ohm64 

So, you’ve been looking at that Akai APC40. And it’s appealing. It’s got lots of lights and a huge array of buttons for triggering samples or video or what have you, and plenty of knobs and faders.

Now the APC40 has some serious “indie” competition, though, in the form of Livid’s Ohm64. Let’s compare:

APC40:

  • Proprietary connection to Ableton Live
  • A proprietary handshake that ensures only a real APC is being used with Live
  • Fixed MIDI assignments – no MIDI assignment editor
  • MIDI only
  • No MIDI out jacks, so you can’t use it with outboard gear
  • No bus power
  • 40 buttons
  • Made in some factory somewhere we’ve never seen

Livid Ohm64:

  • Open source editor, partially open source firmware, open source patches to connect to whatever you want
  • Custom MIDI assignments, for use with whatever you want
  • MIDI for now, but the chipset supports open source solutions for OpenSoundControl (OSC) in the near future – and even DMX (for lighting) is a possibility
  • USB and standard MIDI jacks so you can sequence outboard gear
  • Bus power
  • 64 trigger buttons in a more logical 8×8 array
  • “Made in the USA by humans” – with a beautifully-crafted body
  • Free Cell DNA video software included

Both the APC and Ohm are class-compliant, so at least neither needs drivers to work over USB for MIDI on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Sure, the APC is plug-and-play with Live. But just as lots of non-programmers use open source browsers like Firefox, the whole point is that the Ohm could wind up being more plug and play with more tools thanks to its more open approach.

Most important is the programmability of the Ohm64. You can make your own custom light interactions – or, if you’re not into that sort of programming, count on what may be a growing community of open source musicians and visualists doing it for you.

In fact, Livid is so committed to customization that in addition to the natural, blue, and red finishes, you can order it unfinished and stain or paint it whatever color you like.

ohmeditor 

The Ohm64 is also priced at just US$599, meaning it doesn’t cost much more than the APC40. And with future OSC support, hardware MIDI support, bus power so you don’t have to carry a dongle, fully programmable visual feedback and assignments, and open source editing software, the APC has some real explaining to do about what its long-term payoff may be.

The editor is currently built in Max/MSP with some interesting possibilities coming up in Max for Live, but I’m also interested in working on some editing and performance tools in fully open source environments. Stay tuned.

Now, mind, this isn’t a review – I’ll get my hands on the Ohm64 next week here in New York, and I’ve only had a brief encounter with the APC. But if I were a betting man, I have to say, the contest here isn’t looking like it’s in the APC’s favor.

Available now.

Livid Ohm64

http://www.lividindustry.com/culture/ blog with more videos

Updated: I should note, one issue is definitely that, in order to maintain bus power, there are some compromises. You don’t get quite as much interaction from the lights as you do on the Akai APC – I do like the APC’s lovely LED rings around its encoders. You can interactively dim the lights on the knobs on the Ohm, though, which would work nearly as well. More once I get my hands on the Ohm, and theoretically, I should have an APC for testing at some point, too, assuming I didn’t just make Akai angry. (Uh…. competition is good. Blogs are all about opinions. Don’t hurt me.)

By the way, if you aren’t convinced and think you can do better, Livid is also distributing the brains of this device – the MIDIDIY – so you can build your own creations. Other such solutions exist, but the MIDIDIY is distinguished in its ability to support a lot more contacts for doing this sort of more complex device.

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

  • hollsa

    impressive! looking fwd to your review, peter. curious to hear your thoughts about the workflow (it looks solid). can the sliders be motorized as an option?

  • vanceg

    I've had the good fortune to lay hands on one of the early OHM 64s and I must say that the build quality seems excellent: The case feels solid and yet the unit is not overly heavy, the pads and knobs have a nice feel, the LEDs are plenty bright but not blinding… Hardware wise it's very nice. The programmability of the unit seems to be very impressive, as well. I clearly have not used it enough to feel I could write a proper review – but I did feel compelled to say "Wow – from what I've seen, this is NICE"

  • http://www.covops.org Bjorn Vayner

    A few questions come to mind..

    Has anybody actually been able to confirm you cant get past that APC handshake stuff? A secret MIDI string hasn't been much more than sysex in most hardware.

    If its capable to send special serial messages it could theoretically be programmed to send OSC too.

