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Joué Board & Modules

MIDI Controller
By Nick Rothwell

Joué

The Joué offers a highly configurable modular MIDI control system.

Pressure-sensitive, MPE-capable, configurable multi-touch MIDI controllers seem to be like buses: you wait ages then two come along (almost) at once. I reviewed the Sensel Morph back in October, but mentioned the Joué in that article since I first came across the latter some months before that. Finally, I have a Joué in front of me.

We've had boutique controllers since at least the first Monome (Sound On Sound September 2008), and the Joué is in similar tradition, coming from a small French company led by the creator of the original Lemur controller. The Joué is a slim block measuring some 36cm wide and 14cm deep, and appears to be milled out of a solid block of wood, though in fact a cursory glance at the underside reveals that it's constructed from panels glued together with almost hermetic precision. The top of the device sports a metal plate with a recessed area which takes a selection of brightly-coloured flexible silicone 'modules'. You can consider the Joué itself to be something of a blank slate which is configured by the choice of modules installed on it. On the right-hand end of the device is a USB-C socket and a power LED.

Like the Sensel Morph, the Joué itself is a generic multi‑touch sensor — the modules are essentially passive (though they are configurable, as described below). Unlike the Sensel, the Joué doesn't feature Bluetooth for wireless operation, and its interfacing is purely MIDI.

Getting Started

Plug the Joué in, and it appears as a class-compliant MIDI controller. It actually has two virtual MIDI ports: one labelled 'Play' for general use, and one labelled 'Edit' for configuration using the dedicated editor, which you can download from the Joué website. (The manual sensibly warns against attempting to use this second port for anything other than the editor.)

My unit arrived with a full complement of modules, which we'll look at below. Notionally the Joué has space for three modules at once, if they are a standard square shape (9cm on a side), but some modules are double- or triple-width. They are held in place magnetically, though you'll need to have the Joué fully populated or they'll have a tendency to shift around under your fingers.

The Joué editor does the duty of configuring the modules. It's relatively easy to use, although slightly lacking in polish. In particular, it would be useful to have some in-built help or mouse-over hints to explain exactly what's going on; it's not always clear how the editor settings relate to the module on the device, there are some menus containing only one selection item (such as, for some reason, colour), and some parameter settings are rather obscure, such as the fretboard's 'Vibrato' and 'Bending', which run from 0 to 8096 without further explanation. (In fact, the higher value is close to the numerical limit of 14-bit MIDI pitch-bend messages, and Joué...

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Published May 2019