Tested: Joué Play multi-touch metal/wood content creator controller for Mac and iPad

MPE controller review

We recently had an opportunity to go hands-on with the Joué Play MPE controller. The multi-touch musical input device is the latest from the brand, designed to offer a tactile musical expression controller along the lines of the ROLI Seaboard, Sensel Morph, and things of that nature. Delivering both a casual musical instrument to play and record via the companion app as well as something that can quickly become a more professional-grade MPE controller (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) via an update, it’s time to take a closer look to see what the Joué Play system offers to both parties in our latest Tested with 9to5Toys review. 

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Hands-on with the Joué Play MPE controller for Mac, Windows, and iPad

Joué Music is made of up folks responsible for 2002’s JazzMutant Lemur – an early iteration of the multitouch input computers and controllers readily available in the marketplace these days – made famous by artists like Björk, Daft Punk, Nine Inch Nails, and others. The company’s latest multi-touch music controller for Mac, Windows, and iPad musicians/producers enters both the casual consumer space (and more professional MPE marketplace via the Pro Option upgrade) with Joué Play – a metal and wood music input device with modular silicone skins or Play Pads that essentially works as an alternative to a traditional MIDI keyboard music controller. 

Joué Play works in tandem with the companion app to deliver an all-in-one expressive multi-touch instrument with “an intuitive application and interactive content to practice” as well with other third-party software instruments found inside of Logic and elsewhere. 

Made in France with sustainable materials, the system consists of the main Joué Play MPE controller with a series of Play Pads – silicone like pads you can drop onto the play surface to immediately alternate between drum pads, keyboards, and a guitar-like music input interface. It ships in a standard or the aforementioned professional configuration that also allows more pro-focused users to control third-party MPE software instruments and the like via a firmware upgrade 

Here’s a closer look at the spec sheet:

  • Made in France with sustainable materials
  • Multi-touch music input
  • Pressure sensitive multi-touch sensors
  • Full MPE support on Pro Edition
  • RFID tag
  • USB-C connectivity
  • Included Lightning and USB-A adapters
  • Included companion app with instrument library
  • App play-along and learning resources

9to5Toys’ Take

One immediate highlight of the Joué Play MPE controller is its build quality. It is a rock solid metal housing mounted atop a refined wood base and frame (french PEFC beech wood, metal, and soft silicon) – it certainly looks and feels significantly more expensive than it is as far as I’m concerned. A similar sentiment goes for the Play Pads as well, delivering a high-quality rubber-like material that carries enough weight to stay in place on the play surface with a texture that feels nice under your fingers. Not too sticky and not slippery, they make for a tactile and satisfying experience when dragging and swiping across the surface. 

I’d like to think it is an inconsequential point here, but I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate the company including a pair of those small USB-A and Lightning connector adapters alongside the USB-C cable here.

The companion app, which is where most casual users will be running the machine from, hosts a series of solid sounding software instruments designed to take full advantage of the MPE controller. From moody electric keyboards and punchy bass synths to delicate harps and a range of guitar tones, there’s plenty of nice sounding instruments to explore here.

The sort of play-along cover songs and learning aspect of the system seems to be little bit under-baked by comparison to some of the other players in the casual controller space (it is, for the most part, essentially teaching folks how to play some pop songs on the controller), much like the light DAW-like recording capabilities. Having said that, unless you’re looking for step-by-step learning resources, the high-quality sounding instruments are more than enough of a highlight with the ability to optionally expand the library down the line and the easy-to-use recording setup is likely more than enough for casual digital musicians. It’s not a system designed to teach you to play keyboard if that wasn’t already obvious.

For me, I was generally looking to make use of the Joué Play as an alternative music input method outside of the companion app anyway, and in this regard it has been a joy to experiment with. I would have preferred to see the Pro Edition, which is essentially just a firmware update that allows the MPE controller to interact with the company’s editor software and other third-party professional instruments, included here as this is the main draw for me. But all things considered, the overall price tag to secure the complete experience here is still quite competitive in the marketplace regardless. 

Buy Joué Play multi-touch MPE controller

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