    What is the purpose of those back lights for knobs if they're not rotary? Show?

    Both the Ohm64 and the APC have faders that aren't motorized. Any plans on making a ture dumb terminal without any absolute controllers or will there always be some features to appeal to the VJ community?

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

    Nope, unfortunately, no motorized faders. That'd definitely increase the cost of the device and bus power wouldn't work. And if you're not a big fan of faders or knobs, you still really want a monome.

    On the other hand, I think the idea that we will soon have a *choice* of OSC-compatible devices with open software is really quite nice. And for people who use MIDI and not OSC, this is even better.

    I can certainly see driving a hardware synth with MIDI but a computer with OSC. No need to choose.

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

    @Bjorn: I'm fairly sure you *can* get past that handshake, which means you could see an APC emulator for the Ohm. ;) My point is, it's definitely a different philosophy, and that does translate in some material ways.

    I don't think you can program an APC to send OSC. At this point, it's not even really programmable for MIDI.

    The knob lights – not sure. I'll ask. Hopefully they address that in a firmware update, because it would be nice to have them do something (though having seen the previous Ohm in the dark, it makes them easier to see).

    I agree about the faders and knobs; there's a definite tradeoff. I don't know that that has anything to do with the VJ community — same issue for visuals as for music, really. You get additional tactile feedback but, without motors, you do have to deal with the relative/absolute issue between hardware and software.

    Anyway, that's a debate that will never be solved; you always have people on either side. That's why competition is good.

  • Justin

    I'm also looking forward to your review of this piece. I've been watching for information on it since I heard about it. It's much more appealing for me since I can use it for Live + my visual programs.

  • salamanderanagram

    "Has anybody actually been able to confirm you cant get past that APC handshake stuff?"

    i'm working on grabbing the sysex commands from a friend, just need to write a patch first.

    blah. ableton thinks they can have some 'proprietary' part of the software i paid over $500 for? screw that.

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

    Yep, I will do my best to get my hands on both the APC and Ohm64… the Ohm64 I'll be looking at on Tuesday with Jay from Livid.

    I need to finish editing the piece on Max for Live, but with that it'll ultimately be possible to do things even the APC can't. I am concerned about the growing complexity of these things, though. Another way to go is to simply do what we *used* to do, and build really simple patches for performance. :) Sometimes it actually winds up being less work.

  • Lephrenic

    APC gives you Solo, Mute, Record, Select, Play (x5) and Stop on each channel. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

  • bsantoro

    Ohm 64 Questions:

    Could you power the unit with a separate USB/AC Power Adapter, then use MIDI IN/OUT for all the interface functionality?

    Say you wanted to add one or more extra USB devices (all bus powered) in addition to the Ohm 64; would this overload a MacBook Pro's USB power output?

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

    @bsantoro: yes, why not? There are AC adapters that output to a usb connector, and I think this may even have a power connector (not positive)

    The MBP has been a little flaky power wise, so as for that, you'd just have to try it.

    @Lephrenic: Hey, if you prefer the APC layout, then go APC! But you could still program this layout with that functionality. And I expect we'll have usable Live templates out there.

    The thing about hardware is, you are always stuck with whatever layout you've got (unless it's something like the Lemur). But here, the plus is, the Ohm makes it much easier to program what you want — or to use something someone *else* made that's programmed the way you want. ;)

  • http://www.covops.org Bjorn Vayner

    But if both units are to be programmed in Max. What makes it easier for the Ohm?

    I mean, didn't Ableton talk (touch video) about a Max object of sorts that allows you to reprogram the APC?

    Or did they imply you will need Max to remap the messages. Therefore not making it a reprogrammable controller, contrary to what Akai said in one of the Namm demo's.

    Not a lot of info available on that, so I can't say for sure.

  • http://www.MattVerzola.com Matt Verzola

    looks very pretty. but with all that functionality, not one endless knob? endless knobs are a requirement for the stuff I do.

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

    What makes it easier: the *firmware* is programmable on Ohm, and the MIDI assignments are flexible, not fixed.

    You do NOT need Max to remap messages, because you can reassign them like any normal MIDI controller would. ;)

    And that's just the controllers themselves. The other huge advantage here is that the LED feedback is fully programmable on the Ohm64, which isn't true on the APC.

