Tired of needing xx more knobs or yy more pads or a specific feature in your control hardware? Ready to dive in and build your own? You’ve had a variety of options for some time that can help get you started, but Livid’s new Builder set of modular platforms is uniquely well-suited to the kinds of gear people now want to build. It’s loaded with inputs and outputs – necessary for the button- and knob-laden controllers of today – while at the same time uses modular boards and smart software to ease the learning curve. It’s probably still a little advanced for your first project (for that, you might try connecting a few knobs to an Arduino first), but if you’re ready to build something fancier, this should definitely be high on your list. We’ll have a more detailed look at this hardware in the coming weeks, but here’s a first look.

  • The Brain: USB-powered, bi-directional MIDI board – class-compliant, with no drivers needed (including on Linux). Use open-source software to configure and program it, then connect what you need – even more-complex features like multiplexing buttons and LEDs. (Hint: it’s tricky to do on your own unless you’re a pretty advanced hardware person.) Connect to your computer or hardware via USB and standard MIDI in/out DIN (so yes, this works for hardware synth and drum machine fans, too). Note that this chip also supports OSC (OpenSoundControl), so support for that in the future isn’t out of the question.
  • Add-on boards: Push, Slide, Turn, and Breakout modular boards make it easy to tack on features, like buttons, faders, pots, and monome-style grids, in any combination you desire. Once you use the board, you can choose an arrangement you desire – including even deviating from the grid.
  • Components: Finding the right parts can require some trial and error, so Livid will also sell the ones they use on their control surfaces. Sure, LEDs aren’t difficult to select, but getting the right rubber keypad or potentiometer can be a lifesaver.

More information:
Blog post
Product page

Wiki for the Brain
Brain Quick Start

Pricing is actually (happily) a little south of where I expected – in USD:
Brain $189
Push $12
Slide $12
Breakout $12

By the way, Livid, I hope you realize you now have to do a simple side product called Pinky.

  • pierlu

    livid's intelligent response to the launchpad 🙂

    this is really nice, cos it makes me think i may be able one day to build the exact interface i think i need (and regretting forever i had not put more knobs once the casing is finished 😉 )!

    this could be addictive

  • s ford

    that looks great. DIY the midi controller of your dreams!

    some of the parts seem a bit pricy though. eg $10 for a fader, one alone doesn't seem too bad, but if you use 12, that is $120 which is quite a few nanokontrols alone….

  • s ford

    ignore my point afterall, i forgot my nanokontrol's faders are pretty lightweight, i imagine the livid ones are much more robust!

  • Mudo

    Livid argue (I asked them in the past) that they manufacture quality and it is right. This is not a Launchpad of course.

    Almost this time we could custom pots and implement an innofader i.e.

    Good news and I hope more developers follow the line. The Monome paradigm.

  • Rics

    That's cool, but seems that all the boards, except the brain, are out of stock…

  • 2tan

    Amazing! Custom made controllers at our feet!

    To build a decent size controller still remains a bit expensive, but the task itself and the benefits of having something made by you for you are great!

    I might put BCR2000 and LaunchPad on hold..

    Let me learn more.

    Thank u CDM.

    P.S: I'm really excited! lol

  • djvideo

    there is cheaper ways to build your own controller,

    think about it mod the nano controller. with new fader is still cheaper than Livid,. Now, Livid has is the tie back in to the real world of midi where you do not need a computer(mac/pc/linux). Buy the cost is still to high.

    So Livid try again, think it's more bulk cheaper price that mean if you made your prices lower more people will buy. and I would bet all of the readers of this post has nano controllers.

    People mod your nano's.

    Until company stop ripping us ARTIST off!!

    check this out

    this brain rocks!!

  • @ Rics.. It is available march 1st.

    @djvideo you don't need to buy our faders, these are very high quality custom made dual rail pots we have made for our own controllers. There are many other cheap option, most 60mm travel sliders will work as described on our wiki.

  • System Exclusive

    I own a livid OHM 64 and absolutely love the look,feel,performance of the unit. I am excited they will be offering these packages and could see it being the push a lot of people need to venture into a DIY controller.

    The idea of modding a nano seems kind of absurd to me. Why put time and money into modding a toy? To each his/her own I guess.

  • greg

    I'm about to build something very similar, however I use ARDUINO, a rechargeable battery and a Bluetooth chip. The three things cost about the half of the Livid brain and allow total, wireless control. Still awesome!

  • tekcor

    are the push boards and button pads kompatible with the arduino board?

  • Spazmatron

    While there might be less expensive options, I think the trade off is going to be the amount of effort you have to put in. You can make almost anything you want with the midibox platform, but you can't just plug some boards together, then configure it in software. If you want to get "into" it, then go that route, but I like the idea of putting more effort into the interface or enclosure, or perhaps even making some music ;). I'd like to see a roundup of available diy options with pros and cons for each.

  • You definitely have to consider the quality you get here. They use some of the best quality components and are always looking to improve what they have currently. They make great products right out of Austin, TX…

    In terms of the new DIY… I think the implementation is really great! They give you tools in the form of software that makes adjusting the parameters needed to work with your controls and modules a breeze.

    Definitely worth a look if you are thinking of a DIY option.

  • i think what livid is offering is awesome. it seems geared toward someone who wants a custom project, but wants to minimize the time spent learning HOW to make something that works well.

    i want to make and play music more than i want to learn advanced electronics/programming etc.

  • middleman

    I am going to make the sickest footcontroller ever ! Buffer shuffled drum beats with your buffed shuffle …um feet.

  • fantastico! this is a great step forward for progressive design for performance needs. now if only we can add some LCD screens to this….

