Interview: Sheffield’s The Black Dog Branch into Controllers, With Crowd-Funded Gear

The Black Dog are titans of experimental techno and house, with a long record to match. (We reviewed – and praised – their latest album, Tranklements.) But you may not associate them with manufacturing hardware. As the landscape of crowd-funded music hardware grows, though, that’s exactly the venture they’re now willing to take, as the members of that group co-found a new, England-based manufacturing company dubbed Machinewerks. And the results so far already give insights into what they value in controller design and how they use those controllers in their music. They’re now well on their way to funding a …

READ MORE →

Laptop or iPad DJ? What If It Didn’t Matter? New NI Hardware, Mad Zach Demo

That’s one small step for DJ hardware, one giant leap into the post-PC era. Native Instruments today has updated their integrated hardware for Traktor DJs, the 4-channel Traktor Kontrol S4 and 2-channel Traktor Kontrol S2. But while the updates are nice, the biggest transformation is that you can watch a DJ working with these controllers alongside either an iPad or a Mac/PC laptop – and it really doesn’t matter which they’re using. Oh, sure, the laptop is more flexible when it comes to storage, and NI’s iOS software still lags on some of the nice features of the desktop version, …

READ MORE →

Novation Releases $99 Launchpad Mini Grid, $99 Triggers and Knobs [iOS, Mac, PC]

Here’s this week’s theme from Novation, in a nutshell: Stuff that costs US$99 (street). Stuff that’s ultra-mobile/portable. Stuff that works with Mac, PC, and iPad. CDM readers already worked out that they weren’t done, watching the video for the $99 Launchkey mini keyboard, which also fits this theme and combines pads, knobs, and keys. Looking closely at the video, you nailed one of the product releases: a smaller version of the Launchpad grid controller, the product that perhaps more than any other popularized grids in the mass market. (Outside the mass market, that honor surely goes to the monome.) So, …

READ MORE →

QuNexus: Slim, Expressive Keyboard in Exclusive Hands-on CDM Review ($150 Street)

Computers and other electronic hardware can be anything as an instrument. But that means you may need something different when it comes time to play them. The first thing to say about QuNexus is that it isn’t a piano. But the first thing to say about pianos is that they’re not at all portable – and they are built for striking strings rather than playing synths. Think instead of QuNexus a super-portable controller for a variety of uses, with added sensors for expression. It’s a hybrid input controller that values expression and mobility above all else. Keith McMillen gave CDM …

READ MORE →

Extra Modulation, Extra Routing: What the QuNexus Keyboard is Good For [Videos]

Various keyboards this week are offering lots of extra features, and Keith McMillen’s compact QuNexus is no exception. The keys add pressure sensitivity, there’s a tilt sensor, and in addition to (driver-free) USB MIDI connectivity and pedal input, there’s control voltage output for use with analog gear. So, it’s worth asking: what’s this for? Do you actually want it? This week, we’ll have the exclusive first review of the QuNexus, but a good prelude to that read is to see how others are using the gear. The short answer is, if you’re using a synth in particular, yes, it’s absolutely …

READ MORE →

Miselu Uses Wireless, Magnets, Ribbon, Springs for Upcoming MIDI Keyboard [iOS/Desktop]

It is unintentionally turning into “crowd-funded experimental keyboard week” here on CDM. Miselu, the startup known for developing their own, custom Android-based hardware platform, now turn their attentions to iOS. Miselu’s Jeffrey Horton tells CDM they have suspended work on their existing hardware and “hope to resume android development when the time is right.” This comes how on the heels of NDVR’s crowd-funding campaign for a unique new keyboard, and just as we’re finishing our review of the crowd-funded (now shipping) QuNexus. (Note: NDVR now has a new IndieGogo crowd-funding link; there was an error in the way the first …

READ MORE →

Expressive NDVR Keyboard: New Hardware, Polyphonic Aftertouch Done Right?

The centuries-old piano keeps fighting back every time someone tries to improve it. Case in point: polyphonic aftertouch. The cause for something new was straightforward enough. On a normal piano, you lose expressive possibilities once you play a note. Because of the necessity of the way hammers work, your fingers are left holding down keys and doing, well, nothing. The piano continues to do beautiful things with the sound – resonating and such – but you’re no longer involved. after you depress a key, keep pressing down to add additional expressive input. (Various historical devices have used everything from keys …

READ MORE →

One Button, One Knob, USB: Crazy-Simple DIY Teensy Project (And Some Music)

8 knobs. No, 64 knobs! No, giant knobs, hundreds of buttons, dozens of faders… Okay. One button, one knob. Put (one of your) opposable thumbs to good use and just do something simple. And, with something this small and inexpensive, never go anywhere without a real knob again. (Friends don’t let friends operate fake simulations of knobs using mice. Augh. Painful. (Which way is a “circle,” again?) That was the creed of none other than Brendan Ratliff, aka Echolevel, aka chip music “superhero” Syphus, a composer/musician/hacker who works scoring games and film/TV soundtracks and general musical mayhem. He wanted something …

READ MORE →

Hands-on with Livid Base Controller, and Streamlined Control of Ableton Live [Musikmesse]

One highlight of Musikmesse for me was getting to catch up with Jay Smith of Livid Instruments. Base, their touch controller (grid plus touch strips), is even more appealing in person than online. And it seems like it could really sit in a niche in controllers, even with lots of grids out there these days. By comparison, Novation’s new Launchpad S, while much cheaper, lacks pressure sensitivity. And Ableton’s Push also leaves plenty of room for Base. Push I still think is a terrific controller, even as it has some growing pains with its initial launch – I’ve had some …

READ MORE →

Grids for Visuals: OhmRGB, Block Meet Vdmx, More Options from Livid

Livid Instruments is now best known as a “music” controller maker, but the DNA of the company comes from live visuals. Accordingly, the OhmRGB looks a bit like a visual controller – banks of faders on the left and right of a grid, crossfader, and groups of parameter controls all give you a hint that you might use this for two-channel visuals. The makers of Vdmx have a terrific, detailed tutorial on mapping OhmRGB to their popular semi-modular Mac visual software. Two Channel Video Mixer template for Livid OhmRGB Slim It’s just a test, but there’s also some wonderful mayhem …

READ MORE →