Electronic music is fantastic, but sometimes it's easy to get lost in the buttons and the mouse clicks when making and performing your music. Iceland's Genki Instruments has introduced the Wave ring, which was launched on Kickstarter and is now in regular production and continually evolving. The Natural User Interface (NUI) is designed to let you use your tech with human gestures, and the Wave ring can currently control things with six gestures, including roll, tilt, pan, vibrato, tap, and click. These controls allow you to control aspects of your production or performance with gestures in real-time, bringing a more human element to the process instead of just punching a key or turning a digital dial.
At an MSRP of $199, the Wave Ring is not out of reach, and comes with a soft synth standalone program (Softwave), and works directly with your DAW. So this is a nice little package and will give you a serious bang for the buck if you use it correctly. Included in the box is a nice carrying case, the ring itself and a USB charging cord.
The ring is meant to be worn on your index finger (the one you point with) and features a soft adjustable strap with velcro closures to get the perfect fit. As expected, it is super light and actually pretty comfortable considering its bulk. The unit can easily be toggled off with a click of the center button when you are not using it in a performance or a session, so you don't accidentally tweak something. A small LED screen gives you a heads up on functions, and three separate control buttons are also there for more control functionality.
So who is this really for? Let's start with the production aspect of it first, as this is cool but not necessarily something you would use in the studio unless you really are looking to change things up. It's probably easier to simply map things to your midi controller than waving your hands in the air to control parameters, but we are not ruling it out altogether.
For example, if you are looking to just feel real-time modulation/parameter control when you are, say, doing some live automation in Latch mode, this could be really helpful. You can hit play, map it to the automation you are looking to control, like say a HP Filter, and just set your DAW in Latch mode and automate with the groove. Believe it or not, you can get a better feel for the automation when you get a basic level of skill with the gestures, and also gets you in practice for when you might want to use the ring in a live performance.
So moving on to our favorite part about this controller, that's the live performance part. Using one of the six gestures, you can assign them to different functions and bring a whole new dimension to your live performance. Ableton Live and Logic Pro 10.5, with its new Live Loops player, are great for using the Wave Ring. For example, you could assign the controller to a vocal loop and quickly move your finger to create a vibrato effect and then pivot to a reverb effect by rolling your hand. There are endless ways to tweak and assign the functions to your personal tastes and performances.
So now, instead of just pushing buttons to launch clips and then using knobs for effects, you can look up at the audience and move your hand to create energy with a filter/effect and make it feel like more of a performance and less button-pushing. You can even launch samples by tapping it, like a kick drum for extra punch or a vocal sample to add some flavor to a breakdown. So many options, but just be very careful before going out and using it live; make sure you dial it in, or it could be a bad scene.
The included Softwave software allows you to pair your ring pretty quickly, but it's more or less a standalone software instrument and not a plugin, unfortunately. Softwave does have some great presets to get you going, and they will map over to your DAW, but it takes a little time to figure it out. Unfortunately, the software was very unstable on our main production iMac and kept freezing, but worked fine on our laptop. Essentially this software will let you get going out of the box fairly quickly, so that's a nice plus when you are not super patient. Getting it over to your DAW and mastering that will take you some time.
Summary - The Wave Ring is innovation at its best, and Genki Instruments have developed something unique and quite cool for certain types of producers. If you are looking to change your live performance up, the Wave will definitely do that for you, but it takes practice and some patience. You will not just get this ring and start shredding with it; there is a learning curve for setup and execution. If you play out more as a DJ than a live performer, then the value of this ring rapidly declines, and it's probably something that will just end up in a drawer rather than getting actual use in your productions.
Learn more about the Wave by Genki Instruments.