The QRS-Connect offers several features that allow musicians to play, practice, record and share their music wherever the road may take them. Thanks to a suite of supported apps and widgets, this pocket-sized device functions as an all-in-one tool for aspiring and experienced musicians who are looking to hone their skills, track their progress and stay connected to other players.
According to Thomas Dolan, president and CEO of QRS Music Technologies, “Musicians, believe it or not, are very similar to athletes in their passion. But we felt that a simple means of tracking and capturing all you do musically, similar to an athlete’s activity tracker but for music, did not exist in a convenient form factor. So, we set out to create this new way for musicians to record, track, compare and analyze their musical activity, progress, performances and goals. In addition to being a simple, no-fuss way for musicians to record, archive, share and comment on all of their musical activities, it will deliver analytics and connect them to the community.”
The QRS-Connect supports all types of instruments. It offers an array of connectivity options, including USB-C, USB audio and MIDI, Bluetooth audio and MIDI, 2×5-pin MIDI, three-pin audio in/headphone jack, digital audio input, WiFi, speaker and sound chip, plus a built-in mic and audio output. “It works with all instruments, with or without cables,” Dolan said. “MIDI in all forms and analog in all forms.”
The device automatically records, saves and uploads; the musician just needs to connect an instrument to the device and play. “In its simplest form, the QRS-Connect is by default recording, so you only need to set it down, plug in a MIDI cable and/or, depending on the quality of the audio you are looking for, an audio cable,” Dolan described. “Audio is captured as a flac (free lossless audio codec) and/or converted to mp3. MIDI and, depending on the output, future HD MIDI can also be captured.”
QRS-Connect can be used to link musicians to the QRS-Connect.com cloud service, which offers an online ecosystem for musicians to access analytics, share and archive their recorded files, and interact with other users. “The ecosystem is essentially an agnostic music-data aggregator, so, regardless of brand or instrument, the QRS-Connect will capture, then it will auto-tag, sort, analyze and store [files] locally on the QRS-Connect and in the QRS-Connect.com cloud,” Dolan explained. “The sorting and tagging will be available in the form of a calendar and list. Content will be color-coded by tag, and there will be ways to sort by data types, from number of notes, duration, key, to MIDI variable, making it very easy to find what you’re looking for. The cloud will also add up your time spent on different tasks and compare to what you did previously or to others via leaderboards and performance scores.”
The QRS-Connect.com cloud service is available to all users, regardless of the brand of instrument they play. “We envision that most manufacturers will be creating some form of cloud, or are in the process of doing so. But ours will be truly agnostic, so if the artist plays a Kawai one day and a Steinway the next, or a guitar then a flute, they only need to go to one place to see their data,” Dolan said. “We plan to have a very open system where we share with everyone who shares with us.”
The QRS-Connect can interface with users’ mobile devices, allowing access to a host of widgets and apps with an array of functionalities. These include a Metronome Flash LED with playlist capability, a MIDI Sound Module, Tuner Pitch Detection, and a Sound Check Assistant that allows users to test line levels for PA systems, among many more. QRS plans to support the QRS-Connect by adding more widgets and apps developed by the company, as well as third parties, going forward.
With all of this functionality, QRS expects the QRS-Connect to serve as an important learning and teaching tool for musicians of all experience levels. “Our vision for beginners is mostly to give them and their teachers the ability to track how much they are practicing, what they are practicing, score their practice, present them with leaderboards and enable them to link into third-party apps such as Piano Marvel for more detailed course learning,” Dolan said. “Our vision for more experienced musicians is a bit different. Not only will we capture their work and score it, but we’ll also add unique security profiles to their creations and performances to tag and positively ID the music performance as theirs.”
According to Dolan, the QRS-Connect has received a warm reception among dealers and partners. “Once they get their arms around it, it’s a constant flow of ideas on how it can best be used for their particular situation,” he shared. “Over time, each dealer will find the use case that works for each particular customer and frame their sale to that use case. So, the piano dealer could sell it as an add-on to their digitals or to legacy customers, the music teacher could require their students to use it, composers may want the seamless-capture, save and tag features. But all users will get the tracking functionality by default, which will be the five-second product message [dealers can use to sell the product].”
QRS also has ambitious plans to promote the QRS-Connect to users and the company’s network of dealers and is actively seeking feedback on the product from early adaptors. “We have taken the unusual step — at least unusual to QRS — of rolling out our advertising early on a product that is not yet shipping or fully feature filled,” Dolan explained. “We feel there will be a learning curve associated with its capabilities, and early and often exposure will build awareness and feedback. We are partnering with several developers, artists, teachers, students, professors and retailers for first releases, development and feedback. And we will be producing a family of videos of use cases.”
Dolan continued, “Our initial kickoff will be in conjunction with our existing key piano dealers and software partners and their teacher-student bases. Of course, this gives us the advantage of initial, reliable, trusted feedback before a major blast.” He also described some dealer incentives and promotions the company plans to roll out as the product ships. “A [point-of-purchase display] will be available showing how it works. Dealer unlock will be available for floor models. The product is off the shelf — there is no work on the dealer’s part. Its packaging and presentation is similar to a cell phone.”
In addition to the continuing development of apps and widgets, QRS plans to support the QRS-Connect with more product releases in the future. “We envision adding a family of accessories that, when wirelessly connected, [will capture] data relative to its use,” Dolan said.
The QRS-Connect will be available for an MSRP of $595. According to QRS, it is expected to be released in Q1 2019.