    And that's before we even get into OSC, which makes all of this a hell of a lot easier than it is with MIDI. So at that point, I'll be looking at Processing/Java and other tools and likely won't even touch Max.

    As far as I know, what Akai said about "re-programmability" was just that you could process MIDI messages to and from the APC with Max for Live to build, say, custom step sequencers. But there's nothing specific about the APC that enables that; that'll be true on any device – the Ohm, too, among others. And true re-programmability would mean a lot more than that.

  • http://www.covops.org Bjorn Vayner

    Oh ok. I wasn't actually aware about those limitations. So essentially the APC is less programmable than a UC-33 or even an MPD.

    Well I will definitely look into this Livid DIY stuff or at least the parts. Cause their boards have been listed as available soon for a while now.

    Wesen just ported his Minicommand code to arduino, so that looks like fun too. http://ruinwesen.com/mididuino

    Definitely a lot of options for people who aren't happy with the current stock of controllers.

  • cubestar

    Wow, I already got an APC for $320, but I thought the 64 was gonna be more like $1k.

    The labor considerations alone would have been enough for me to spring for $599.

    The 64 doesn't have as much live integration, but it is beautiful and seems so much more solid.

    Ableton said that the APC was the 'first' Ableton instrument, so maybe Livid could partner with them to make an Ableton edition in the future? (Endless ringed knobs, cursor control, etc…)

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

    Yes, and the "first" Ableton interface to me was the Faderfox. But anyway, isn't the whole point of having computer software that you shouldn't have to partner individually with every hardware maker whose gear you want to use? If we wanted that, wouldn't we be using standalone hardware?

  • Tim Thompson (yes, t

    One thing I don't see on either is continuous rotaries. Not a big deal, though. I really like the Ohm64!

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

    @Tim: Yes, I've confirmed that:

    Pots, not endless rotaries.

    You CAN dim the lights around the pots, so that could be additional visual feedback on position.

    I'm of a mixed mind on this. I like the flexibility of endless rotaries, but then, it's also nice to have the tactile positioning of pots – and sometimes the pots feel better. In the end, to me, you could almost flip a coin, as each has its own advantages.

  • atmosgear

    <blockquote cite="If we wanted that, wouldn’t we be using standalone hardware?">

    Good point Peter. Another advantage of software of course is that it is more portable, assuming you are using a laptop. I can't believe that companies are still trying to limit customer choice in this way though. Only Apple can get away with that!

  • http://www.jeffekblad.com Jekblad

    yes peter, but we prefer to complain rather than to learn how to build

  • http://www.jeffekblad.com Jekblad

    i'm gonna say motorized pots and faders. If you want the "best of both worlds" get your check book out.

  • real

    @cubestar:

    whr $320? did anyone else get a deal? i paid $400 for mine at musicians friend. they are no longer a musicians friend b/c it is on backorder until june 26!!!!!!

  • Dan

    one thing you forgot in the comparison is that the APC is dual color. This to me is a huge advantage over the Ohm64 and the Monome for that matter.

    The Ohm64 looks like a monome64 with a simple midi controller on either side.

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

    @Dan: Yes, that's right – and I do miss the colored LEDs on the Ohm64. Now, the monome, I think some people have hacked that to support color. It would likewise be theoretically possible to do a Color Ohm64 hack, if you give it more power, but not sure about the connections on the board … in other words, it might be a lot of work.

    Color is nice for status on clips, but then, for most of us clips are either playing or not. The bigger problem may be that you can't see which clip is which on *any* of these devices, because none of them has an LED.

    The hack on the Lemur is really terrific – you get status *and* color *and* name and touch whatever you want.

    This does get us into the question of how much straight-up clip triggering you want to do in a set, but it is a valid question.

  • cubestar

    @real: mf.com recently did another 20 percent off gift certificates.

    The Lemur is sweet, but I will never have that kind of $, and it's huge. The real shiz is going to be mass produced multi-touch devices (iTablet and others).

    I won't even care about loss of tactile response!

  • http://www.lividinstruments.com Peter Nyboer

    Pete from Livid here…a few comments:

    RE: External power – no, not possible, even with a USB wall-wart. It's a class-compliant device, so it needs the host to tell it what power mode to use. The wall-wart won't do that. That said, we haven't actually TRIED

    one, but our engineer assures us it won't work.

