In just over a year, the open source Monome hardware has become a cult hit among musicians. A grid of buttons seems deceptively simplistic; I have to admit I was skeptical at first. But the Monome has spread by word of mouth because this simple design can be elegant, because the build quality and touch of the buttons is exceptional, and because custom, open source software lets you tailor the controller to be whatever you want. Perhaps the scarcity of the device itself in a mass-market world is the reason. But fret not: while the original 40h is gone, there are many more models coming. Co-creator Brian Crabtree has just posted details of what’s to come on the official site.

Despite what appeared to be a momentary panic on eBay, more Monomes are on their way, in new shapes, sizes, and forms.

40h Special Edition

The 40h Special Edition. Good: it’s white. Bad: Greedo shoots first.

A special edition 40h. The original 8×8 is back in a limited edition, with a new white-and-orange color scheme, hand-felted wool carry case (felting is the creators’ other talent), and internal tilt / acceleration sensing for … whatever you want. Brian showed me a wonderful application that made it look like the LEDs were falling across the front panel with gravity.

Price: US$800, and part of the money goes to giving the world bees and chicks in the process. (You know, the animals — because people depend on them to eat.)

Availability: “A couple of weeks.”

40h/se []

New Monome grid sizes

New sizes mean Monome-loving Goldilocks out there will be happy. Unless you were hoping for the Monome Triangle.

Mini 8×8, 8×16, 16×16: Three new form factors are on their way. We’ve known for some time that a monster 16×16 Monome was coming. I’ve seen it in person now, and it’s actually quite portable (so “monster” in number of buttons, but not overall size). The original 8×8 had fairly large-sized buttons — still small enough to fit in a backpack or small case, but bigger than the upcoming 16×16. The new smaller buttons not only make the 16×16 more compact, but allow a new 8×8 mini (“nano”?) that’s even more portable than the original. And, lastly, there’s a “stretch” 8×16 form factor — the equivalent of two 8x8s — perhaps inspired by David Phipps’ custom 8×16 model as exclusively covered here on CDM. (“Exclusive” because David surprised me by sending a complete tutorial, with tips on sourcing all the parts!)

Price: TBD. Availability: Soon — and since the 16×16 design was the basis for the others, they should follow shortly.

Good stuff ahead []

Wood and Sensible Names: The other change on all the new aforementioned boxes is that they’ll have wood enclosures and aluminum top plates, returning the Monome to its original wooden roots. Get the stain ready. Also, whereas previously the models had the somewhat mysterious names 40h and 100h, they’re now more intuitively named for the arrangement of buttons. 100h is now 16×16, which is what we were all calling it anyway. Sorry, scratch that — they’ve just switched from hex to decimal. 40h = 64. Then again, hey, call it whatever you want — especially if you’re building a custom kit (I dub thee Marvin the Monome):

40h Kit proto board

Roll your own Monome! The kits will include logic boards and, optionally, buttons. No case, so you can build your own. As a triangle, if you really want to.

Kits! The new designs look great, but I’m personally most excited that kits for the keys and logic board will be shipping soon. This opens up the possibility of people creating one-of-a-kind Monomes, of extending the concept beyond what people had originally imagined. It means Monomes that are personal, that you won’t be able to buy on eBay … or buy, period. We’ve already seen very cool stuff with custom hardware, as with the countless C64/SIDstation mods made by Commodore lovers. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Monome. This also opens up the possibility of me building one of the worst case designs ever. So we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully it doesn’t come out like a birdhouse made in shop.

Price: Logic alone will be US$110. The keypad kit will include four 4×4 grids, plus the grid board, for US$140 — meaning you could have an 8×8 for, total, US$250, not including the enclosure you build. You could also just get the logic board and turn it into something original. Availability: Orders at the end of the week, no pre-orders, but “don’t worry about availability” is the message.

Future soldering [ — and yes, that looks super-easy to assemble, in case this is your first project of this kind. Plan to spend your time on the enclosure.]

So, Monomes, Monomes everywhere.

Just don’t tell that to eBay. The Monome creators have expressed a commitment to sustainable parts and domestic creation — which also translates to limited runs. Despite the fact that they indicated new Monomes were on the way, some people apparently reached the conclusion that the popular 40h form factor was going away forever. That was largely a good thing, in that many who had postponed buying a 40h snapped them up, and, hey, everyone likes excuses to buy new instruments. But it’s also prompted eBay sales above list price. One model just sold for US$760. Two more models have appeared.

More Monome talk soon; stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m off to sleep and dream of … enclosures.

Thanks to Brian for happy announcements and a heads-up.

  • kibibu

    Of course, 40 in hexidecimal (40h) is 64 in decimal, which is how many buttons the 8×8 one has. Ditto with 100h (100h = 256 = 16×16)

  • Yeah, and that's cool. But even so, it's easier to think in terms of the grid — especially now, because the moment you change the *arrangement*, you need to have both the x and y axes. 😉

  • wow this is so exciting. i thought i totally missed the boat on the whole monome thing… i love second chances.

  • VanceG

    I'm a bit confused by this math:

    "Price: Logic alone will be US$110. The keypad kit will include four 4×4 grids, plus the grid board, for US$140 — meaning you could have a 16×16 for, total, US$250, not including the enclosure you build. "

    Wouldn't one need one Logic (@ $110) plus four keypad kits (@ $140 each) to create a 16×16 grid? My thinking is: If one keypad kit = four 4×4 modules, then one keypad kit = one 8×8 module. Then you would need four 8×8 modules to create one 16×16 module. Or am I misunderstanding what a 4×4 module is?

    from my math (which may be based on incorrect assumptions) it would be $670 for a build it yourself 16×16 module.

