The Roland D-Beam

US Iconic Infra-Red interaction or epic Lazer-fail?      12/06/24

There are many unique ways to interact with music gear, and new ones being made all the time - just look at this year's Superbooth coverage on the excellent Wiggler monosynth! The D-Beam is an Infra-Red gesture controller which has been built into a sizable number of Roland's gear collection including the MC-505, Fantom X8, AX Keytar, and, V-Synth. Here's an excerpt from a fantastic article written by Perfect Circuit on the History of the D-Beam:

Whether you've knowingly come across a D-Beam in the wild or not, you'll almost certainly be familiar with its spiritual ancestor--the theremin. This wondrously oddball device was one of the earliest electronic instruments, invented way back c. 1919. It allowed the operator to control both the pitch and the volume of an audio signal by positioning their hands near two antennae.

They continue...

It would be fair to say that the perspective and feelings about the D-Beam and its usefulness within the electronic music community are...mixed, and will differ markedly depending on who you speak to. Some folks swear by it and the extra layer of expression it enables for performance, while others dismiss the Beam as nothing more than a pointless gimmick. Even a cursory search online will bring up a myriad of forum posts with people crying out in exasperation: "What is the point in this thing?!".


There are hundreds of videos on the subject, but the ultimate D-Beam demo comes within this product launch video we shared a few months back which is Timestamped here (we cannot timestamp on embedded videos at the moment). Skip to :8:39......


There's an archived version of the Roland Website which features the D-Beam here. Note that the "D-BEAM light has been colored for illustrative purpose only. Actual infrared beam is invisible". Hilarious! 

For the super nerds among us - here is the Circuit Diagram of a D-Beam!

Will you be D-Beaming this afternoon?

About the author [midierror]: midierror makes nifty Max For Live devices, innovative music hardware, award winning sample packs and hosts a podcast speaking to people in the music world.

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