    RE: Open Source-ness: the firmware is not open source: we used the USB code from microchip to get us started on the USB communications, and we don't have distro privileges with that. But the software to re-assign the MIDI and control LEDs is all open – it's just sysex – and the source software I've made for the editor in Max5 is available. I also have some simpler patches that show how to use the sysex.

    RE: OSC – we have not begun trying this out, so I don't really want to promise its future existence, but in talking w/ Andy at CNMAT, and the fact that we are using the same chip family should make it possible to do. Maybe we will be graced with an ambitious user!!

    Looking forward to making this instrument grow :)

    Pete

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

    Hi Peter,

    Sorry, sorry — I see, if the firmware is expecting to be operating in host mode then indeed it may not work without a computer. (That's an interesting question, though; may be worth researching further.) I can see some people wanting to use this with only outboard gear, if a rarer case.

    The OSC thing looks very possible based on the chip. So my point was, it should be possible — really, it should happen; we should just work on making it happen. :) It's not necessarily as practical on other chips.

    Note that you may not actually need that same USB firmware, either, if you're just running TCP/IP over USB… this is actually how the Android works when it's plugged into a computer for development.

  • Dan

    @Peter Kirn

    It is not possible to hack a monome for multi color. There are people in the arduinome community (monome clone) who have been making a new PCB that can drive RGB leds. Each new color (e.g. if it duo color) adds a complete set of matrix connections/controls. It is not that complex and does not require too many extra parts. Software/firmware obviously needs to be adapted too.

    I just feel it is narrow minded of the developers not to include this from the beginning given that their hardware is so simple and this would not have added significantly to the overall cost.

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

    Sorry, the Arduinome, yes, can do that via the new PCB. I don't know what's possible on this particular device. I also imagine that keeping cost low was a question.

  • James Husted

    I have a friend who will be reviewing the APC so will get my hands on it soon. I have a Mackie Control Universal rig now and the motorized faders are very sweet when changing sets of scenes. No guessing where the levels are. And having text readouts are great too. If I didn't get my at the deal I did, I couldn't afford it though. I bet you with all the positive response that Akai has gotten for the APC40 that I can easily see a APC40-Pro in the future with motorized pots and a built in multi channel audio interface built in for a couple of hundred more…

  • bsantoro

    Not to blue-sky about non-existent products too much, but if Apple were to release an all touch-screen tablet for under a $1,000 at about 10" diagonal screen size, with a SDK programming model like the iPhone apps, I see an explosion of MIDI/OSC controller applications that would give the Lemur, and others a run for its money. Total flexibility with layout of buttons, sliders and pots; and total color feedback of any control graphic with color light and brightness levels. The GUI of music controllers could evolve into better and better interfaces in a software vs. the hardware environment.

    I see this tablet device as just a wireless remote controller for apps (Live, Logic, VDMX5, etc.) running on a MacBook Pro, for example. Think of a Monome, Lemur, Tenori and iPhone in a single device; with the flexibility to adapt to any layout. Instead of tactile feedback, you would would get unlimited forms of visual feedback, impossible with hardware devices.

    Sorry for blue-skying, I get excited about some of the rumors in the last few months.

  • http://www.tetmusic.com The Extravagant Trav

    @ bsantoro – agree with you on flexibility aspect, but there's definitely something to be said about physical controls and tactile feedback. Virtual faders and knobs really aren't very useful, in my opinion.

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

    @bsantoro:

    It doesn't have to be Apple, for one. And it's not if — it's when. Someone will do an affordable multitouch screen. We already have laptops with those screens, so if we had more compelling options there, we'd be set. (Then you'd just run OSC locally…)

    Android is a possibility. So are GNU/Linux and Windows. And so is Mac OS. There's already the very clever Python-based PyMT multitouch framework for multitouch tables with projectors… you could easily build interfaces in whatever development environment you wanted, and then get that running on *any* hardware people desired.

    In fact, if Apple did their own proprietary thing it'd be relatively limited by comparison.

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

    Anyway, yes — that'd be the multitouch solution. Physical controls still have their place. And you really want physical controls when you have lots of pads. I've been playing with the Lemur and love it, but the moment I get into triggering pads, it feels really clumsy. Tangible interfaces is what you want for that.

