Look out, Akai APC40. There’s another contender in the emerging Controller With Lots of Buttons And Also Faders and Knobs and Crossfader product category. Livid’s Ohm64 combines the light-up button grid with faders, knobs, trigger buttons, and most importantly, unique customization options and a lovely wooden case. What’s unique about this one:

  • High-end materials: anodized aluminum faceplate, “immersion gold-platted circuit boards” (guess that’s circuit bling), an optional wooden body (aluminum is available, as well, but wood is more fun).
  • Not mass-market: hand-assembled, small-production Austin creation.
  • Fully class-compliant, no drivers (also true of the APC as far as I know, but nice – and ideal for Linux, too, in case you want to run this with a netbook or a Pd-running souped-up *nix laptop)
  • Open-source, customizable MIDI talkback: when you’re ready to customize just how those LEDs light up, there are included open source tools and fully programmable MIDI mapping

Bonus: it comes with a powerful, full-featured VJ app in the box, Cell DNA, though of course you can use it with anything you like.

The real story to me is the customization. Whereas the APC40 is entirely proprietary in design, has evidently limited MIDI mappings, and a mysterious mechanism for programming two-way communication, the Ohm64 is open, open source, and software-agnostic. If the open source thing catches on, that could mean a community of friendly folk thinking of smart ways to reprogram this thing for different apps. Ironically, that means that in the long run, the Ohm64 could wind up with better Ableton Live integration than the hardware Ableton chose to back – though all bets are off until we get these devices in our hands.

I would say the APC is probably more direct competition for the Ohm64 than the Monome, despite the 8×8 light-up buttons. The Monome is much lighter and slimmer, it takes a minimalist approach (no big knobs or faders), and uses OpenSoundControl in place of MIDI. The Ohm64 seems likely to appeal to those who weren’t Monome fans, and visa versa. And some lucky bastards are naturally going to own both.

But the important thing is that the Ohm64 joins the Monome in its crusade for open-source customization of a commercial product. Whatever the Ohm64 is when it ships, it’s that question of what people can do with it that may determine its real value. I have no doubt people will be reverse engineering the APC40, too — starting with figuring out how to fake the hardware “handshake” it uses so other devices can emulate it in Live. But it’ll be interesting to see how these different philosophies pan out, so to speak.

I hope to sit down with the Ohm64 as soon as they ship to Hoboken, New Jersey, across the river from me in Livid’s NYC-area offices. Stay tuned.

No pricing yet; the existing Ohm with fewer buttons is priced at US$599-699 on sale.

Ohm64 Product Page

  • http://twitter.com/dmlandrum Darren Landrum

    Uses OpenSoundControl in place of OSC? I thought that's what OSC was.

    Just to avoid being a grump, though, that thing looks suh-weet! I need to get my hands on an Arduino or two and start playing around with making controllers.

  • http://www.covops.org Bjorn

    Slip of the tongue. The latter is supposed to be MIDI.

  • http://www.keyofgrey.com KeyOfGrey

    That is a sexy controller. I love that there's more choice than ever these days

  • http://undecidedurl.blogspot.com/ Dave Smith-Hayes

    I saw the photos and instantly went to the website. I was thinking to myself "Damn, this is going to a controller that is more than $1000." The Ohm itself was 699 on sale. This got me really excited.

    This might have to be my next controller, depending on the launch price and all that jazz.

  • bliss

    *Cough* Maschine video interview. Promised. *Cough* Still waiting… *Cough* *Cough*

  • http://www.chromedecay.org Joshua Schnable

    What actually has me more excited is this DIY project board "coming soon" from Livid:

    http://www.lividinstruments.com/hardware_mididiy….

    MIDI and USB already on the board – this would make building your own controller that much easier than say, starting with an Arduino.

  • Eoj

    I've never been so attracted to a bunch of components and some wood, time to have a cold shower

  • http://twitter.com/dmlandrum Darren Landrum

    Sorry, I should've used a smiley, so you'd all know I was just ribbing a little bit. ;-)

    This is still a pretty sweet controller. I have some ideas for custom controllers for a stage show of my own. I want to focus more on live looping and musical performance rather than DJing, however.

  • nips

    I feel like I'm going to fit into the category of being a monome fan that this appeals to yet I probably won't get my hands on either :( Oh well my setup is getting complex enough as it is!

  • ex-fanboy

    now that's awesome!

    i was already looking at their older wood controller – but it's practically impossible to get it shipped here to europe and have it still be affordable. guess i'll have to hit up my mom next time she flies over from the states :-)

    on a side note:

    a friend working for akai in outside sales told me last week that the reason for the release delay of the apc is that akai has been busy patenting and securing in a "drm kind of way" (his words) the aforementioned "hardware handshake".

    this means that any device emulating the apc will be considered as "cracking" the ableton live.

    i for one can hardly wait ;-)

  • http://johnholdun.com John Holdun

    I like this. The 6×6 always bothered me. Is the two-way communication new to this model?

    This could be a nice alternative to the impossible-to-acquire Monome. Hopefully they can keep up with orders! The old one was for sale on the Guitar Center website which I found strange, but if they can handle it then they definitely deserve the business.

    Speaking of GC, I hope they add a "Controller With Lots of Buttons And Also Faders and Knobs and Crossfader" category soon. It would make browsing much easier.

  • http://dust.unrecnow.com marc

    oh, come on… as if the 6×6 version wasn't enough of a monome copy.

    total behringer move.

