I’ve been following Ruin & Wesen’s development as they’ve been hard at work on new, petite MIDI controllers, promising to be the first of a line of DIY-friendly controllers. “Open source hardware” has been getting a lot of play as a concept, but the idea here is really built around the product: their stated claims emphasize musical usefulness, documentation, extensibility, and customization in addition to the making code and schematics available to hackers.
Today, Ruin & Wesen have launched their website, with two nice-looking products ready for pre-order. The MIDI Command is a small box with five endless rotary encoders on it and a “Macro Knob.” Here’s where things start to get interesting: not only does the unit ship with support for Ableton Live and Elektron Machinedrum support out of the box, but you can flash your own firmware using SysEx. There’s also an LED display, so combined with the software editors and MIDI mappings, this could even allow you to “roll your own” Kore-style controller.
Elektron fans should be even happier about the MonoJoystick, as featured in the video above. As a companion to Elektron’s MonoMachine SFX-60, it gives you six buttons and joystick control over the boutique drum machine. It’s obviously suitable for emulating Elektron’s own joystick add-on, but it’s again hackable for custom firmware and features, and as seen in the video, allows control even Elektron does not. Given those features, I’d actually be interested in seeing the MonoJoystick re-purposed as a software controller for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to own the MonoMachine.
Both units are handmade in Germany. The MonoJoystick is EUR130 / USD190; the MIDI Command is EUR180 / USD265
I’m in touch with R&W, so hope to have more on this soon. I do think we’re seeing the birth of a new business model for music hardware, one built around open source. You’ll notice that it’s often the interface of open and closed but extensible tools that may be the most productive (like an open source controller for the proprietary but well-supported Ableton Live). Naturally, a lot of the open source ideas out there won’t work — that’s the nature of business — but the ones that survive could be wonderful for the music landscape.