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