  • http://nostromo.noisepages.com M-.-n

    If it supports OSC it's going to be a freaking milestone !!!

    Any idea of the resolution of the faders & pots would have if used in non-MIDI protocol ?

    Please don't say 127 !!!

    Great news

  • jonesonyou

    I Don't like either. too many Buttons and faders not enough Knobs. 64 grid like monome, I get it good. Space is an issue, I get this also. faders are a waste.

  • andy

    just wondering where you are getting your facts that the apc will only work with ableton… all the information i've seen says it will work with most DAWs.

    and that midi is re-mappable, if you desire customized routings.

    and one of the real strengths you ignore in the apc is its lack of need of mapping for use right out of the box, in logical easy to understand ways.

    for those of us non-programmers, the apc 40 will easily win out over the livid, however sexy it's hand made face and chassis may be, and however open source-programmable it may be.

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

    @andy: I never said the APC worked only with Ableton. In fact, because the APC40 is designed as a general MIDI controller, I think it's fair to judge how well it works with other tools — and the answer is not terribly well from what I can see.

    The issue is not whether you're a "programmer" or not — by programmable, I mean whether you can customize MIDI assignments, which is something we've expected on even some of the simplest, cheapest controllers.

    It is NOT correct that the APC40 mapping can be edited. From Akai's own FAQ:

    "The MIDI note numbers, channels and CC numbers cannot be edited on the APC40 (unless you use Max for Live), so you would have to edit the hardware device to conform to the APC40."

    On top of that, there's no hardware MIDI input or output, making the APC40 fairly useless for setups involving hardware.

    And there's no way to easily customize visual feedback, which makes it fairly unappealing for software other than Live.

    The whole point here is, if you're *not* interested in customization, you can rely on someone else to do the hard work of templating for you on the Ohm64 and reap the rewards.

  • flangercize

    I love this site!

  • andy

    quote:

    It is NOT correct that the APC40 mapping can be edited. From Akai’s own FAQ:

    “The MIDI note numbers, channels and CC numbers cannot be edited on the APC40 (unless you use Max for Live), so you would have to edit the hardware device to conform to the APC40.”

    end quote

    you are taking things out of context, peter, and misleading people.

    no you can't get live to treat you livid or momome to function identically to an apc, but midi IS mappable for the device:

    quoting the FAQ:

    #

    Can I map the APC40 the usual way by clicking MIDI Map in Ableton Live?

    Yes.

    and regarding its use with other programs:

    #

    Can I use the APC40 with other programs?

    The APC40 was designed to be a controller for Ableton Live. That said, you can use it in other programs but you will have to manually map it out in the other programs. Akai Pro will not be issuing any MIDI control templates for other DAWs and programs. If you do manually map things, a DAW with the learn feature in MIDI mapping mode will be easier to map than one without. You cannot change the MIDI note numbers and CC numbers that the APC40 is assigned to.

    all this said, this controller is designed for ableton users, first and foremost. and it's not like akai doesn't tell you that! and some of us will be quite happy with it, perhaps even thrilled!

  • http://etherealleminor.blogspot.com DMinus

    picked one up a few months ago and i really really love it. great feel, solid and beautiful construction, support for an independent company, all that. I've found great uses for it doign a lot of different types of things; not just ableton live. used it a lot with cubase, and built templates for both cubase and ableton that make it a great two channel type dj mixer. simply a great tool and more versatile in a lot of ways than what i assuem the apc40 is. not a diss on apc, just an observation.

  • anonymous

    andy,

    i could be wrong here but i read that as:

    Can I map the APC40 the usual way by clicking MIDI Map in Ableton Live?

    Yes.

    – translation, you can use ableton's midi map mode to map the hard-coded midi assignments on the APC to control other features. this doesn't mean you can change the hard coded assignments on the APC.

    Can I use the APC40 with other programs?

    The APC40 was designed to be a controller for Ableton Live. That said, you can use it in other programs but you will have to manually map it out in the other programs. Akai Pro will not be issuing any MIDI control templates for other DAWs and programs. If you do manually map things, a DAW with the learn feature in MIDI mapping mode will be easier to map than one without. You cannot change the MIDI note numbers and CC numbers that the APC40 is assigned to.

