Ableton Live controllers are suddenly everywhere, in commercial products and DIY creations. But an in-progress prototype being designed by Serbia-based creator Sasa Djuric, found on the CDM Flickr pool, goes the extra distance to integrate more effectively with the software. The hardware looks more like the on-screen UI, for starters – an elusive objective for many controllers. And by working with the Mackie Control protocol, Sasa is able to make communication between hardware and software fully bi-directional, so the controller gives you essential feedback. There’s even a facility for scratching. The design is based on the popular MIDIbox platform.

Sasa writes with details of what the creation process is like. It’s all still very much in progress, so we’re really excited to see how it evolves into a finished design.

Sasa explains (with videos to follow):

Hi Peter.

As you noticed the controller is still in production. It is in the final stage, but there is still quite a lot to be done. Most boring part of project is finished… assembling, engraving filling, sanding and polishing the buttons. Most of wiring is also done …I hate wires. I couldn`t afford to have messy wiring so I paid special attention to do it tidy because I wanted this controller to be as compact as possible without so really no place for mess.

This controller is designed especially for Ableton Live. There are two reasons for building it myself. First, I really enjoy building my own gear, and secondly, there’s no commercial controller that really comes close enough to what I wanted to have. Beside Live, it could be used with almost the same effectiveness with other music software as it’s heavily based on the Mackie protocol and it is completely configurable. I designed it for myself but I think it is very intuitive for somebody who is using it for the first time. I put a lot of effort into ergonomics and organizing so many controls on a small surface and it was a real challenge. Only thing I wanted to have but I left out is a touchpad, but I can live without it. Most of the digital controls (rotary encoders and buttons) have multiple functions and they are accessed easily using group buttons. Some are reserved for the system, like: window navigation, undo, redo, clip controls, and some are freely assignable for "dub style" sample triggering or FX parameter control. Critical functions like volume, start, stop, record, EQ, cue and sends have dedicated controls and have no multiple functions but it can be changed easily if needed. LEDs are activated from software feedback, not internally which is important for minimizing monitor usage. An interesting feature are LED bars which are common with encoders (LED rings) but not with pots. The controller receives the fader position feedback from Live and represents it as a bar on 15 LEDs. It is designed to be used in combination with faders that have snap function, which means there will be no ugly "jump" if the physical fader doesn’t correspond to the volume position in Live.

All internal construction and buttons are made out of 3,4 and 6 mm laser cut acrylic. I used white sub-panel as I wanted to back illuminate it with white LEDs to have nice rings around the pots, but I might left that idea if space become an issue which is likely to happen. Engraving on the buttons is also done using a laser cutter. Jog wheel is 40 steps optical. Quadrature and top disks are also made out of lasered acrylic. They are mounted on a hard drive spinner motor which serves just as a very durable spinning platform. The core of this controller is Thorsten Klose`s MB64E and MB64 ( I’m also planing to integrate a MIDI mixer so I it can be used without a PC but only volume controls will be supported. If by any chance I find some more room left at the end I’m planning to integrate a USB sound card. After the controller is finished it will be finally housed into lasercut steel case with aluminum side panels. Those are the plans. But I don’t expect it to changed much.

Best regards and greetings from Serbia.

It’s really brilliant-looking work already. I can’t wait to see the finished project! Best of luck to Sasa with this.

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