Lighted Block M Review: Make Music the Modern Way

Whether you can play a musical instrument or not, if you want to make cool music, check out the ROLI Lightpad Block M ($199.95). The pocket-sized block connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth and several free companion apps, and allows the user to play sounds and create original music using the touchpad. Hundreds of sounds are included and you can subscribe to ROLI's Melodics service for more.

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The light-up touchpad is beautiful and fun to use. You can create amazing tracks and loops using gestures and taps and use the apps to customize what those signals translate to, such as fades, effects, and drums. In addition to ROLI's apps, there are numerous third-party apps that are compatible with the Block including Ableton Live and Apple Logic Pro and Garageband.

The Block is made of soft rubbery materials and has a nice heft to stay put. It charges via the include microUSB cable, but is portable. You can just use one, or you can connect multiple Blocks together, along with a piano-style keyboard, to create a really sophisticated console; although the cost can add up when you do so. But for professionals, the ROLI could be a must-have.

Pros

  • Great material design
  • Cool lights 
  • Hundreds of free sounds
  • Touch interface
  • Wireless and portable, Magnetically connects to other blocks

Cons

  • Costs add up if you add modules

Final Verdict

If you want to make music that's out of this world, the Lightpad Block M from ROLI is an expandable platform for modern music.

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Todd Bernhard is a bestselling (6+ million downloads) award-winning (AARP, About.com, BestAppEver.com, Digital Hollywood, and Verizon) developer and founder of NoTie.NET, an app developer specializing in Talking Ringtone apps including AutoRingtone. And his profile photo is of the last known sighting of Mr. Bernhard wearing a tie, circa 2007!

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip or in his pocket, but over the years, Mr. Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62. In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.