Livid Ohm MIDI control surface hardware for DJ music and VJ

Livid, best known for their VJ software (Union, Cell), have a new control surface for music and visuals called the Ohm. What’s nice about this control surface is that it’s clearly designed around specific user needs, with a control setup that should work well for music software (Traktor or any DJ software, Ableton Live, and custom Reaktor ensembles spring to mind), as well as visual performance. The pads are buttons, not velocity-sensitive pads, so this will be more useful for clip triggering (sound, visuals) than drum programming. That could make this more interesting to visualists than music folks, though at least some DJs will still be happy.

What we really love: the wooden case option, which costs the same as the metal version, looks cooler, and sheds two pounds. It’s also interesting to see Livid’s “patent-pending” design with the pads in the center and mixer-style faders split.

The basic specs:

  • “Professional-grade controls.” (I’ll be the judge of that; Livid is in town so hope to get my hands on it soon.)
  • 36 buttons in a 6×6 grid
  • 8 faders, 1 DJ-style crossfader
  • 9 function buttons, plus 8 trigger/mute buttons to go with the faders
  • BPM tap button
  • 5-pin MIDI out and USB

Ohm control surface

Livid Union 2.5 is included free if you’re interested in visual work. There are also demos of Ableton Live, FL Studio (Fruity Loops), and AMG One, though, so music is kept in mind.

The MIDI out could make this a nice companion to synths, too, and not just a computer accessory.

More on this soon. Of course, if you want a Viditar as your controller, you’ll have to get Livid to custom-build for you.

Livid Ohm control surface hardware

The Ohm is available for preorders now at an introductory US$790; the unit ships at $899 list at the end of the month.

Livid Ohm Hardware Product Page

And for more thoughts on what this can do for live visuals, video art, and VJing, head over to CDMusic’s sister site:
Livid’s New Ohm Control Surface, and the Hunt for the Perfect VJ Controller [Create Digital Motion]

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  • Tom

    Hotness! I don't suppose those buttons are velocity/pressure sensitive? That would make for one monster MPC…

  • dekoh

    there's an interview with the owner of Livid in the new Future Music magazine issue out tomorrow. its real nice

  • Gorbon

    I just can't understand why didn't they put 3 (or even 4) rows of knobs above sliders), and why they didn't use velocity-sensitive pads (that way they've could function both as clip triggers AND for drums etc.), although knobs are main issue here. If they did that they would have one of the nicest control surfaces currently on the market (save for Bitstream 3x…)

    It looks relatively nice, it has plenty of buttons, it has crossfader, it has lights (very useful in club situation) and addition of 2-3 more rows of knobs would make this product more appealing to much broader range of users (just one row of knobs is really nowhere near enough for any kind of serious DJ-ing in Ableton). And I can't think of any VJ that would complain about more knobs – knobs are very useful, and the more you got, the better. Period.

    I just can't understand those kinds of management decisions. It's a simple addition to current design, and it wouldn't raise production cost much, but in the end they would have much more versatile product, which would be SO MUCH more appealing to much more potential users (and profit from this would far more surpass production cost difference).

    Every time a new MIDI controller / control surface is presented it feels like designers / companies where following this line of thought: "Let's make a controller which will LACK in options and features and alienate huge number of potential users, even if inclusion of those options / features wouldn't mean much in term of production costs. Practically every time a product like this is presented it feels like it was designed by furniture designers, car manufacturers or microwave ovens manufacturer, and not by people who understand needs and practices of targeted group (in this case visualists / DJs). It's like "let's put slider here, and knob, here..wait wait, how about crossfader here..mmm, that looks nice, let's go into production", without any kind of research etc.

    I understand that this product is more geared toward VJs, but even that target group would have great benefits from 3-4 rows of knobs, and I can't stress enough how essential it is for Ableton DJs. I mean c'mon – EQ-ing is one of the most important parts of DJ-ing, and common DJ mixers have 3 rows of EQs. Period. Is that so hard to grasp? Add one more row for let's say FX returns and you automatically atract many users who were thinking about buying some other controller.

