Touch Screen Interfaces, and to a lesser degree, Large Screens

I love a good debate. Cheers!

i’d say yes, near all the time. the mpc’s/force for example turn me off, but the iridium’s doesn’t seem half bad. Still pretty annoying tho


This is a fundamental question of human factors and design, an old question going way back, like at least 1966 with Douglas Engelbart inventing the computer mouse. This interests me.

I share a lot of your feelings, but override them to use stuff like VSTs and other computer based products.

Certainly there are many new controller hardwares that can help by substituting a physical controller for the computer screen based controls.

There is a new product in development that attempts to address this specifically for VSTs. It’s from MP MIDI. Would that make using VSTs easier ?


Nektar has some similar native software for their controllers. It basically auto maps to whatever plugin you are currently focussed on in your DAW. It works pretty well but I still find myself reaching for the mouse anyway.

The thing about UI is that it changes over time. the current paradigm is the touchscreen. Babies know to pinch and swipe. What seems cumbersome to someone trained in a different UI paradigm is the air breathed by the next generation.

I’ve accidentally tried pressing something on my laptop screen a number of times. To an extent, it’s just training and muscle memory.


And hopeful improve. Touch screens go way back, and the first ones were garbage. Sensel is currently working on a touch screen interface that should be better than the iPad product. And then all that gets replaced.

And yet the violin, and the saxophone lives on in mostly their old form.


Well, the violin and saxophone rely on the physics of the design to produce the tone. We are talking about interfaces to control software. That product you linked above function pretty much the way modern MPCs do except they are already mapped out.

I dunno. For me, the touchscreen is closer to a physical interaction with the instrument than assigned knobs because you actually interact with the visible control. I hate the disconnect of looking at the controller, then looking at the screen, and trying to be sure I am grabbing the right knob. It feels awkward.


I use a Hydrasynth keyboard right now, and i think it gets close to an ideal for the flexible and yet physical interface that i seek.

I also play a Roland Aerophone which does a very good job of duplicating the physical interface of a saxophone, so much so that i find myself able to get that same expressive control.


I don’t mind to use touch screens at all (I recently bought a MPC One and I’ve just started to learn how to use it properly, but the touchscreen doesn’t bother me at all).
What I really hate is an unintuitive OS that forces me to keep diving into menus to adjust various settings and sometimes to discover that what I’d like to do is impossible to get!
This is the main reason that brought me to swap my Yamaha Montage 8 with a Nord Stage 3.


I’ve got the One as well. Love it. Actions like editing samples are WAY faster and intuitive on a touchscreen, imo.

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I see what you mean here. Though i guess id say my initial point isnt related to mapping of vsts to controllers, but rather gear that is built around a touchscreen UI. Even with a direct touchscreen control i feel it doesnt quite live up to turning knobs and moving faders mechanically vs digitally.


Right, but the same thing applies, to an extent, to an Elektron machine or an MPC. 4 knobs, change the page, now what knob does what? Something that Akai has done that I really appreciate, aside from this typical interface design, is added a big knob that controls whatever parameter you select on a page. So you have the option to just grab any control, physically, at will.


The hybrid approach you mention is certainly valid. It just turns me off for some silly reason. And youre right, elektron has menu diving and multifunction knobs just like i would have with some of the other boxes we mentioned. Perhaps its their minimalistic approach to color and size that makes it more attractive to me. Maybe i just beed a BB or a Iridium in front of me. Maybe I’m just showing my old man vibes haha. (35 yo)

So FreddyUnreal — What’s your best gear, stuff that matches your ideal and allows you the greatest expression ?

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Why Elektron gear of course :wink:. In all seriousness though, i like noodling with any gear, but at the moment my OT and Drumbrute Impact are probably the most inspirational. The OT for the versatility, and the DB for immediacy and fun. Again to my point, while limited, the drumbrute is, imo, way more fun to compose drum tracks on and play live than even my elektron boxes. No screens, no menus. I will admit though without other gear that’s more “programable” i probably wouldnt be inclined to say that’s all i need. However I still stand by the statement that touchscreen ui, and to a lesser degree, large colurful displays, are a deterrent to me for whatever reason.

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I’ve been considering the Torso T-1 generative sequencer, though I didn’t kickstart it. Again NO SCREEN, and yet from what i can tell, it doesn’t need one, and yet is very flexible, and usable controlling a large range of products.

The OT though highly flexible, fails in my opinion, in being as Cenk has described it, — Too complicated. Especially think of the Mark I, and it’s screen, and all it’s complex operation. Not to say it’s not marvelous once you’ve learned it, but the learning costs are very great. I mean can you say it didn’t make you work hard to gain the competence you have on it.

For me my Hydrasynth is something very complex, which by its design has made its operation easier than you might first expect. That to me is good design.

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Smartphone metastasis , don’t like that, i like knobs. I think name “touchscreen” is misleading, makes you think it is touch first, and screen latter, but it is the opposite, it is screen you can touch, but you have to watch at them. Knobs and keys and buttons, you can touch , like strings , really touch, without eye contact.
Screens never have personality, they are all the same, like clones, made the same, just programmed differently too serve different tasks.

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large screens: fine for studio use, but they make gear transportation-unfriendly, because require too much care.

touchscreens: worst. input. interface. ever.

also, gear with large/touch screens will never become a future classic, regardless of how good it’s designed – just because of relaibility issues and replacement screens unavailability. such gear life cycle is limited by life cycle of the screen, so it’s also very bad investment.


I don’t, I think the Polyend Tracker looks awesome.

It made me realize that I really want a Polyend Orca. Which is basically everything tracker but you switch out the tracker sequencing with Orca sequencing.

I think that would be my dream machine.


I think Macbooks and iPads are as sturdy as many other pieces of hardware with or without screens (or tiny ones at least). I’ve dropped my 2012 macbook downstairs twice and dragged it off the couch, dropped it a few times and thrown in a box with records many times and thrown it loose into my luggage when traveling. It has a few marks and a corner that has distorted, but working as good as new. I have an iPad Air from 2014 too and I expect that will continue to run for many more years and I skim it everywhere because it’s so light and frisby like, so I don’t think a screen denotes a lesser lifespan than hardware with small screens.

Quality buttons, pads and rotary knobs are much more tactile than touchscreens and definitely give me a lot of pleasure using them and have the advantage over a touchscreen, but there’s a lot of budget feeling gear like most modern Roland kit, which feels as though it’s made from cheap and horrible plastics and might not survive a drop or extended use with their flimsy looking ports.

Good knobs, pads and buttons certainly win the tactile stakes, but a larger screen for me is much nicer when working with a lot of samples and other information and trimming long samples. It’s just finding the right balance of quality, aesthetics, usefulness of a product and some things are certainly enhanced by their screens and some gear doesn’t necessarily need a screen.

Eyesight plays a factor when you get old though. It’s a lot easier to learn new gear when you can see what you’re doing.


Just googled that, hoping it was real.


Screens i don’t mind. Having to touch them, I do. It’s an accessibility thing for me.
My body has a difficult time absorbing magnesium, and combined with a medication I take, my hands tend to shake.
Because of this, I don’t gel with touch screens. I use voice to text a lot on my phone, use Messenger on my mac instead of phone whenever possible, and for synth/audio stuff prefer a physical set of knobs I can grab and stabilize with two fingers.