    – same as above. especially that last sentence: "You cannot change the MIDI note numbers and CC numbers that the APC40 is assigned to."

    so when peter says:

    It is NOT correct that the APC40 mapping can be edited. From Akai’s own FAQ:

    “The MIDI note numbers, channels and CC numbers cannot be edited on the APC40 (unless you use Max for Live), so you would have to edit the hardware device to conform to the APC40.”

    he is absolutely right. you cannot remap the APC's midi assignments, so knob X on the APC will always output on midi CC# Y. yes, you can map your software to do something interesting with CC# Y, but you can't change the APC to output CC# Y+1.

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

    Look, the APC has some really lovely things about it. My loaner just arrived, so I intend to test it more. I'm just saying there's some inflexibility about how it behaves, which could ultimately be restrictive even in Live.

    But I think there's some misunderstanding about what I mean when I say "program" or "remap."

    Generally, you have two places at which you may be able to reassign control numbers: the device that's *sending* control signal or the device that's *receiving* the signal.

    So, yes, you can "map" the APC to any software you want so long as you assign the software's assignments to match the (fixed) layout of the APC. What you can't do is edit the assignments on the APC side. This can cause issues in specific scenarios, although admittedly, it's less of an issue with software than hardware. (It CAN still be a problem, though, for trying to use things like incremental button presses and the like.)

    I think the more significant issues have to do with whether you might want to use the APC outside Live and control how the lights light up, etc.

    Look, ultimately, I actually think using MIDI period is kind of a pain in the a**. I say that just because some of these problems (like these fixed MIDI assignments) are inherent to MIDI as the means of controlling between hardware and software, not simply the APC. MIDI works, of course, in a lot of cases, and I'm not saying don't use it (I use it every day), but we really could have something that works better.

  • flonk

    Fixed assignements seem more a marketing thing than a midi problem, even cheapo controllers are usually programmable, by software or on the device. Also midi always was quite open, and with a little glue in between one could connect anything to anything.

    I'm starting to see a rather irritating developement on abletons side though, I never understood the instruments that came as addons to 7, buy-in content with little to no advantage over the original vsts that are usable in other hosts, then their support for specific controllers, that was more a lack of a general configuration tool, then max4live kills pluggo – as a max user the beautiful experience was to be able to interface with everything, you just have to patch it. Now its limited to live.

    slightly ot, but possible post-live-speculation link:
    http://bitwig.com/

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  • http://www.twowordsrecords.com Darren

    Anyone thought of the music application of Microsoft's Natal Xbox controller?

  • Poodleface

    1. $200 is not a little more ($600 vs $400).

    2. The endless encoders on the APC with their LEDs that reassign with Live are the handiest thing about it. If the Livid doesn't have those then I don't see the point if I'm looking for a controller to use with *Live*. I can get 16 faders for $100 with my Peavey PC1600. This said, I'm not completely sold on the APC yet.

    3. Frankly, I like how the APC is getting poo-pooed when at least you can use it with other programs and devices, unlike NI's Maschine, which costs more and is even more proprietary. If Maschine can be defended for having tight integration with its host software then I think the APC deserves a similar pass.

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

    @Poodleface:

    1. "Cheap" is not always better. We had this argument with the monome – sustainable, local production costs more, period. You can get something material in return, though, things like the wood used on the Ohm and really solid construction.

    2. Yeah, absolutely – I think the endless encoders with the light feedback on the APC is terrific, as is the fact that the APC has a layout that lends itself to device rack configuration. Plus, you do have these additional dedicated keys for selecting tracks, etc. So don't get me wrong – it's not entirely black and white here.

    3. Well, that's simply not true. Maschine's hardware has an editor that lets you assign different templates to different tasks – precisely what the APC is lacking. And while we're still waiting on some very essential features like MIDI in (hopefully coming soon in an update), Maschine's software integrates in whatever host you want, so you could transport it from Renoise to Live to Pro Tools if you wanted.

    Now, that said, I'd like more granular control of some of the Maschine controls that you get. So I'll happily criticize both for that.

  • Poodleface

    Also:

    Is the Livid crossfader user replaceable? Because the APC's is. Granted, the replacement could be like buying a replacement part for a Thinkpad, cheaper than a new unit but by no stretch of the imagination a good deal.

    The two color buttons in the APC are not to be underestimated. When you are changing the assignments of the buttons in the Session View the 2nd color for clips that are playing goes a long way to help you keep track of where the grid of buttons are assigned for large sets.