    Really, it seems that only Bitstream nailed the needs of computer musicians / DJs. They've built robust controller with excellent layout / features / options. It can be used in both club and studio, by VJ's and DJ's alike (although there are better solutions for VJs, but it really isn't marketed as VJ tool, nor does it comes bundled with VJ apps). The point is it's designed with precse target group in mind, and they did very good job in addressing ACTUAL needs of those users. It is rather costly (IMHO if they offered more popular pricing options for it they would have much higher profit in the end – I know huge number of people who agree that it's absolutely best controller for DJ-ing, but its cost is stopping them from buying it), but it still doesn't have any real competition.

    Like I said, I can't understand that line of thought – "Let's go into process of designing and producing new product, but let's make it inferior / lacking in (easily added) features ON PURPOSE. Hooray!"

  • Optiprime

    No velo/pressure pads.

    Not many controllers.


    But at least it's expensive.

  • bliss

    Looks nice. Seems lacking in flexibility, though.

  • Vanceg

    Gorbon – Have you ever gone through a full product development cycle at an audio or video company? Until I did, I imagined that there was something entirely bizarre with the way product decisions were made which resulted in what I felt like were OBVIOUS feature omissions, the correction of which would CLEARLY make the product SO much better. (Now that I have gone through this process several times, I am SURE that there are bizarre decision making processes which go into product design…but I digress).

    I don't think that this design decision that you propose ("Lets make it inferior/lacking in easily added features on purpose" ) happens. Seriously – what DOES happen is that products are designed for one set of customers, another set of customers looks at the product and says "that is very close to what I wanted, but how could they possibly have forgotten to include my favorite feature?"

    It happens with most every product out there.

    And very, very frequently the "easy features" you mention aren't so easy. Consider adding another three rows of knobs above the pads…to do this you have to make decisions on: Do you make the enitre unit larger (maybe making it too big for some people), do you shrink the pads (maybe making them too small, or increasing cost by going to a different part), do you have enough controller logic in the device to take on 24 more controllers? Will the market take the extra cost of the added feature (It's not just the cost of the parts!)etc. etc. Surely none of these are insurmountable, but every decision can have a cascade effect in the cost and difficulty of design.

    To me: This controller has JUST what I need for VJ work. It looks awesome to me for controlling Livid or my Jitter patches.

    But it wouldn't do at all for an audio controller FOR ME. Personally – I can't see why ANYONE would make a controller that didn't have AT LEAST 4 joysticks on it and I have absolutely less-than-zero use for trigger pads. Totally worthless to me for audio work so I don't want em.

    Different strokes, of course.

    my 2 cents.

  • somosanto

    Goddarned can't anyone make a controller that has it all??? Come on.

    Just a box with a few more endless knobs, and lots of buttons in a asymetric lay out.

    Like a bcr2000, only done right.

    And, if your going to include a crossfader, why the hell would you put it there. Can't one manufacturer make a box with more than 8 endless controls and a bit of a ergonomic approach.

    Please NI, take your Kore controller and expand it.

    seriously, it would sell millions.

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  • Livid's an independent developer, so we're definitely not talking the same mass-produced economy of scale. And yes, there are always design compromises. That said, I'm all for more control surfaces.

    But I'll be sure to talk to Jay Smith from Livid, hope to put that here on CDM, and we'll have a closer look.

  • vanceg

    A controller that has "it all". I'd like that too.

    What exactly is 'it all' anyway?

    And I'd like 'it all' at a price like a Behringer. And I want 'it all' to be built like a tank. But be light. And small enough to carry on the plane with me.

    'It All' for me would include joysticks and no (damn) trigger buttons. Many folks have no use for joysticks and _need_ buttons. I'd pay $1K for the perfect controller. Some would pay over $2K for a Lemur. Some think $129 is the right price…

    An expanded Kore controller is not very useful for my needs. I really, really don't care for that one. But clearly it's ALMOST there for you. I wish they would expand it some so you could get your ultimate controller.

