There’s a new monome, same as the old monome, pre-ordering this summer: “we’ve redesigned the grid, again. but this time almost everything is new, even though we added nothing.”

Yes, monome, the grid hardware that transformed computer music making more than any device, has turned 15. (CDM is, uh, the older sibling at 17.)

It’s hard to imagine the world without monome. Its square 8×8 grid, light-up button toggles, the concept of abstracting software control in a bi-directional relationship with software, a community of performance patches for different uses – this begat Novation Launchpad, Akai APC, Ableton Push, arguably things like Native Instruments Maschine, and a whole way of approaching the computer as musical (or visual) instrument. And still after all of that, monome maintains its own unique ethos and community that continues to lead in new directions.

Click to embiggen. Courtesy monome.

Maybe this new monome, then, is best described as a ground-up redesign that retains the same minimalist form. After all, some of the monome’s stubborn restrictions – small-quantity production, black-and-white binary lights, on/off function with no velocity – also give it its character as an instrument. You might not even like that, but that’s the point – even if you never play one. (Think a bassoonist not particularly liking playing a harp.)

It’s also vital to retain the protocol, so all the patches still work. One key advantage of monome is, it is essentially ageless and never obsolete.

So what you get instead is a better keypad and detection, improved production, better lighting, and USB-C. Sounds great.

Plus it’s now less expensive and more efficient. Meet monome new and the same. Creator tehn (Brian Crabtree) explains:

the redesigned keypad is produced by a massachusetts keyboard company. the size is the same, the feel is slightly snappier yet easier to press. the detection mechanics are improved. the aluminum enclosure has been optimized both to use less material and machine time. overall the grid is slightly thinner and certainly lighter. the circuit uses fewer components and consumes less power. the light is clear and neutral. usb c means easy connection without orientation and also is more sturdy.

these improvements have allowed us to radically drop the price while still producing in small batches using trusted local suppliers.

I’m sure we’ll have more to say about the anniversary.

This industry of musical instruments is not always sunshine and light. So monome is a reminder of instruments with values, of instrument making as art. That claim might have been overblown at the beginning of the monome project, but perseverance earns it.

It could be US$550 well spent for those in need, if you have the resources to invest and can get in on this order – the rest of summer is still open.

And to any naysayers who suggest writers like myself only say kind words about advertisers – monome doesn’t advertise. It doesn’t have to.

Let’s hope the next 15 years bring some other ideas like this.

PS – been working on apps for monome (grid or norns or whatever) lately? Let us know what you’ve been making; we’d love to see it. See yesterday’s story, for one monome norns-based example. (And it’s got a grid with velocity, if that’s what you prefer – open designs, your choice! We’re musicians, after all. Nobody tells us what to do.)