The Aurora 224 is a DJ-style controller geared for software like Ableton Live. The design is, as you can see, gorgeous: not only is it at the high end of aesthetics in open gear, but it celebrates its DIY nature by exposing the circuit board. It’s USB powered, and offers easy mixing control functions in a 2-channel, DJ-oriented layout. And it lights up and makes pretty colors.

Hack a Day broke the story —

Aurora open source hardware mixer

— but to be clear, it’s not actually a mixer; that is, it doesn’t mix audio signal. It’s just a controller in a mixer layout; any mixing and DJ functions are provided by your software. But it is freely-licensed from the ground up, under a Creative Commons license. (We’ve been seeing CC more and more in music projects, as opposed to the narrower and more programmer-oriented GPL and other licenses. There’s no word yet on which CC license applies to this project, whether it has non-commercial or ShareAlike restrictions, etc.; I’ll post an update soon. See discussion on the Virtual Turntable blog.)

A video with Ableton Live, plus CDM chats with the creators about more details:

aurora Open Source DJ MixerMIDI Hardware w/ Ableton Live from aurora mixer on Vimeo.

Project description:

aurora is an open source USB midi controller with user controlled ambient RGB illumination. It combines a standard DJ mixer with 18 effects knobs and 6 toggle switches in a form factor of only 7 x 10 inches. We envision the device as an alternative to bulkier, less affordable, less ergonomic commerical MIDI devices. Currently, many commerical controllers are designed with a wide range of applications in mind. For aurora, we wanted to return to the basics.

Many of us have asked for a controller with "two channels and and a cross fader." These familiar features are included, along with additional knobs and buttons for enhanced control. We believe this arrangement enhances the artist’s creativity and allows for greater control of the software. Using aurora with Ableton Live is a great example of this. Artists have already embraced digital audio and laptop performance. The mixer is designed to be portable. It easily fits in a backpack with your laptop and sound card.

We believe in open source. aurora is designed with this in mind, so essentially anyone can participate in writing firmware or software, or even create their own hardware. In fact, we encourage it, and hope to create a community of users that support this device.

For a technical discussion of the project, we have included a white paper on the website.

Aurora is Matt Aldrich, Mike Garbus and Maro Sciacchitano. They all currently reside in the DC metro area.

The Aurora Team tells CDM a bit more about the thinking behind the license and pricing (which is currently waiting on gauging interest):

We intended for this to be publicly available and 100% open source, so that anyone can build their own device at any time, exactly how they want. All content falls under the Creative Commons License The amount of interest in this project has been incredible. Regarding sourcing, we are waiting on quotes from a contract manufacturer and we will determine the cost of sourcing a fully assembled and tested controller. We expect to have the numbers Thursday and will hopefully announce the price that day. We are also exploring a simple kit that consists of a PCB and two programmed PICs for the guys who love soldering.

So got that? If you’re interested, drop them a line by Thursday! We’ll follow up with the response, pricing, and other details, and hopefully a full-on interview – if you have questions you want answered, ask them here and I’ll pass them along.

I love the idea of a simple kit; I hope they do that.

aurora mixer project site

  • Heart Pound

    I just emailed them. If the price is right I may have to part with some of my hard earned dough.

  • TechLo

    Forget the spiffy new controller, I want the DJ with three hands! Plus, he won't short out at a rain-soaked festival even with his circuit board exposed. Check your local decency laws first…

  • beej

    Very cool!

  • This looks so awesome! I'm ready for it. Wonder if they're going to make a button controller as well, or if we'll just have to pair it with Monome/TriggerFinger/etc?

  • Mine wants!

  • contakt

    I hope that some of the midi controller companies are seeing this article and Sasa's.

    It's amazing what both folks are doing. I think this design is brilliant. I am curious what the price will be, my interest is certainly piqued.

  • A.G.L

    really cool. i'd steal a baby to have this.

  • phattfoniks

    this would replace my vci-100 nicely, i cant get those platters to work properly in ableton.

    pair this with a mpd24 and it would rock!

  • phattfoniks

    or a mpd on either side! now that would be something 😛

  • @A.G.L. Damn. You gave it away. We were going to do the exclusive announcement as part of an update tomorrow. The price IS, as it happens … one baby. Secondborn is acceptable.

  • Dave D

    No DJ midi controllers that have come out have been quite what I have been looking for, so I have not jumped into the laptops DJing ting… This on the other hand is EXACTLY what I want…

    Ive emailed em, if the price isnt silly (which I am affraid it might be just due to the cost of building stuff in small runs when you are just the little guy) then I will buy one for sure.

  • Dave D

    I will however be enlosing that gorgeously exposed PCB etc in a clear case though.

    I can just imagine someone spilling a drink on/near it while I was playing and then me being arrested for tearing them into rice paper thin strips.

  • Dave, I agree. The standoffs are attractive, but they're a dust trap and wouldn't provide nearly enough protection for anything you're moving around with. They should still look quite nice inside plexiglass.