    Sigh. It's endless (just like the knobs I wish my perfect controller had).


    Not poking fun of you, Somosanto – just using your excellent post as a jumping off point.

  • vanceg

    And/But/Also: I really don't think an expanded Kore controller would sell millions. Or even 100,000. Or even 10,000….

  • I think we're a lot closer, honestly.

    We have hardware built by actual musicians / artists / DJs, like the Ohm and various new and upcoming DJ-style controllers.

    We've got hardware (Monome) with hackable possibilities so you can customize to your needs.

    We have software that makes assignment and integration with instruments/fx/host more flexible.

    We have basic DIY platforms, and I expect there's potential for a lot more.

    We have a spec that makes communication more flexible (OpenSoundControl), if someone would just implement it.

    We have regular meetings of committees who are supposed to come up with an advanced MIDI replacement, if they'll just, uh, finish already. (Yeah, I know it's not that simple; maybe I'll run into those guys at AES.)

    Still a long way to go, but I think things are looking up. And I personally find it really encouraging that no one can agree. It means people are working in different ways and paying attention to their needs.

  • UCI

    i for one am very interested, i am waiting to know how responsive the pads are (hit or tap or press). and the build quality. i wait your input Peter.

  • Gorbon

    I see that I stirred some water here, so…

    First of all, nowhere in my post did I imply that this (or any other controller) is not good because it doesn't have ALL the possible features a controller could have.

    Second, of course I don't think that designers go "let's make it inferior on purpose" – I was sarcastic if anyone didn't notice.

    I studied design, so I'm familiar with choices and decisions in product developement stages, but in this particular case I just think that they've could put out much superior product with just few tweaks. If they market it for musicians / DJs (and they bundled it even with music / DJ software) why did they omit some essential features DJ controller could (must?) have?

    Vanceg, you're talking about some specific problems – let's see:

    Above faders there's one row of knobs, and 2 rows of buttons. Now, including 2 more rows of buttons would mean making unit larger 1-2cms (since obviously it can sport 2 1/2 knobs, if 2 button rows are omitted. Now, inclusion of those knobs isn't just useful for DJs – c'mon, majority of VJs would find knobs in place of those buttons MUCH more useful than those two buttons (there's already 36 buttons just in the middle of the controller, plus several more in other places). Hell, I see tons of ways I could use those additional knobs in my Jitter patch. Clearly this isn't feature needed just by small minority of potential users, of feature for marginal target group.

    More about design decisions – that crossfader is in really lousy spot, it's too close to buttons, and you can accidentally move it while accessing last two rows of buttons – clearly very poor design / usability decision.

    I see many ways in which it could be improved. Even if you didn't want to change its size, there could be some compromises – for example, you could make 3×6 grid of buttons, and instead another 3×6 grid you could use 18 knobs, and have another button / knob for changing "pattern" of grid of buttons (so you'd have A / B 3×6 grid). That way you'd have 18 more knobs, and still have 18 buttons / video clips accessible instantly, and 18 more on press of one button (there could of course be much more than just 2 patterns). It really isn't big compromise, and instantly you have much broader potential user base.

    There are of course much more things that could be done in that specific dimensions, but I won't be redesigning products in CDM comments ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for the costs – I'm quite familiar that in production it wouldn't just raise cost for price of x number of plastic knobs, I'm not an idiot, but still – how much does logic controller cost, what do you think? Do you really assume that it's break-dealer? Anyway, it's practically 100% sure that they would sell more units if they've included more knobs, and clearly that would more than make for relatively small raise in production cost (and we're definitely not talking about some huge raise in cost).

    I won't be buying this product, and probably I wouldn't even if it had pressure sensitive pads AND 2 or 3 more knob rows, so I'm not whining because "Livid didn't make me good enough controller, booo", I just find it that in this particular case they nailed almost great product (in term of layout / features – I don't know anything about its build quality and performance), but alienated HUGE potential user base (and frankly, there's 100 DJs on one VJ, if not more). That's all.

