Designing an Electronic Handpan Tone-Field - with Lumen

Attempts to produce an electronic version of the Handpan have been appearing on our radar here at HPM since back in 2011, with “Dome Control”, by Sonic Fingers.  And the more recently announced “Oval”.  However, one of the main concerns with these new digital versions of the Handpan, is whether they could in any way replicate the subtle nuances of the Handpan, or would ultimately turn out to be little more than expensive Handpan-shaped MIDI controllers. With one of the main issues in this area being the function and sensitivity of any given electronic Handpans tone-fields.  

In their most simplistic definition, “tone-fields” are often thought of as being the "notes" that make up a Handpans scale,or sound-model.  But in reality, the tone-fields of a well-tuned Handpan are more complex than that, incorporating such things as overtones, and octaves, and harmonics. And with earlier electronic Handpan like the Dome Control being lacking in even basic velocity sensitivity - any real world comparison between digital Handpan, and the real thing, has thus far been bleak (though the Oval also shows promise).

However, recent updates from the team behind the development of the Lumen Electro-Accoustic Handpan, have shown that this is an issue very much at the forefront of their minds. With the announcement of their newly designed sensors. That have been constructed to offer force-measurements across ten different zones (see right). Combined with an intention to use this technology to more closely mimic the complexities of a hand-tuned Handpan.

Unfortunately at time of posting there is still very little in the way of actual audio/video footage of the Lumen out there for consumption. Other than the original video of the prototype (below).

But design updates such as the new sensors, and other recently announced refinements are suggestive of a strong desire to produce an electronic Handpan that offers as close an experience (and perhaps in some ways more than) its steel-made counterpart. And with the first Lumen expected to reach their owners come January, 2017. We don't have too long now to wait, to see if they hit their mark.

You can get the latest on the Lumen over at their Facebook page: HERE

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