guitar. It’s a expertise that’s gaining recognition and has been embraced by some fairly massive gamers within the music world, nevertheless it’s nonetheless type of area of interest—and the worth of entry can typically be excessive.

Artiphon’s Chorda is simply $250, and requires minimal ability to select up and begin making music with. It’s an instrument that vaguely resembles the neck of a guitar, with 12 capacitive touchpads and a strummable “bridge” throughout its floor. Inside is a comparatively easy synth engine that covers every little thing from chiptune leads, to easy bass and synth pop drums. There’s even a sampler operate for including your individual sounds. Plus there’s a reasonably respectable built-in speaker, so that you don’t want something aside from an affordable cellphone to get began.

The pads throughout the highest of the Chorda are quantized to a selected musical scale, which drastically simplifies issues for nonmusicians. Even with completely zero data of music idea or scales, it’s fairly simple to simply choose up Chorda and make one thing midway respectable.

There are 4 modes: Drum, Bass, Chord, and Lead. Drum, clearly, performs drums. Bass offers you monophonic low finish. Chord places a full chord on every pad, and Lead offers you a polyphonic palette from which to solo.

Photograph: Terrence O’Brien

In Use

Navigating Chorda can take slightly follow, however when you get the grasp of it, issues principally make sense. Nearly each pad has a secondary operate for choosing sounds, triggering the loop recorder, altering the tempo, and so forth. To entry these features you simply maintain down the A button on the finish of the machine. Some additionally require you to faucet the bridge to cycle via choices, like while you wish to transfer up or down octaves or change presets. Without a display to give you visible suggestions, this will get slightly irritating, nevertheless it was by no means sufficient to make me hurl the Chorda throughout the room.

One factor that’s routinely fairly irritating is the looper. I’m not going to faux to have good timing (there’s a motive I’m a guitarist and never a drummer), however I’ve been utilizing varied guitar pedals and Ableton’s Push controller to do stay looping for round 20 years. I’ve by no means struggled fairly as a lot as I do with the Chorda (or Artiphon’s Orba, for that matter). I don’t know if it’s the results of over-aggressive quantization or simply very unforgiving controls, however I’d say I fail to get an ideal loop about 25 p.c of the time.

Photograph: Terrence O’Brien

Sounds

The sounds themselves differ drastically in fashion and high quality. Between the 4 totally different classes, there are properly over 200 presets, starting from light Fender Rhodes piano sounds to industrial drums and ambient synth leads. The synth engine inside Chorda, just like the Orba earlier than it, is designed particularly to be extraordinarily low energy. This ensures that it runs easily on the {hardware} and maximizes battery life, nevertheless it additionally means there are some limitations.

Chorda is at its greatest when it leans into its stripped-down nature and delivers plucky FM leads and clear pads. It’s additionally fairly adept on the lo-fi edges of chiptune, the place even the meager processor is much extra highly effective than something discovered inside classic recreation consoles.

More advanced sounds, particularly ones that try and mimic acoustic devices, is usually a little spotty. Bright Violin and Clean Guitar aren’t a lot better than what you’d discover on a ’90s ROMpler (a sample-based synth).

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