Ableton Live controllers are suddenly everywhere, in commercial products and DIY creations. But an in-progress prototype being designed by Serbia-based creator Sasa Djuric, found on the CDM Flickr pool, goes the extra distance to integrate more effectively with the software. The hardware looks more like the on-screen UI, for starters – an elusive objective for many controllers. And by working with the Mackie Control protocol, Sasa is able to make communication between hardware and software fully bi-directional, so the controller gives you essential feedback. There’s even a facility for scratching. The design is based on the popular MIDIbox platform.

Sasa writes with details of what the creation process is like. It’s all still very much in progress, so we’re really excited to see how it evolves into a finished design.

Sasa explains (with videos to follow):

Hi Peter.

As you noticed the controller is still in production. It is in the final stage, but there is still quite a lot to be done. Most boring part of project is finished… assembling, engraving filling, sanding and polishing the buttons. Most of wiring is also done …I hate wires. I couldn`t afford to have messy wiring so I paid special attention to do it tidy because I wanted this controller to be as compact as possible without so really no place for mess.

This controller is designed especially for Ableton Live. There are two reasons for building it myself. First, I really enjoy building my own gear, and secondly, there’s no commercial controller that really comes close enough to what I wanted to have. Beside Live, it could be used with almost the same effectiveness with other music software as it’s heavily based on the Mackie protocol and it is completely configurable. I designed it for myself but I think it is very intuitive for somebody who is using it for the first time. I put a lot of effort into ergonomics and organizing so many controls on a small surface and it was a real challenge. Only thing I wanted to have but I left out is a touchpad, but I can live without it. Most of the digital controls (rotary encoders and buttons) have multiple functions and they are accessed easily using group buttons. Some are reserved for the system, like: window navigation, undo, redo, clip controls, and some are freely assignable for "dub style" sample triggering or FX parameter control. Critical functions like volume, start, stop, record, EQ, cue and sends have dedicated controls and have no multiple functions but it can be changed easily if needed. LEDs are activated from software feedback, not internally which is important for minimizing monitor usage. An interesting feature are LED bars which are common with encoders (LED rings) but not with pots. The controller receives the fader position feedback from Live and represents it as a bar on 15 LEDs. It is designed to be used in combination with faders that have snap function, which means there will be no ugly "jump" if the physical fader doesn’t correspond to the volume position in Live.

All internal construction and buttons are made out of 3,4 and 6 mm laser cut acrylic. I used white sub-panel as I wanted to back illuminate it with white LEDs to have nice rings around the pots, but I might left that idea if space become an issue which is likely to happen. Engraving on the buttons is also done using a laser cutter. Jog wheel is 40 steps optical. Quadrature and top disks are also made out of lasered acrylic. They are mounted on a hard drive spinner motor which serves just as a very durable spinning platform. The core of this controller is Thorsten Klose`s MB64E and MB64 (www.midibox.org). I’m also planing to integrate a MIDI mixer so I it can be used without a PC but only volume controls will be supported. If by any chance I find some more room left at the end I’m planning to integrate a USB sound card. After the controller is finished it will be finally housed into lasercut steel case with aluminum side panels. Those are the plans. But I don’t expect it to changed much.

Best regards and greetings from Serbia.

It’s really brilliant-looking work already. I can’t wait to see the finished project! Best of luck to Sasa with this.

fibra’s photo stream

  • contakt321

    Thanks for posting an article about this Peter. I have been following this build in Sasa's Flickr account and I have been totally fascinated.

    The design of this is brilliant. I am also perplexed at how one single person can build a product that looks so extremely intuitive while most manufacturing companies are rehashing the same products over and over and don't seem to get it.

    Can't wait to see this one get finished.

    PS: Check out Sasa's other creations. He has a sick SidBox amongst other things.

  • gbsr

    wow. thats one of the better builds ive seen.

  • wax

    LOL. we went from, get rid of hardware,software betters! to lets create hardware to emulate our software!

  • http://www.corporation.tk corporation

    wow just wow.

    that is so damn awesome.

  • rinxai

    @wax, 'tis not an emulator, it is a physical interface for virtual tools. While some may have dumped some of their virtualizable hardware, imho, midi based physical interfacing is complimentary to and a natural extension of the virtual tooling. Just like QWERTY keyboards, joysticks and mice.

  • http://virb.com/mapmap marc

    this thing looks amazing. really nice work.

    i can't wait to see the final product.

  • http://www.rolandreinke.com Roland Reinke

    Amazing, this is the next best thing to working with actual hardware instruments.

    I am really excited to see how this evolves, now that my Faderfox controllers are gone…. ;-)

  • http://www.myspace.com/riotschool Heiner

    Wow, thats amazing!

    I just really wonder how the scratching feature is done? Cause ableton live does not support any scratching without the use of external (mostly bad) VSTs…?

  • Sasa

    Heiner, scratch testing isn`t done in Ableton. It was NI Traktor. I wanted to know how is it for the job, even I wan`t be doing any scratching with it. ;)

    Thank you all for the nice words.

  • http://www.myspace.com/ishammusic isham

    possible to order this cool controler ? if yes where ?

    thanks