  • J. Phoenix

    I'd like to see a CDM article in the future on side-by-side comparison of the various DIY MIDI kits we have available to us on the market, their strengths and weaknesses, size, and potential.

    We've been waiting on the Livid solution for some time since announcement…now that its out might be time for a showdown between the Midibox, Arduino, Hale UMC32, Doepfer's offerings, and the Livid. There's others I may have missed.

    I do have to say that this concept seems to have come a long way since I was reading about how to etch PCB's and burn PIC images…or how to break apart old Oxygen 8's…much less daunting.

  • Microwave Prince

    Brain $189 – LOL. And don't forget other parts….

    It only supports 14leds, 16 buttons and 8 pots. it's basicaly nano control, but for 5x more money 😀

    midibox is way cheaper and better. end of story.

  • @Microwave Prince – that a bit of misinformation. 64 pots (or other analog controls) 48 LEDs and 179 buttons. The Builder series wasn't really intended for someone to build their own ohm64 or launchpad etc… It is designed for someone to easily create their own perfect controller. You can use touch sensors, accelerometers, distance sensors etc…

  • too bad you dont ship/distribute to sweden then. that price + the shipping means no go for me. ohwell.

  • Totally agree with Spazmatron. If your're going for a low price, you'd probably get yourself an arduino or midibox (modding a nano seems quite interesting, too. It just happended, that my nanoKey broke apart … hm).

    I'd also like to see a side by side comparison of available DIY MIDI platforms/products. Perhaps including examples, showing some great DIY controlers.

  • Andrew Zero

    I also would love to see a decent comparison of all these diy kits. Peter your readers demand answers!

    I always lusted after the livid ohm but never had the cash long enough to get one (being a gear slut is taxing).

    If the quality and expandability is greater in this one over the monome clones I would go with this. Different brain options would be ideal.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    djvideo, so what you're saying is that anyone charging more than Korg charge is ripping you off? Even though Korg can expect to ship tens of thousands of their Nanos, and have custom manufacturing plants and economies of scale to call upon, and little companies like Livid will be lucky to break 4-figure sales? (not to do you guys down; if you are doing better than that, more power to you)

    People like you, djvideo, are why we can't have nice things.

  • Microwave Prince

    Ok, maybe i was wrong with specifications, but it's still expensive option and i know that its made in usa, but you can have the same product built in china for 3 times less ;]

  • I agree — a comparison is a great idea. It seems to me that this fits a niche. As I said in the write-up above, it's not the solution for every single job. And the Arduino comparison is pretty easy — if you just want to try out a couple of pots or a specific sensor, or build a fairly simple controller, the Arduino makes sense. But as for *exactly* how you might choose this versus the Doepfer or Midibox on which project could involve a little more depth, for sure.

    @jens-oliver – definitely, though of course this board is too new to have projects associated with it. Actually, your query also reminds me that many of these projects aren't fully documented; a lot of makers don't publish specs, etc. I don't think that's out of a proprietary attitude so much as it's extra work!

  • Spazmatron

    I don't really understand how anyone can be complaining about the price. We now have yet another diy option that we didn't before. If it's to much for you, then don't buy it. More options can't be a bad thing, especially when it's diy in the first place. If you want to save some cash, then do your research and you'll find what you're looking for. But like I said before, not all of us really care "how" it works. Some of us would rather just know that it will work, and move on to more important things.

  • greg

    I still believe the Arduino option is way cheaper. I got the Duamilenova board, a rechargable battery designed foir arduino and a Bluetooth chip under 100$. It does not even require hardware programming – I just had to plug the parts together with some cables. THe only drawback compared to the Livid thing is the need for a MIDI-driver. However the Arduino has a MIDI library that acts like a generic controller, I'd rather use Max4Live which eliminates the need for a driver. I'm not trying to suggest that my project is better than the Livid-kit. At the end of the day, they're engineers and programmers who has lot of mental and technological capacity and experience. I just want emphasize that you can do it under 100$, WIRELESS! I plan to add accelerometers, gyroscope, monome-buttons with RGB led (they are mothefunkin expensive though), possibly an XY pad (touchscreen from a Nintendo DS Lite). Will keep you guys updated!

  • Justyn

    The thing I like about this was how well the video explained all the steps and what was going on. i have NO (like zilch) electronics prowess but I am interested In building things I can interface with and although there may be cheaper options out there, the Idea of buying a bunch of stuff that definitely works together, with help on how to make it work together , is appealing to a google-search-challenged person such as myself.In saying that however , i would also welcome a comparison between Livid's products and other options on the market.

  • greg

    Took me three days to get the Bluetooth module working and the Max serial object crashes very often… however it works perfectly with Processing, I was able to send pushbutton and proximity sensor values wirelessly.

    There's a reason why the Livid thingy costs as much. It offers a stable MIDI and requires no driver. After struggling so much and still not sure if it will work properly, I believe the Livid brain well worths the $189.

  • greg

    "After struggling so much and still not sure if it will work properly…" I meant my Arduino+Bluesmirf+Max4Live troika.

  • db

    I've been working with the Livid board for a few weeks, and it seems very good.

  • mo-seph

    I'd also welcome a comparison of the DIY options (as someone partway through a midibox build).

    BTW, the new Midibox Core32 seems lovely – lots of similar features to the Ohm, a decent spec micro, OSC, i2c, spi etc…

    And I've had loads of hassle with getting arduinos and max talking sensibly, and second the recommendation for doing it in processing/java.

    (Although ideally, someone will tell me that they've got a nice, tight C program + arduino code that talks the serial stuff and spits out something useful…)

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