    @phattfoniks, what would you want the VCI-100 platters to do in Ableton? (and as this doesn't have any platters, how does that help — or are they just dead weight?)

  • When I first saw the picture of this thing my jaw dropped. It looked so beautiful!

    But when I actually saw the video and realized that it was mostly nobs, I was kinda bummed. I would like more sliders and buttons. I mean I guess if I coupled it with a Trigger Finger it would be fine, but I could just get 2 Trigger Finger and it still be better.

    And I think I would be worried sick about spilling anything on it.

    I would rather go for the Vestax VCM600 when it comes out. For an Ableton controller it seems a lot more functional.

    But then again it kinda never match the sleekness of the Aurora 224.

    Ag I wanna buy this thing so baddddd! I can't help no matter the draw backs, I still want it. Its just so …I have no other words to explain besides.."pretty"

    I will have to hit these guys up with an email.

  • Well, hacking this thing to add additional controls, etc., isn't necessarily a good thing to jump into if you're a beginner. But it should indeed be feasible, which is something that's next to impossible with the commercial controllers out there. (That is, actually getting in and feeding additional inputs into the microprocessor and adding new code… you get the idea.)

  • this is quite cool 8) but I have to ask, do most people use live for A/B style djing?

    I'm just curious because it seems most people try to reinvent the DJ controller, where as I need clip controls, and most controllers don't seem to focus on that. Which is why the korg nano controllers seemed like such a break though @ the price.

  • Matt

    I agree with cosmonaut – it would be nice if this controller could work with Tracktion. Live seems to have done an about-face with the more recent versions and become more of a music production suite and less "Live." It wouldn't be my first choice for DJing, that's for sure.

  • I guess that's kind of what I was getting at. Theres so many other programs that excel at A/B style Djing and while live will do it, you're sort of cutting off it's balls, so to speak.

    Live is still "live" though. They've just expanded their software to work with modern production techniques (the drum racks in ver 7 are a godsend)while retaining the "live" workflow.

  • It's a MIDI controller. I'm sure you can use it very easily with Traktor. I think they used Ableton Live for the demo because that's what they use! (And the fact that they use it means that, whether or not "most people" use Live for that purpose, obviously someone does!)

    I do tend to agree in terms of A/B-style DJing. But then, that's the other reason that having open-source stuff out there is important. There are people who may know how to build beautiful enclosures, but not the circuitry. And people who can do the circuitry but can't write the firmware. So the more this documentation is out there, the easier — theoretically — it may be for people to build their own solutions without reinventing the wheel. It requires a big investment of time and skill, but I think the fact that we've seen as much as we have over the past 6 months suggests this is already having an impact.

  • I'm all for it, I just haven't had the time to invest in such a project, which I guess is also why I've been frustrated with the latest innovations that are based around A/B styles. You're right, sooner or later something will happen or I'll be able to make my own. the last controller you had up on here is obviously a step in the right direction 🙂

    My approach to Live setups is similar to monolake's and I guess I should say I assumed it was a more representative approach. People are free (and encouraged!) to use what works best for them, but given Live's cost to features ratio it gets to be a bit of a head scratcher and I'm starting to get a bit insecure about being in the minority! lol

  • Matt

    Yeah…I meant Traktor up there – I've been messing with that Mackie software lately…

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  • cody

    Love the controller, but I hate that they used the wrong warping algorithm on Gabriel and Dresden :[

  • poopoo

    Nice looking kit but some caps for those sliders please.

  • Corticyte

    looks awesome, but I agree, it should be sturdier. And why no fader caps? what's that about!?

    But the good thing is because its open source, when you build it yourself you can easily modify it to make it your own, and put it in a different enclosure, put big fader caps on or whatever you want!

  • may i sound like granpa? nothing like the good ol DJ mixer, with the good ol 4 channel soundcard, or even just the onboard soundcard and everything mono…and i have tried lots of controllers…

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  • curtis

    I know what's up with the dust collection system? In my house the center space would fill up with cat & dog hair in a fortnight.

  • Any news on the availability of these?

  • Op-Mac

    Quisiera saber el costo y cuando sale a la venta estoy en SLP MX, me gustaria probar aurora224 en el video se ve muy bien

  • marko


  • hector

    how can help me !!! a want this mixerr were can i buy this mixer??? i enter to the page but a dont understand anything y wanna buy it like in ebay !!

    please help mee !!

  • Sonicalive

    i just wanna  know can we use this controller just like any other dj controler.,. with virtual softwares like virtual dj or tractor//.plzz let me know n how much it cost

  • Sonicalive

    i just wanna  know can we use this controller just like any other dj controler.,. with virtual softwares like virtual dj or tractor//.plzz let me know n how much it cost

  • Sonicalive

    i just wanna  know can we use this controller just like any other dj controler.,. with virtual softwares like virtual dj or tractor//.plzz let me know n how much it cost