    The bus power issue is sort of a non-issue. How often does one perform on battery power on a laptop, anyway? The design takes into account the issue with using a wallwart by having a mechanism to secure the connector to the device. It's not much but it shows that someone, somewhere, thought about the logistics of actually taking the APC out for shows.

    Sorry to endlessly rant… I'm bored at work. :-p

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

    @Poodleface: Do you mean replacing the endcap on the crossfader or the entire crossfader? I believe it should be possible to repair an Ohm, but I'd have to ask.

    LED color – yes, that's absolutely a good thing. I believe the power control, though, is another reason the Ohm64 can be bus powered.

    But I'd love to have the color options on the Akai with the programmability of the Ohm. As it stands, the Ohm is more customizable as far as how those lights respond. That's a shame on the Akai *because* it has more options you might like to control. And again, this doesn't mean you have to be programming the thing yourself to appreciate it — only that you might be able to take advantage of other folks' hacks. But I'll have a look at how the APC handles those events in the meantime.

    Bus power is mainly just a nice thing, not a deal breaker; I agree. (Actually, I'm still interested in the option of getting the Ohm64 under its own power, so I'll have to continue to research that.)

  • Poodleface

    Peter,

    Thanks for the thoughtful engagement. I cited the Maschine because it is a quite expensive controller that exists solely to work with one particular piece if software. It's not an open controller that can exist outside of the software. If I'm wrong, I'll eat crow with BBQ sauce. My understanding is that Maschine is similar to Kore, which means it works well with the software but outside of it the controller is useless. I know that a setup in one host is portable to another. That's not my criticism of it. My point is that those controllers have no functionality beyond working with their host programs.

    I'm merely saying that perhaps the APC should not be faulted for doing one thing and doing it well. I urge you to give it a try before passing judgement on it.

    I can't deny the aesthetic value of the Livid controller or the Monome (if anyone could buy one). Wood is nice. However, for me, aesthetics are secondary to functionality. Right now the Livid device doesn't do anything that hasn't been done by other devices. Why not have OSC now? I need a reason to buy it. It being made of wood ain't it! :-p

    On the flip side, the APC does do something new, mainly tight integration with Live, without the endless tweaks. I'm actually quite all right with a device being designed for one purpose if it is adequately supported. I'm quite all right with the APC only working well with Live. If I want something more flexible, I'll buy something else, or adapt the army of controllers I already have. If you don't like the APC's approach, don't buy it. Also, don't buy a Euphonix controller because those only work with a Mac. :-/

    For the tweakers, I'm not worried about the APC's "secret handshake" being unbreakable. If it is solely MIDI it will be figured out. Yet, even if it is, to duplicate the functionality of the APC with more expensive equipment is going to be a niche at best. Either way, Ableton has built in automapping support for plenty of controllers they have no financial stake in.

  • Poodleface

    Also (and the last also for now!) the APC has an opening on the bottom where one can replace the entire crossfader in the event it gets worn from repeated use, much like DJ mixers do. This tells me that Ableton knows who will be buying this thing.

    I'm not a total evangelist for the APC, I just got to actually play with one at the Atlanta Ableton User Group ahead of the launch last Saturday. I just think comparing this Livid device to the APC is a bit unfair. I seem to recall the Maschine being cited by you as a potential rival to the APC. I think we both know now this is no longer the case. They are different tools for different tasks.

    If open MIDI controllers are like a good, basic table saw that in the hands of a master can replicate the effects of specialized saws, then these more specialized controllers are like specialized saws. Unnecessary for some, but for a beginner not being bogged down in the minutae of controller setup it might mean more actual music is created. :-)

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

    Hi Poodleface,

    No, these are all excellent, excellent points. I'm going to refrain from saying any more about the APC until I have time to use it. And you know, part of why it's important to have choices.

    I want the OSC Ohm64, too – that to me is what would *really* get more interesting, and I generally agree, with just MIDI it isn't a radical step forward. Now, with Max for Live's various Live integration objects, you can do things the APC itself can't, so the clever editors and patch selections Livid is putting together will make that more interesting – and the APC, too.

