Lovers of the grid for music control now get to reenact the scene in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, stepping out of the world of black and white into one of color. The OhmRGB, the latest controller from Austin, Texas-based controller and custom hardware shop Livid Instruments, adds multicolor LEDs behind its array of controls.

We’ve already seen red, green, and yellow add color feedback on Novation’s Launchpad (and of course the APC line from Akai). The Livid piece bests Novation’s three colors with seven possibilities. For those who prefer their grids to come with knobs, faders, and crossfader, the OhmRGB has the same generous complement of controls that its (monochromatic) Ohm64 sibling does. It also has expansion ports for additional flexibility, plugs into USB connectivity and power without the need for drivers, and has extensive options for remapping lights, controls, and interaction, so it works dynamically not only with Ableton Live but any tool you like. Livid also does their woodwork and assembly in Austin, Texas – keeping the shop on-site was a wise business move, believe me.

In the top video, you can see artist Pailo do a quick demo; obviously, you could perform with this however you want. In the video below, the Livid gang explain a bit about how they’ve made the Ohm64 RGB work with Ableton Live:

This video is presented by Pailo and shows how you can use it with OhmModes, a sophisticated remote script for Ableton Live

Jay Smith from Livid has some other comments – and even those seven colors aren’t necessarily the limit:

Currently it supports 7 colors, we plan on adding more with a firmware update in the future. It has the same expansion jacks the Block [controller] has, we plan on making side cars for it later this year. Also we’ve added banking so you can save multiple mappings to the internal memory of the controller.

And here’s a video that shows why the expansion ports are cool:

Want one? Check it out at Livid Instruments:

US$699, available now direct or via your dealer.

More RGB Action!

While Livid doesn’t make hardware that can be technically qualified as open source, they have built a strong relationship with the DIY community. Their software patches, built in Max/MSP, are available under an open source license, and their hardware is well-suited to hacking and modification. And beyond the finished products themselves, they’ve got a full-blown DIY platform called Builder and have generally built a good relationship with DIYers through their shop and interaction with the community.

All of that is to say, there’s a lot happening with exploring what grid controllers can be as hardware hackers and musicians take matters into their own hands. Unlike the OhmRGB, you can’t easily go out and buy one of these at the moment, but it’s fantastic to see the rainbow (ahem) of control experimentation out there.

Thanks in particular to Mutis Mayfield, aka Mudo de Nacimiento, who helped remind us of some of the major RGB grid efforts to date. Mudo himself is working a project, seen in the image below.

This project is building something wonderful. Stay tuned.

Clarification/correction: Mudo adds some notes on that project:

I had to say that the project in the picture wasn’t mine, to be exact I’m part of the project as a free-lancer taking the task of community management and concept designer for the software implementation with third party softwares.

This project started as a revision for the Octinct from Jonathan, Owen and Jordan whit the aim to give a Octinct unit to some artist at over workshop over the Sonar(matica) 2009 (these workshops were free admitance) but it was evolving into a new project (with new design for the boards) which is the one from the picture.

We expect more information on that project soon.

Touch sensors? Nixie tubes? The Polynome 5000 by capricorn one is more than just a colored grid.

I have to start out with the insanely-awesome Polynome 5000. It’s about the dreamiest color controller I can imagine, a one-off monome by capricorn one, aka Los Angeles-based monome musician and inventor Colin Mann. Colin describes it thusly:

After more hours than I’d like to admit, even if I actually knew how many, I’m done. I started this, believe it or not, before the APC40 was even announced, and at the time there weren’t many products out there like it. Now, obviously it would make more sense to just buy one of those products, nevertheless, where are you gonna get an RGB monome with a nixie tube display that takes OSC commands? Exactly.

RGB monome (64 buttons, 64 colors)
6 slide faders
1 infrared sensor
1 touch strip sensor
4 arcade buttons (internally lit)
1 toggle switch
4 digit nixie tube display
12 button keypad
xlr microphone pass through
6 port usb hub (powered)
4 external power jacks
1 12VDC power output source

Don’t miss Colin’s huge post on the topic; see also video below.

Next up, another DIY project — from artist and hacker BIM0X, the Rainbow:

Presentation of my new MIDI controller : the Rainbow.
Soft touch buttons Monome like, each one has a RGB Led inside.
64 buttons, 7 colours available. Based on midibox (

Powered by PIC18F452. Completley independent, it doesn’t need a computer to work.
Midi and output via MIDI messages

Open source RGB grids?

Owen Vallis and Jordan Hochenbaum, aka FlipMu, have been working on their own open source project. It’s not just RGB – it’s also pressure-sensitive, a feature generally missing from these sorts of grid controllers, adding a whole new dimension of possible expression.

