BLL Instruments Elyra, a fusion of a digital Synthesizer and a guitar

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BLL Instruments Elyra is an innovative digital Synthesizer that allows you to strum and shred synth sounds like on a guitar or a bass.

Traditional synthesizers are played with white and black keys. The white ones are particularly popular, as I heard. Synthesizers can also be played with sequencers, often seen in modular systems. A modern alternative is touch interfaces on mobile devices that offer a unique way of playing and bending notes. I like it a lot.

For many years, guitarists and bassists have also been able to play synth sounds with their instruments. The technology that makes this possible has improved a lot in recent years. The young French company BLL Instruments has recently published Elyra, melting a digital polyphonic Synthesizer and a guitar/bass in an innovative instrument.

BLL Instruments Elyra

BLL Instruments Elyra

Elyra looks a bit strange in the pictures at first. I see a wooden board and a glued white plate. In reality, however, it is a, newly developed touch-sensitive instrument with much technology inside. It’s made of electronics and sustainable wood cut and assembled in France. 

Yes, Elyra is a digital battery-powered Synthesizer. However, it’s playable in a completely different way than any other synth. The wooden body is packed with capacitive sensor technology, offering an extremely fast response time of 2 ms.

The interface consists of five distinct areas that form the main panel. A fretboard with 4×12 pads, a strumming area divided into two types (A, B), two assignable sliders, an OLED screen with a wheel, and eight contextual buttons.

BLL Instruments Elyra

Kodamo Synth Engine

At the core of Elyra is a newly created 16-voice polyphonic virtual analog synth engine with FM synthesis created in collaboration with Kodamo. The makers of the MASK1 Synthesizer.

It has two oscillators with various shapes, dedicated oscillator envelopes, a 2/4-pole filter, envelopes (filter, amp), LFOs, and effects, including distortion, overdrive, bit-crush, chorus, stereo delay, and reverb. Plus, it has a multi-track sequencer with up to 256 steps per step. 

The voicing is freely configurable so that you can have an instrument with all 16 voices or 16 with one voice each. That’s very flexible. Of course, you can also save your patches in the engine in up to 1024 memory slots.

Synth Meets Guitar/Bass Playing

Very exciting is how you can play the instrument. You can play in a traditional synth way with a MIDI keyboard, using the onboard MIDI port. The highlight and unique selling point for me, is that you can play it like a guitar/bass with the touch interface. 

The different areas of the interface are designed for this guitar and bass-style playing. There are two strumming areas for strings, one dedicated to back and forth, and another to bass and arpeggios.

To play the Elyra, you can put it on your body and strum/shred it like a proper guitarist. Alternatively, you can also lay it down on a flat surface and use it more like a tabletop instrument. Btw, Elyra is designed for left- and right-handed musicians.

As you can see in the linked video below, you explore the instrument, like a guitar/bass, with the same playing techniques.

On the connection side, you have a stereo output, a MIDI in/out ports, and a 5V micro USB port for powering. Why on earth they still have a micro USB installed is a mystery to me.

Hopefully, they will replace it in the future with a robust USB B or USB C. Don’t forget that the main power is a built-in battery that gives you the freedom to play without a USB cable for hours.

First Impression

At first glance, a strange but also fascinating instrument. If a guitar-like shape had been used, more people would have noticed it as a guitar Synthesizer.  With this optic you have to look more closely to see the actual instrument.

For people who share a passion for both instruments, the Elyra could be very exciting. I am very pleased to see that two young French companies, BLL Instruments and Kodamo have collaborated here. 

BLL Instruments Elyra is available now for $1099/1199€, including taxes and shipping.

More information here: BLL Instruments

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