Wave + Wavefront — Genki Instruments

Wave + Wavefront — Genki Instruments

by Ellison Wolf

Wave is a Bluetooth MIDI controller ring by Icelandic company Genki Instruments. It controls CV on your DAW, modular, etc., and right off the bat seems way less overwhelming and complicated than other similar MIDI controlling devices that you wear. Some of the MIDI clothing [I'm looking at you gloves!] seem so confusing, with so much to remember, I wonder how anyone can perform and get into the performance while using them. A lot of times these devices seem way too much about the technology, while forgetting who/what would be controlling it. I was interested in giving Wave—and its Eurorack module controlling compatriot Wavefront—a shot to see if it struck the right balance of man vs. machine.

Wave has a futuristic look, with its geometric black plastic body and features an adjustable Velcro closure, a small LED display—to give visual indication of various states of the ring—a micro-USB port for charging, and three buttons: Up, Middle, and Down. In order to utilize all of its functions easily, it’s necessary to wear Wave sideways on your index finger with the LED screen facing up, and the button side facing your thumb. It makes sense that it should be worn this way, but it does feel slightly weird at first.

Wave’s controls are activated by six different hand movements, which also correspond to the six outputs on Wavefront: Tilt, Pan, Roll, and Vibrato all describe the hand motion needed to manipulate the corresponding CV from -5V to +5V. Tap refers to doing a tapping motion with your ring finger and triggers a 5V pulse, great for kick drums or starting an event. Clicking the Down button opens a 5V gate. A quick Middle button push will deactivate and reactivate Wave so that it minimizes the chances of accidentally altering a parameter while patching, grabbing a drink, or sneezing into your mask [ugh]. Wavefront has six CV outputs and a small pushbutton for syncing with Wave or any other Bluetooth MIDI device with a glowing LED to shows its sync status. 

After Wave charged up [via the supplied mini USB cable] and I slipped it on my finger and patched my first parameter [the vibrato output on Wavefront to into the filter CV in on my Electrosmith 2144 LPF], I moved the ring around. I was delighted and surprised. It was extremely expressive, very easy to use, really precise, and most of all, it was a lot of fun. And kinda funny, too. It’s hard to resist stepping back and assuming the role of Modular Synth Conductor, with an oversized black cat+synth t-shirt replacing the bib and coat tails. Tiny nods of my hand opened and closed the filter, with the movement of my hand corresponding to the movement of the filter. After a few minutes of this quick initial test, it was time to patch Wavefront to the max.

Controlling the mix level of the Xaoc Devices Sarajewo with the Pan movement, and the waveform select on the Blue Lantern TPCSlim VCO with the Roll, while adding a little Vibrato to the input CV of the VCO meant that I had to really pay attention to make sure my hand/finger didn’t dip down because if it did, it cut the filter off completely and hence there was no sound. It was amazing to be able—with a slight twist of my hand—to go from a heavily delayed sound to completely clean, while slightly closing of the top end of the filter, and adding a little vibrato to the mix. A little equals a lot with Wave [and Wavefront].

Since the Tap and Click are pulse/trigger respectively, I patched those into the ADDAC Systems 105 for some kick and snare action. While it worked fine, Tap was definitely a little twitchy and reacted a little too easily to some tapping, or movements that were construed as close enough, but it was interesting to be able to add some real time beats, though it wasn’t easy to keep it in any sort of musical time, especially when adding in all of the other hand motions.
Wave is precise, and it requires a little patience, practice, and some memorization to fully integrate into what’s controlling what.

In the heat of battle I found myself having to focus on remembering what was patched into where, and it detracted from my experience and expressiveness, my main argument with controllers like this. But because of Wave's relative simplicity I quickly came up with a solution that put that issue to rest. I dedicated each movement to only one control, meaning that I only used Tilt for filter sweeps, Pan for panning or mixing between wet and dry of an effect, Vibrato for vibrato, etc. It really made the difference, and allowed me to be able to think a little less and play a little more.
Wave and Wavefront are incredibly fun and expressive. The manual makes quick mention of syncing more than one Wave with Wavefront, and that had me seeing visions of being the modular synth version of Tom Brady [apologies for the sports reference] with a fistful of rings; one Wave for each finger. Having multiple Waves would require digit dexterity way beyond the capabilities of my clumsy fingers, but the idea seems tantalizing and curious, nonetheless.
Genki Instruments has also provided a software, Softwave, to go along with Wave and for editing, storing presets and preset banks. On top of that, if you are ring averse but still want to control stuff in a cool and futuristic manner, Wavefront can also sync with your tablet, phone, or other such device, expanding its versatility. Also available to pair with Wave is WIDI Master, a virtual MIDI cable that will let you connect Bluetooth devices straight to any hardware device that supports MIDI, without needing to hook up to a computer. I tried this briefly with my Sequential Pro 3 and I can see a lot of live uses for this type of application. 

These offerings only increase the attractiveness of Wave and Wavefront. I'll skip the ring puns, but I will say that slipping Wave on your finger packs a very powerful punch.

Price: $199

6 HP +12v 20mA -12v 5mA
Price: $199