  • Ap

    Am I the only one whos totally fed up with this BLUE leds everywhere crap.

  • PetitZozo

    "how much does logic controller cost, what do you think? Do you really assume that it’s break-dealer?"

    Actually this point that you didn't address is probably the most important… If they don't have enough input lines on their micro controller, that could trigger a change of chip (probably not just adding a demux…), potentially rewriting a lot of code, do the PCB differently etc…

  • bliss

    @ Gorbon

    Would be good if they had a couple of stomp buttons on there for guitarists. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Gorbon

    @ bliss: You're missing my point – I'm not talking about some exotic features, or some features needed by obviously NOT targeted group.

    3 row of knobs are ESSENTIAL for DJ-ing. 3 band EQ. Essential.

    This also goes for Varceg's comment about his need for 4 joysticks – it's not essential feature, it something specific to your workflow, somewhat exotic, since 99% of DJs (target group for this controller, beside VJs) don't use them. Sure, it would be great to have them, I see many uses for that kind of control, but it's nowhere near essential as KNOBS, and 3 rows of them.

    I would understand all those comments if I were asking why they didn't include joysticks / why they didn't include rubber scratch bands / LCD display / MIDI arpeggiator (like Bitstream) / etc. etc., since all those are somewhat exotic features (although every single one of them very useful in their own right), but 3 band EQ / 3 rows of knobs are essential for DJ-ing. Sure, you could DJ without them, and even use this controller for DJ-ing, but it would be awkward, and it would definitely very restraining.

    Well, it's their call. I just implied that they obviously cut out HUGE potential user base by omitting such feature, and in return definitely made sure that their profit will be much lower than it could've been. Hooray for them. I really don't care one way or the other – it's still too expensive, knobs or not, and for lower price Bitstream 3x offers much more to music producers / DJs, and I couldn't care less if they sold 10 units or 10M units.

    Are you really going to tell me that you don't find anything strange in omitting essential DJ feature from DJ controller? You're all acting like it's perfectly normal that it has only one row of knobs, and that I'm talking about some obscure exotic feature that only me and 2 other users with obscure setup would use. I really can't understand that.

  • Gorbon

    Just one addition – I just browsed their site, and things are much clearer now. When I looked at their other hardware products, it's obvious we're dealing with company who hires not-so-good designers, and has a history of poor design / usability / aesthetics decisions. That "Tactic" products looks like something un-creative students did at their first year in my design school.

    Well, if I've seen this earlier I've could saved myself from some typing. Anyway, the point I wanted to discuss is strange / poor design decisions in MIDI controller design, but obviously I'm the only one who thinks that way, you're all perfectly happy with products offered.

    I though agree with Peter Kirn – we're getting there – there are some creative people around, and some new fresh and creative companies emerging (just look at the Monome).

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  • Per

    While I don't think this is the ultimate MIDI controller, I do think it is a step in the right direction. I met Jay at etsy and its good to see a small company (I would call them independent developers since I am pretty sure there are only 2 people behind this) competing with the big guys. If we don't support indy developers we are stuck with what m-audio decides is cheapest to make.

    I think you diatribe is not very constructive, these are the kind of developers that are accessible and will actually listen to what we want, I mean how many companies are making video instruments? He also said that they are going to be making some kind of diy midi device, maybe something like that lets you create your own setup, I am not sure but I do think this is a cool VJ controller at the very least, the wood aspect of it is nice.

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  • Gorbon

    to Per:

    As for my diatribe – Actually the first thing before writing my first comment was to send email to this company, and ask them about reasons for their decision, but I opted for discussing it here first, to see what's the opinion of others users on that. I see that I'm alone in this, it looks like nobody questions omittion of 3 knob rows from DJ controller strange.

    I really don't find my comments "not very constructive" (I even offered one layout-wise solution) – any kind of debate about IMPROVEMENT of existing products is constructive IMHO. I wanted to see what stance people have on this issue, that's all.

