In just over a year, the open source Monome hardware has become a cult hit among musicians. A grid of buttons seems deceptively simplistic; I have to admit I was skeptical at first. But the Monome has spread by word of mouth because this simple design can be elegant, because the build quality and touch of the buttons is exceptional, and because custom, open source software lets you tailor the controller to be whatever you want. Perhaps the scarcity of the device itself in a mass-market world is the reason. But fret not: while the original 40h is gone, there are many more models coming. Co-creator Brian Crabtree has just posted details of what’s to come on the official site.
Despite what appeared to be a momentary panic on eBay, more Monomes are on their way, in new shapes, sizes, and forms.
A special edition 40h. The original 8×8 is back in a limited edition, with a new white-and-orange color scheme, hand-felted wool carry case (felting is the creators’ other talent), and internal tilt / acceleration sensing for … whatever you want. Brian showed me a wonderful application that made it look like the LEDs were falling across the front panel with gravity.
Price: US$800, and part of the money goes to giving the world bees and chicks in the process. (You know, the animals — because people depend on them to eat.)
Availability: “A couple of weeks.”
Mini 8×8, 8×16, 16×16: Three new form factors are on their way. We’ve known for some time that a monster 16×16 Monome was coming. I’ve seen it in person now, and it’s actually quite portable (so “monster” in number of buttons, but not overall size). The original 8×8 had fairly large-sized buttons — still small enough to fit in a backpack or small case, but bigger than the upcoming 16×16. The new smaller buttons not only make the 16×16 more compact, but allow a new 8×8 mini (“nano”?) that’s even more portable than the original. And, lastly, there’s a “stretch” 8×16 form factor — the equivalent of two 8x8s — perhaps inspired by David Phipps’ custom 8×16 model as exclusively covered here on CDM. (“Exclusive” because David surprised me by sending a complete tutorial, with tips on sourcing all the parts!)
Price: TBD. Availability: Soon — and since the 16×16 design was the basis for the others, they should follow shortly.
Good stuff ahead [monome.org]
Wood and Sensible Names: The other change on all the new aforementioned boxes is that they’ll have wood enclosures and aluminum top plates, returning the Monome to its original wooden roots. Get the stain ready.
Also, whereas previously the models had the somewhat mysterious names 40h and 100h, they’re now more intuitively named for the arrangement of buttons. 100h is now 16×16, which is what we were all calling it anyway. Sorry, scratch that — they’ve just switched from hex to decimal. 40h = 64. Then again, hey, call it whatever you want — especially if you’re building a custom kit (I dub thee Marvin the Monome):
Kits! The new designs look great, but I’m personally most excited that kits for the keys and logic board will be shipping soon. This opens up the possibility of people creating one-of-a-kind Monomes, of extending the concept beyond what people had originally imagined. It means Monomes that are personal, that you won’t be able to buy on eBay … or buy, period. We’ve already seen very cool stuff with custom hardware, as with the countless C64/SIDstation mods made by Commodore lovers. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Monome. This also opens up the possibility of me building one of the worst case designs ever. So we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully it doesn’t come out like a birdhouse made in shop.
Price: Logic alone will be US$110. The keypad kit will include four 4×4 grids, plus the grid board, for US$140 — meaning you could have an 8×8 for, total, US$250, not including the enclosure you build. You could also just get the logic board and turn it into something original. Availability: Orders at the end of the week, no pre-orders, but “don’t worry about availability” is the message.
Future soldering [monome.org -- and yes, that looks super-easy to assemble, in case this is your first project of this kind. Plan to spend your time on the enclosure.]
So, Monomes, Monomes everywhere.
Just don’t tell that to eBay. The Monome creators have expressed a commitment to sustainable parts and domestic creation — which also translates to limited runs. Despite the fact that they indicated new Monomes were on the way, some people apparently reached the conclusion that the popular 40h form factor was going away forever. That was largely a good thing, in that many who had postponed buying a 40h snapped them up, and, hey, everyone likes excuses to buy new instruments. But it’s also prompted eBay sales above list price. One model just sold for US$760. Two more models have appeared.
More Monome talk soon; stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m off to sleep and dream of … enclosures.
Thanks to Brian for happy announcements and a heads-up.