Refractor - How two dBs tutors are revolutionising electronic music performance

Since the birth of the synthesiser electronic musicians have encountered the same problem - too many things to control and not enough hands to do so. Numerous solutions have been developed but none have hit the spot, until now.

Introducing Refractor, an inspiring Max For Live device developed by dBs Plymouth tutors Chris Pratt & Matt Ward aka Sonorous Bosch/Kinesotronic.

For many years Matt & Chris have been working at the forefront of electronic music as producers and live performers. Both are deeply embedded in the modular synthesis community and are members of dBs Music's Modular Research Group. Part of their work includes researching, developing and beta-testing innovative pieces of tech for music production and performance. The best devices often end up in their live rig which includes a hefty amount of hardware and two large modular synths.

Matt ward Modular

With an ever growing setup, the issue of control and not having enough hands to perform has been an ongoing consideration in their live shows.

"The physical limitations of only having two hands meant that there was often an unbridgeable gap between a creative idea and being able to realise this idea coherently with the immediacy required in live performance" - Chris Pratt.

Experimentation with workarounds and various devices naturally began but a satisfactory solution eluded them until they decided to take matters into their own hands forming the company Kinesotronic while studying for an MA Innovation in Sound, also at dBs Music. 

Chris Pratt Modular

With the formation of Kinesotronic, Chris and Matt set out to create a way of manipulating multiple parameters across different pieces of hardware using one single controller, operated through a gesture movement. The result is Refractor, a Max for Live device that allows you to do just that and more

HubSpot Video


Refractor gives you the ability to use any piece of hardware that transmits MIDI data as the master, controlling up to 8 different functions, on different devices, in different ways. Examples include using crossfaders, sound beams, breath controllers, light sensors, touch-sensitive controllers, pedals and more  to operate many functions within your setup at once. 

Working with Refractor means that a single movement could open a filter, push the resonance, speed or slow an LFO, increase an effect amount and a whole manner of other things, all at the same time. It may sound cliche but you are only limited by your imagination. What makes Refractor even more interesting is that each of the 8 channels can have a different shape of movement.

Refractor Envelope Shapes
As you move the fader one parameter could be ramping up quickly with a steep curve, while the next function on the next channel could be following a slow and gradual curve. The movement shapes can be customised manually and saved as presets. The result's are really expressive and have huge potential for sound design and studio production as well as live performance.

"Refractor was conceived as a performance tool but the more I use it in the studio, the more I'm finding it helps me to discover combinations of parameters and gestures I would never have tried under normal circumstances...This seems to promote sonic exploration far more than cyclical approaches to modulation do." - Matt Ward.

The demonstration video below provides a great example of how powerful Refractor can be and the huge variety of sound that can be created with just one crossfader swipe.

HubSpot Video


Refractor is the first product to be released by Kinesotronic and is likely to make a big impact as soon as the wider community begins to understand how powerful it can be. If you end up being one of the early adopters we would love to see what you can do with it. Please send videos or audio of your sonic adventures with Refractor to mike.steventon@dbsmusic.co.uk

If you would like to try Refractor, Chris and Matt have included a 10% discount code for dBs Insider readers. Just apply the code 'kine001_insider' at the checkout to get your discount.

Sonorous Bosch

Love electronic music? Check out our 7 must hear electronic music albums recommended by the dBs community.

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