There’s a growing appetite for using custom controllers or creating DIY controllers from scratch. Why not, after all, get exactly the number of knobs and sliders you want, in just the layout you want? Where a lot of these projects stumble, though, is in the enclosure. That’s what made the appearance of machinecollective, an polished-looking modular system of just the kinds of enclosures you’d want, so exciting when we saw it last month.

Well, here’s some good news: Machinecollective may be coming to you very soon. The site has launched in beta, and prototypes are scheduled for shipping early next month. And the kinds of modular casings look just as tasty, with possibilities like:

  • Arrays of knobs and faders

  • Monome and Sparkfun keypad faceplates (ideal for those Monome kits, for instance — in whatever arrangement you like
  • LCD screens
  • A patch bay for banana plugs / body contacts

I’m personally most excited about that patch bay. Korg toyed briefly with analog patch points on their Korg MS-20 Collection Controller — but it only supported that software, and it was a limited edition. Imagine non-analog software (hello, physical synthesis) with conventional patching, hooked up to whatever you like.

The Shape of Things to Come?

Just doing casings would be nice, but Machinecollective is also putting together lots of documentation on prototyping. It could be a really fantastic resource on a topic most musicians and visualists know little about.

With Machinecollective and some other developments, building on increased interest in microcontrollers and platforms like Arduino, we could be seeing the beginning of a DIY ecosystem for enterprising musicians and visualists. Obviously, hardware hacking isn’t for everyone — but the Web and smart, open-source tech platforms have a way of amplifying the power of niche communities. Fortune Magazine profiles the emerging DIY movement in a feature. Curiously, music gets no mention at all, despite the fact that Theremin kits were among the most popular back decades, and musicians have often been at the forefront of electronics hacking and custom hardware. (In fact, Bob Moog might never have become interested in sound had he not assembled one of those kits.)

Machinecollective News
Prototyping Modules Details

Pricing and Availability: Webshop launch “expected Early September.” Pricing: “We have not set official kit pricing yet, but expect a basic module (top panel kit + base kit + bottom panel kit) to be priced between 25 and 35 euro’s.”