Tuna Knobs: Are You Dying for Some Tactile Control of Your iPad Music Apps?

Phones and tablets aren’t just for DJs with funny helmets. A very large number of new effects processors, mixing applications, even standalone stompboxes, are integrating app support. This is generally considered to be a good thing, because CPUs aren’t large, but knobs and buttons are if you need to fit 5-20 of them on a surface. Smartphone/tablet compatibility is what’s allowed forward-thinking effects manufacturers like Eventide and T.C. Electronic to offer you far more parameter control that you’d expect to find on miniscule units such as the H9 multi-effects or Toneprint pedals. What’s more, it can be achieved with a large intuitive interface instead of shoehorning some awkward 3-button control onto the remaining chassis surface real estate.

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Of course the downside to touch screens is, well, ironically it’s the lack of touching. Or more specifically, grabbing. Real tactile control. Sure, if you just need to tweak your wet/dry mix down from 65% to 60% it’s unlikely to be an issue, but what if you’re running band’s live sound (or an aspect of it, or the lights, whatever) on an iPad’s virtualized mixer? You may need to ride a volume fader and your grubby stupid fingers won’t settle for a capacitive slider. There comes a time when you need a damn knob. Something three-dimensional.

Enter Tuna Knobs. These dolphin-safe, mercury-free little nubbits suction on to your touch screen and work their magic with conductive rubber. You turn the knob, the app thinks your finger is directly on the screen.

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Of course, my big concern is compatibility: will these knobs only work with the handful of apps so far named, or will you be able to stick them on to most of your favorite software? That will be impossible to get a grasp on (pun intended) until these units find their way into users’ hands, which should be soon. The Tuna Knobs team has a Kickstarter to fund production, but the goal line was hit within the first day. Still, if you want to get in on backing the project, and the excitement and fabulous bonuses that such an act of pseudo-altruism entails, here’s where to do it. Most of the backer levels break down to roughly 10 or 11 Euros per knob (about $13.50 to $15), and include some sort of “tuna pouch” or “tuna sticker,” neither of which are made from actual tuna as far as I can tell. I’ll try to get confirmation on that.

Source: Sound on Sound

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.