    Am I correct?

  • Vance … you're entirely right.

    I meant to say $250 = 8×8.

    Then again, if you look at it cross-eyed and blurry … um, never mind.

  • kibibu

    From the website it looks like they are keeping the mysterious naming system, just switching from hex to decimal!


    * 256 (two fifty six) the 16×16 whose design has solidified

    * 128 (one twenty eight) is an 8×16

    * 64 (sixty four) is a small 8×8


    "they’re modularly based on the 256 (previously the 100h)"

  • i love my monome – even though i'm tempted to fleabay it… i'm keeping mine…

    i'm really looking forward to the mini 8×8…

  • NineTailedFox

    Vance, apparently the logic kit "is capable of driving an 8×8 led matrix", so one wouldn't do it for a 16×16. +$330? Creeping up to $1000, plus LEDs, plus time spent soldering them all…

  • yeah, don't forget the cost of buying/shipping LEDs, a soldering iron & solder (if you don't already have one) and an enclosure.

    and then there is the time required to correctly align LEDs.. from the website, "be cautious with your led purchase! some leds may not work with the circuitry because they require a high forward voltage (the driver supports up to 3.5v, take a moment to select an iset resistor according to your leds—see the max7221 datasheet, p11.)

    precise led alignment is tricky. for mass soldering we constructed a jig (a thick plastic plate with holes) for exact alignment, however we had good results can using a strip of gaffers tape, soldering one row at a time.

    the keypad kit does require you to solder surface mount diodes. these diodes are included in the kit. orientation is very important, do not solder them on backwards."

    not trying to discourage anyone, just getting the facts out there!

  • Well, I think the wise thing to do would be, if you really want the kit, stick to the 8×8 layout. 16×16 adds up to a LOT of work.

    Surface mount soldering diodes isn't so bad … surface mount soldering can be painful, yes, but that's not the worst thing there.

    LED alignment could be a challenge, yeah. I think that and the case will be the biggest time sucks.

    I'll try to get a kit myself, so we can actually walk through what's required! Just means I do have to think of how to build the enclosure. 🙂

  • NineTailedFox

    I was wondering if the empty space at the top-right of a Kontrol 49 would be big enough, and have the necessary space behind it, to house an 8×8 grid. Maybe with the new, smaller buttons, but I take it from the mention of the 40h faceplate schematic that the key kit is in the larger, original size.

    How about a 4×32 monometar so you can throw axe shapes onstage?

  • NineTailedFox, that's exactly what I was thinking! There's only 6 inches x 6 inches of space to work with really, and I'd think that the 8 x8 Monome would be larger than that … BUT, you could always mod the keyboard.

  • original 40h case is:

    6.75 by 6.75 by 1.125 (inches)

  • bliss

    Y'all crazy.

  • Hungry Antelope

    But once again they have no plans for MIDI… which means that this is pretty much a toy for the laptop warriors.

  • @Hungry Antelope: The logic board uses serial, and it's all very Arduino like. If you want to add MIDI, you could, I would think, via the kit… and it's open, so you could document the process. 🙂

  • It's raining Monomes! It's true that I'm biased… I took to the grid like a fish to water from the earliest demo videos, but I love seeing the Monome crew succeeding in this endeavor. Bees and chicks!

    @Hungry Antelope:

    Using just hardware, how would you map the 64 buttons to MIDI notes? It seems like you would lose so much functionality if they were hard-coded.

    You do need a laptop or desktop for it, but there are already several different ways to map these devices to MIDI. One of these, a Max app I wrote called Balron, allows you to lay a multitude of 8-tone scales across the grid of the 40h so you can use it as a melodic controller. I use it with my hardware synths all the time.

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  • Kennedy

    I posted this on the Arduino forum but figured I'd copy it here too. With the cost of the rubber pads so high I wish somebody made/sold a 4×4 board using one of these:

    that was designed so that you could connect multiple 4×4 board's together with additional hardware/processing. It would also be cool if the board was built to accommodate LEDS for each button(although to keep the top side flat I suppose there would have to be holes cut on the board with the LED mounted on the back side). Another nice thing about a board like this is that you wouldn't have to worry about tooling a button grid/frame and could simply paint on a clear sheet of plastic and epoxy the board to it. Unfortunately, due to the parts package size there's no way I could lay the board out and build it…

  • NineTailedFox

    d_r_e, the grid itself on the 40h is 145mm/5.7" to a side. Any idea how crowded it is inside the K49?

  • poopoo

    I wish Behringer would hurry up and copy these. They are ridiculously expensive for such a simple device. Let's hope Uli picks one up on ebay soon.

  • @poopoo: if you want cheaper devices with buttons, without the craftsmanship, sustainable parts, extensive software support and community support, and design that goes into these, you can probably find one. It's a small-run, domestically-produced, high-quality device — and there aren't many of those, and it can prove to be a better value in the long run because you won't need to buy other crappy devices one after another, and you can repair it if anything goes wrong. If you really want a large-run, unsustainably-produced, low-quality device with little to no software support that will cause you support and configuration headaches and offers overly rigid connection to software, I can recommend a wide range of hardware. I just generally assume that's of less interest to people. In fact, generally, I assume that with short-run or big-run, larger-name brands, our job is to pick out the stuff of value that's enjoyable to use.

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