View all news

Global demand for Bristol-designed musical instrument

Victoria Bourne with the AlphaSphere

Victoria Bourne with the AlphaSphere

Press release issued: 8 March 2013

It’s the size of a football and uses 48 touch pressure pads to trigger and manipulate sounds and rhythms. This revolutionary Bristol-designed electronic musical instrument – called the AlphaSphere ‘elite’ – has proven so popular that it’s received orders from around the world.

Its creators are award-winning company nu desine, which is based at the Pervasive Media Studio and is a member of the University of Bristol’s SETsquared business incubator centre. Its team has been taking orders since a prototype of the innovative instrument was demonstrated at a trade fair last year.

The first batch of AlphaSpheres has now been produced and models, which cost £1,000 each, are due to be shipped as far afield as Japan and the US, while a third will remain in the UK.

It’s the brainchild of Adam Place, who set-up nu desine to move music production away from the computer and back into the instrument. The AlphaSphere works by connecting to a computer or digital audio workstation (DAW) which plays music that the user can then manipulate through the 48 pressure sensitive pads.

Its unique shape and integration with responsive LED lighting has revolutionised the experience of electronic music, bringing together the realms of traditional instruments and technology.

Adam said: “We were overwhelmed by pre-orders pretty much as soon as we announced the device, and had to move quickly in order to satisfy them. Just a single prototype was enough to sell the concept to the world, so it’s going to be really interesting to find out what happens when there are a few more out there.”

Among the first high-profile musicians to use the AlphaSphere is Mercury award-winning composer Talvin Singh, who described it as ‘an incredible universe of an instrument which gives you the feeling to tailor-make tones, aesthetically and sonically, as well as allowing you the capacity to invest in more indigenous and rebellious scale systems’.

Talvin, who this year is releasing his first new solo album since the acclaimed ‘OK’, first met the team behind the AlphaSphere in late 2012 as part of a user testing program held at Pervasive Media Studio on Bristol's harbourside.

The first production run has taken place entirely in Bristol, though components have been sourced from across the world. The company is now transferring the production process to a facility in Hartlepool, which has a higher capacity than their Bristol headquarters.

Nick Sturge, Director of the Bristol SETsquared Centre, said: “The AlphaSphere has been an exciting project to work with over the last couple of years and we are delighted to see this shipping globally. Most of the companies we work with are 'born global' and this confirms it."

The AlphaSphere was played at BBC Radio 4’s More Than Words Listening Festival last year when MA Music student Victoria Bourne previewed four new pieces of music she wrote especially for the instrument.

Further information

About the SETsquared Partnership

The SETsquared Partnership is the enterprise collaboration of the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. Together, the universities employ 8,500 academic staff, earn £450m of the UK’s higher education research budget and produce 11 per cent of all UK university patents.

The partnership has a 10 year track record of supporting companies through its innovation centres, which provide access to industry specialists, investors and experienced entrepreneurs. SETsquared currently supports over 250 early stage high-tech, high growth potential businesses, and 90% of its incubated companies are still in business three years on. In the past five years, nearly £0.75bn in investment funding has been raised by spin outs and incubated companies.

SETsquared supports its student population of over 92,000 graduate and undergraduates to gain hands on business skills and entrepreneurial training through experiential inter-university activities. The Partnership also provides opportunities for industry to access academic ideas with commercial potential and develops collaborative R&D relationships. The Partnership seeks to promote the impact, economically and socially, of its institutions’ research and enterprise activities.

For further details see or

Edit this page