impOSCar2 - Hardware Controller History
Since the days of analogue synthesis we’ve all been acutely aware of the connection between tactile control and creativity but with the advent of digital control and the pursuit of lower manufacturing costs, sadly, tactile control all but vanished from the synthesizer world during the 80s
During that time we were largely working away with modules and their tiny displays, either on the road or stuck in a studio somewhere creating things for someone else to make money from. The phrase ‘wallpapering through a letterbox’ was coined for this type of work. Its frustrations, combined with the advent of computer based music making, lead us to create then manufacturing a revolutionary little controller in the late 90s called Phat.Boy.
Armed with 14 knobs and three modes of operation (Creative Labs, GS/XG & CC) it was affordable, produced outstanding results when hooked up to even the most basic of module and sold very well. It was a joy to operate and, for us, an even bigger joy to witness the way this unassuming box of knobs drew people in and immersed them in a truly creative music making experience.
It was a little phenomenon and naturally, numerous bigger companies took note and it didn’t take long before it was being copied to death. In time, many of these companies began to dominate the market with cheaper (and in some cases, better) versions of the same thing. In 2000 we concluded the Phat.Boy run with a limited edition stainless steel model (100 units) that we gave to several people who’d helped us along the way. (Manfred Ruerup, take a bow for insisting that we have a MIDI CC Mode for ReBirth users).
While it was very gratifying to see our self-financed baby spawn a return to hands-on control, during its lifetime we’d observed an area in which all generic controllers lack. Namely, the lack of immediate positional association between a knob and the parameter being controlled. Unless the controller echoes the layout of the unit you are controlling there is a translational process involved where the user has to make a mental association between the location of a knob on the generic controller and the corresponding parameter on the interface of a software instrument/effect etc.
Recognizing this invisible but significant obstacle gave us the idea of creating specific controllers devoid of any associative barriers and make the work flow instinctive and organic – very much akin to the process involved in programming something like a Minimoog.
Sadly, and being of limited financial means, despite our best endeavors we were never able to bring our ideas to market. But years later Mario Jurisch (AKA Super Mario) realized this for us with a stunning one-off custom made impOSCar2 controller.
After taking delivery of this and using it in earnest for impOSCar2 patch design during development, we then took it to various electronic musicians of note including Underworld, Tim Dorney, John Foxx and Billy Currie to see if their experiences mirrored ours. The results spoke volumes – a completely immersive experience where all potential barriers between the might and complexity of the software impOSCar2 and the creative pursuit of the musician vanished. Watching their involvement with both the controller and the impOSCar2, it was clear that there was no translational process involved at all, just pure creative process.
So blown away were we that we actually ended up leaving it with a few artists while they worked on albums and projects. Even after they were finished it was hard to prise it from their hands.
Having witnessed this it would have been easy for us to jump straight back into making controllers ourselves. However, as a small company we have to be careful not to over-reach ourselves, and our limited resources are more often than not taken up with software updates and developing new instruments and ideas. Additionally, while Mario’s work was brilliant, our controller wasn’t what you could call road-worthy and he'd, very sanely in our opinion, made it clear that he had no plans to quit his day job in favor of setting up a small manufacturing plant.
Enter Touch Digital, a company who had previously observed the creative potential that tactile control had allowed musicians via their wealth of experience in vintage synthesizer sales and restoraions, and who were already investigating the idea of creating small runs of dedicated, custom controllers.
Convinced by the impOSCar2’s sonic potential, it was a case of perfect synchronicity and they embarked on a journey to build a truly road-worthy and intuitive controller for the impOSCar2 as their first commercial project.
After seeing and playing with the finished controller it’s fair to say that we were blown away. Not only at the level of control that this allows the user, but also at the build quality. Finally we have a professional, road-worthy and eminently desirable controller to realize the impOSCar2’s stunning creative possibilities. And after all these years of waiting, it’s a little like a dream come true for us.
The impOSCar2 controller is available exclusively from Touch Digital Controllers...
Touch Digital Controllers' IMP2C is pretty much the last word in luxury controllers. Resplendent with 83 beautiful custom made aluminium knobs for that old school vibe - 7 LED lit buttons - 2 punch in/out switches and 9 momentary buttons, the tactile element and creative feedback this beauty gives you when hooked up to the awesome sounding impOSCar2 software synth, makes you fall in love with programming synths again!
Hand crafted by people with a respected background in vintage synth restorations means that the best of the design ideas from the 1970’s and 80’s were employed in the manufacturing and assembly process with a result that the impOSCar2 Controller is elegant, robust and totally tour-worthy.
The case has been fabricated from 2mm thick sheet steel which has then had 223 precision laser cut holes applied and then formed to make the design. The panels have then been powder-coated and oven baked for a hard wearing satin black finish. This whole process was handled by a precision engineering company working from a demanding design brief with the finished chassis being the culmination of hundreds of hours work.
There is nothing average about any of this. But the combination of impOSCar2 and IMP2C controller is not for the average - it's for those who understand both the difference between a pristine quality software synth and the also-rans - a precision engineered controller and the cheap-as-chips brigade.