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  • http://seguesound.com Dri

    @marc the Monome is an open source idea. The makers are even supportive of the Arduino Monomo project, cutely titled Arduinome. You don't really "get" the Monome idea if you look at it like a possessive product or brand. Maybe you want them to apply for patents? Maybe pull "an Apple" style legal domination of technology and innovations that could actually progress our interaction with creative ideas?

  • http://dust.unrecnow.com marc

    Dri, my comment above was mostly talking about copying the keypad design.

    i'm totally aware of monome and their support of the Arduinome project. i love the monomes that i own and brian and kelli have created something truly unique and inspiring, both in the devices they design/build and the community they have helped to create.

    that's totally different than this.

    members of the monome community making use of their code and know-how to make their own monome clones is a wholly another thing from a separate company borrowing heavily from their design elements.

    i wasn't saying that it was illegal, just totally un-original.

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  • Alex

    “immersion gold-platted circuit boards” …useless…really stupid marketing!!!

    Another (marketed as handmade/"luxurious elements") product which does nothing new…At 699 its clear profit for the company..I wonder when Behringer will copy this design too and make an excellent controller for well under 300 euros, putting "woodenstylisticretrofuturistic" nonsense like OHM64 into shame…

  • http://abrightfearlesssunrise.blogspot.com/ Math:Eugenic

    I might contend that this is geared for the road. monome might be a bit more elligant, and behringer may at some point make something similar for way cheaper, neither solution will feel like something that you can beat a man to death with and, I know I speak for all of us on this one, that is whats really important.

  • Alex

    @Math:Eugenic :

    Believe me, bcf2000 and bcr2000 can "beat an army to death". I have dropped them, kicked them, and they perform perfectly. Don't believe the hype.

  • http://www.lividinstruments.com Jay Smith

    @ Marc

    We have been making our wood style controller with a 6×6 grid since 2003 (see tactic at the bottom) http://lividinstruments.com/hardware_other.php . Actually gold platted may sound like marketing, but it's actually costs a lot more to make and performs way better with button contacts so its a performance thing.

  • http://www.jeanfrancoischarles.com Jean-FranÃ&se

    The 6×6 grid Ohm is a great controller. The 2-way communication was lacking. This edition looks like the improvement users were waiting for. Hopefully the price will be competitive. The Akai will still be cheaper and for Live users, the multicolored buttons could be useful. But we need to touch an AKAI, to move the faders, and to use it in concert, to be able to compare. The quality of button contacts and faders is crucial. Hope livid keeps the top quality.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Jay, you're biased, so I'll respond. ;)

    First off – frankly, I think more 8×8 grids is a *good* thing, and that's the end of it. A major part of the monome project is its software, not just its hardware. If you have devices that have grids that are multiples of 8×8, you have a metaphor for the hardware that works with different software, just as there are many keyboards that have 8 knobs and 8 faders and thus map neatly to some of the same things. Some stuff just makes sense.

    It's anything but a Behringer move. Part of what appeals to me about the monome hardware is that it is minimalist, and it'll never have knobs and faders. But, of course, that means if you do want knobs and faders, the Ohm64 makes a lot of sense. (You can admire the monome aesthetically but use this.)

    I do think the monome will become more available during the course of the year; that's part of what the arduinome project is about. Also, my sense is (unlike the x0xb0x), if you get on the list for monome, you'll get one, maybe not immediately, but soon.

    Having gotten up close with both the previous Ohm and various monomes, they're just totally different animals.

    The Ohm's price is not inflated. Material choice, low volume, and doing things like hand-assembly in Texas all have a significant premium. But, as the monome project has tried to argue, as well, a lot of the prices of the goods that we buy are artificially underinflated by workforces in other countries that are unpaid or paid in terms that take advantage of biases between our market and theirs.

    Given what's happening to economies all around the world, I think thinking about actually manufacturing stuff (as President Obama said last night on Leno, oddly enough), and thinking about local and sustainable production and distribution – whether you're in Ireland or China – is a big deal.

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  • ernesto

    i need it.

  • fractal

    I love Livid instrument !

    And this new Ohm is awesome!

    Monome fanboys make me laugh…(behringer fans just make pity)

    This is different gears.

    Expensive? a tiny monome 64 cost 500 dollars!!!not ready to ship, you have to wait an artificial(but very commercial)time to have one,if you are lucky. for just a little device,the product cost isn't the same as a Ohm(more buttons,faders,etc etc).And handmade with premium parts.

    If you need fader and knobs this Ohm is perfect

  • http://www.datascraper.org PDX

    The new Ohm looks amazing. I cannot see myself gigging with it just to make sure it would stay safe.

    Still, I do not think I could justify buying one in the near future.

  • http://digitalbeatsyndrome@yahoo.com digitalbeatsyndrome@

    If they could only squeeze in 3 buttons per channel..1 for mute / solo/ arm.

  • http://soundcloud.com/maomao maomao

    This (nice) product has only blue LEDs

    it's nowhere near the APC40 for Session View control in Ableton Live (requires three clour, provided by two LEDs)

    and it's much more expensive. different targets I guess..

  • http://www.myspace.com/tooltablist Mudo

    Hi guys…

    Do you forget about LIVID comes with SOFTWARE (priced near 200-300 $)

    I will love it with an innofader for scratching with Ms. Pinky…

    Monome are great but more elitist than this ones…

    Apc40 is colsed (mind too) solution, not for me. Sorry.

    Behringer? maybe…

    DIY modularity is the key!

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  • Andy

    The APC and Ohm 64 are 2 similar but very different controllers. The APC is specific to Live and is sold as such. The APC is not a programmable controler. To some extent it is propreitary in nature. Ableton could probably have marketed it themselves as a live controller w/o Akai.

    OHM is a general purpose controller that can be programmed to run- anything!