TL;DR Summary: I’m thinking about a new product based on the Orchestron, and I’m looking for input.
I’ve received a few product suggestions from potential customers:
- Can you make a smaller version?
- Can the discs be smaller (10 inches)?
- Can it have an envelope generator (ADSR)?
- Can you make it less expensive?
- Where are the tone controls?
- What about a USB port?
- Can I sync it to my DAW?
- Can it have a built-in keyboard?
If I take this list seriously, it would suggest a new type of disc player. These requirements don’t really fit well with the legacy Optigan discs due to size and format. However, I can envision a smaller Orchestron-like machine that addresses most of this list.
If you study the list, you may notice a potential conflicting requirement: Make it less expensive and add a keyboard. Keyboards are expensive! There are many types of keyboards—everything from cheap plastic mini keys all the way to weighted wooden keys with sensors for velocity and polyphonic aftertouch. There are also weird versions, like the PCB pressure keyboard on the Arturia MicroFreak. Many synthesizers use keyboards made by the Italian company, Fatar, and you pay for their quality.
The cost of the keyboard hardware is just the beginning. You need to house the keyboard in a sturdy chassis, and you need to acquire larger, sturdier shipping cartons/padding. The increased size and weight make shipping expensive. If this new player is to be affordable, it probably cannot have a conventional keyboard. Being a niche product, economies of scale aren’t in play.
I’m not saying a version with a keyboard is out of the question, but I would have to have enough confirmed sales orders to make it happen. Also, I’m sure the company I work for doesn’t want to commit the warehouse space for the raw parts or finished goods. Smaller is better.
Make an Orchestron style player that uses 10” discs, has polyphonic ADSR, is smaller than the Panoptigon, is affordable (target: half the price of the Panoptigon), and has a USB port.
As far as other controls and features: I’m looking for reasonable suggestions. What would you pay extra for? What are the must-have features?
As far as syncing to a DAW: This is a popular feature request for the Panoptigon, but there are a number of technical hurdles involved.
Briefly, assuming the DAW would be the master, we’d have to come up with a way to chase sync and ensure the downbeat of the disc aligns with the downbeat of the DAW. There’s also the matter of time signatures to consider, as well as tempo changes. Starting, stopping, and dynamic changes in any of these factors will cause audible lags while the disc tries to catch up. And don’t forget that tempo always determines pitch.
DAW sync may be a useful feature for the Panoptigon despite all these issues, but probably less useful for this new instrument concept, since Orchestron discs, with a few exceptions, are mostly non-rhythmic in nature.
Since making the Panoptigon, I have thought about ways to reduce costs (and therefore, the selling price). I won’t go into details here (too technical), but I believe I see a way forward.