    But I'm pretty sure ANY company reads press material about them, so sooner or later they will stumble onto this small rant (if in the meantime I don't send them letter with my suggestions).

    As for supporting independent / small companies – I'm all for it, but not if it means buying MORE expensive product which offers LESS to me.

  • Pretty. Want.

  • somosanto

    a controller that has it all?

    I said it already; more than 8 endless rotaries, in a set up that is conducive to making music (primarily synth work in my case).

    I do appreciate that this may be a video controller foremost, but I still find the ergonomics lacking.( crossfader close to buttons, as adressed already by gorbon)

    And if you look at the Kore controller; it's a spiffy piece of machinery;

    knobs are endless, work under a protocol with higher resolution than midi, in a stylish casing that is not only nice to look at, but actually sturdy as well.

    Now the software (kore) is available as a seperate deal from the hardware. The hardware would be very interesting if you could useit to control all vst's.

    Why dont I go out and buy one??


    Are you kidding me.

  • somosanto

    And no, I dont want my dream machine at a price that could only come from behringer. 400-550$ would not be asking too much.

    A company like NI or m-audio could make quality at reasonable prices (by buying in large quantities).

  • vanceg

    Gosh golly – I was just pointing out 1)that there are often a lot of reasons for design decisions that aren't immediately obvious when we, as users, look at a product after it's been completed and 2) there is a vastly wide range of "needs" among potential users and it is often the case that any set of users (including me!)can get a little bit of 'tunnel vision' when evaluating a product and thinking "that is SO close to perfect…why didn't they just add _this_ one feature".

    That's all. Happy controlling.

  • vanceg

    Oh..and most surely I didn't mean to imply you were an 'idiot' Gorbon. Sure didn't mean to come across like that. I rather enjoyed your comments. Like I said, pointing out a few issues I've noticed that a lot of people don't know to consider…Since you've studied design and are familiar with the various cost multiplications of manufacturing, you've clearly already considered all of this sort of stuff.

    I just want more, more, more controllers – we ARE getting close on many fronts!

  • bliss

    @ gorbon

    I did get your point. I was just teasing. My apologies! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  • I think some are missing the point of the Ohm. It's not a general MIDI controller or a generic knob box. If it were, I would agree with some of the negative comments here. What it is, however, is a hardware controller for Union.

    As a Union controller, it's perfect. There's a knob, slider or button for almost every function you would want to have. The 36-button grid is not for drums, it's a clip selector for Union's 36-clip grid. The eight sliders on the Ohm match the eight effects sliders in Union. The buttons below the sliders match controls in Union. The slider sets are split because in Union they control two different video channels. The wooden slider is where it is because its purpose is to fade between channel A on the left and channel B on the right.

    If you use the Ohm to control Union, it's perfect. The fact that it has MIDI at all is a total bonus. The fact that it comes with Ableton Live is, well, -everything- nowadays comes with Ableton Live. I have the full Ableton Suite, but because of all the controllers I've bought I think I have four copies of Live Lite or LE in addition.

    As for the pricing, don't forget that the Ohm comes with a full copy of Livid Union. That's US$300 right there.

    For those that are complaining that it's not the most perfect MIDI controller ever invented for any purpose anyone could possibly imagine, well, you're right. For those who want a hardware controller custom designed for use with Livid Union that can handle almost every possible thing you ever wished had a knob, button or slider rather than having to use a mouse, you're in luck.

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  • jared

    It's now mid-2009. Not only is this boutique-beautiful controller available for $600 street, but with high-end DJ controllers from Vestax and Numark in stores, people no longer consider $800 unreasonable for a bunch of MIDI knobs.

    Also, I'd just like to point out that most DJs operate with 2 channels. And with two channels, the original Ohm controller has 4 knobs on each side…so there's your 3-band EQ plus gain control right there. And not only is Livid still in business; they're building and shipping NEW products and planning more direct support for the all-sizes-fit-none DIY haxor community.

    My hat is off to these hackers.