Owen shares some other comments, and walks us through yet more RGB and even pressure-sensitive projects:

The Livid stuff is always awesome I think. I’m all for more DIY or any open source projects. There have been a lot of RGB style button grids over the last several years, starting with the Octinct from Johnaton Guberman and Brad Hill ( <-- the original Arduinome Shield designer). The Octinct was finally made open source last year and is now being worked on by the guys at There was also the RGB mini Monome by Grumpy Mike at the arduino forums (vimeo video), and also the Lumi from stanford which combined pressure and a touch screen using the spark fun RGB pads in a 4×8.

The Chronome is different (and has been taking so long) because it not only uses a Mega (hopefully allowing for expansion later), but also adds 64 independent pressure and RGB buttons. Trying to solve for noise on the ADC while lighting all 64 RGB leds was super hard to solve ….but it works now 🙂 woop woop. The other major thing is that the Chronome works natively with SerialOSC from monome, and still works the exact same as a regular monome. The only difference is the Chronome also accepts an RGB message, and send an additional pressure message. This means the Chronome should work with all existing monome apps.

The Chronome, based on the open-source Arduinome project also from FlipMu, is progressing nicely. You can track its progress – and even try your hand at building it yourself – on the FlipMu site and blog (hosted by createdigitalmusic): [beta, but with loads of files for your use if you’re brave]

Here are some of the projects Owen mentions:

The best resource I could find on the now-open-source Octinct project is on the monome forums:
Official Octinct Package Thread

It points at where to find the newly-released documentation, code, PCBs, and whatnot.

Spy photo of Tweaker, from near an air force base in Nevada. (Joke.)

Also, there’s one further device that may be available commercially, though, for now, it remains mysterious. The Electrix Tweaker has specs similar to the OhmRGB, but we’re still waiting for it to ship, and have only the grainy image seen here.

So, there you have it – color is coming to grids in a big way. We’ll be watching the development of the OhmRGB, in particular, and it remains the full-color controller you can have right now. And we’ll watch these more experimental projects, too. It’s like a rainbow…

  • oootini

    interesting! i might have to upgrade my arduinome build to a chronome! looking forward to seeing those boards come out…

  • that's my favorite stones record : )

  • Peter Kirn

    @Jonathan: I'd have a hard time choosing one record, but it's up there. 😉

  • n8bit

    I think there is a typo. It says "Novation also does their woodwork and assembly in Austin, Texas." But aren't you talking about Livid?

  • Peter Kirn

    @n8bit: Thanks! Yes, Focusrite would be surprised to be doing woodwork / living in Texas. Crowd-sourced copy editing FTW!

  • great article!  That new controller sure looks sexy!  Launchpad does the trick for me but this new one looks awesome.

  • Groc

    Yes, the colors are a great idea. I would love to see more of this on controllers. Would be cool on the Monome. I wonder how musicians with synesthesia might might approach an instrument like this.

  • Kaden

    Yes, this is all well and good, but without haptic feedback, full linux support, native controller mapping to an obscure Amiga tracker and a built in 303 clone, it's utterly useless and should be ignored completely.

  • Nice! I really dig grid and pad controllers .. I've been dabbling a lot in remapping lately (APC20 and MPD24) and while there's a lot of nifty grid-pad-LED-style hardware all of a sudden (whooo!), I'd like to see nicer, midi/osc performance optimized remapping software.

    As of yet, puredata has some shotty midi implementation when it comes to sysex (although newer midi sources are available), and latency is really an issue with more compact patches.

    I've used glovePIE before, but it's looping behaviour is not at all optimized for MIDI.

    Is everyone else here just using Max (seems a huuuge application to use if I just want to remap MIDI). Any hints?

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Hi Peter,
    I send you a mail with some info and corrections. Did you recieve it?

    Thanks a lot for a very nice article!

  • matthew

    wow.  pastel hell.

  • We love Livid

  • Kelly O

    This is a HUGE R&D Upgrade from the Ohm64. GREAT fckin work Justin/Jay/Travis/Gabe/Ryan from Livid.

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Thanks for the correction and I will keep (all of) you updated sure!

    All my respect fro CDM which is a great site for this kind of projects.


  • Not offering an update option to existing Livid owners!!  & an insulting compromise of a 15% discount if you already own an ohm or a block….  & still no Scrip that allows you to see clips when droped on triggers!! are you kidding me even the dam Launchpad has this, I know one exists on some off site called Native Kontrol that they want you to pay an additional $45 for, how sad… 

  • Frankie. If you need help. Email me. I will get you the hook @ Livid to upgrade your controller. Everyone here in ATX is down to help. I will fix the problem. The script will show you all of the clips even when recording live in real time (mine do). If you look into python, and use midi monitor, it can do anything.

    Mail me for help.

    I have ever used a better controller in my life.