    But you (fortunately) aren't correct on Maschine. The device has a MIDI mode that allows it to be used with any software. Peter Dines has been working on some templates for Reaktor (only NI software by coincidence, really). Maschine has some interesting Live templates, too — and has velocity sensitivity.

    So, ultimately, it's about choice, not any one device that integrates — which I agree was a limitation of the Kore controller.

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

    I should clarify — Maschine has a MIDI mode for use with *software*; it relies on host drivers on the computer for MIDI functionality so cannot be used as a standalone MIDI device without the computer, even though it *does* have the ports.

  • http://jesseengel.bandcamp.mu Jesse

    Great thread. I just have to chime in seeing as I have an APC sitting here in front of me. I really thank you Peter for the article, because while I've found the APC to be well integrated to Live, I'm actually kind of disappointed that all of its cool features are not customizable. Specifically, it seems like there's no way to control the LED's if you remap them. This would open up the functionality of the device tremendously as I could get visual feedback with other programs (which is the main advantage in my opinion of the monome and livid). That said, do you think a hack will come out soon to access these abilities? Does one already exist?

  • http://www.covops.org Bjorn Vayner

    No amount of MIDI controllers is ever going to change the fact that we still have to rely on Ableton to pick the right 8 (or 64) parameters for automapping.

    8 out of 10 times I don't agree with their choice. For example, the way the Looper is automapped makes it rather useless. I wanted the 8 other parameters. Sure there are Racks, but then you are limited to 8. With no banks to jump to.

    Lets face it, The clip grid feature is an extension of something that got built into Live 3 for Hawtin and Monolake. Everything else on the APC are Mackie control functions combined with automap.

    The only alternatives are making Ableton realize that control is our biggest wish and therefore a priority for them or hack our way in thru Max for Live. If that is even possible..

    Personally I'm hoping the APC to be the straw that breaks the camels back.

    I thought novation would do the job, but they chose to go with their own software workaround.

  • http://abrightfearlesssunrise.blogspot.com/ Birds Use Stars

    Yes! THIS!

    APC is a totally inigrated Ableton Live controller which is fine and good.

    OHM is like a monome, only you can actually get one instead of having to deal with ebay monome scalpers. It also has KNOBS. I like knobs.

    As for OSC, mabye I'm thick (likely) but I'm still not clear on what use it is for someone like me, since I have MIDI controllers, and they support MIDI, so that's what I use?

  • bsantoro
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  • Esol Esek

    why no more comments? still curious…the APC has that updownritghtleft button that lets your motate across your view, and grab more than the 40 samples in the pic. THey both ahve the same number of faders, but dont they make more sense together on the APC? SInce the APC scene moves around, it's open to more than the 8 static ones on the ohm, or can the ohm move around, or do you have to crack open the editor each time? DOes the color matter much? I wish Ohm had continued to add in Union. Getting the lesser vj software kind of makes it less motivating. The USB power is an advantage.

  • Esol Esek

    hoping, panting for Livid info soon. As prob one of the billions waiting, but not pre-ordering an APC40, I started looking at the Novation reMote SL mark I and II. It has a keyboard for those of us that like to play riffs on the fly. Not as many rectangles, but knobs that are LABELLED. Livid has got CellDNA, but Modul8 is the 'standard' and Livid told me CellDNA has improved performance over Union, whatever that means. Plus the Novation runs on 4 C batteries, something you're not likely to ever see again…

  • decrepitude

    After reading the manual for the Ohm64, it seems that the warranty is only for 6 months. Given the emphasis on build quality, I am a bit surprised by this!

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

    It is actually one year, that warranty was from our old controller and I didn't upload the most current manual. It's up there now. Thanks.

  • decrepitude

    Cool.

    I think if the build quality is a selling point, you should consider making it several years – not just one. And please know – I say that with all due respect. I think the Ohm64 is quite sexy indeed.

  • decrepitude

    Just to keep things updated, here's a response from the Ohm forum:

    "If there was a mechanical failure, it would likely happen within the first few days. Anything beyond that would be from wear and tear. If something goes wrong not from use we will happily replace it, but if it is after a year there is not much that can go wrong that is not from wear and tear. If something goes wrong that is caused by a user we will fix/replace it at cost. If we find it is a mechanical failure we will not charge you for it. I personally despise "Livid Care" type warranties that many companies offer, we wont charge for that kind of thing. So if you look at other companies that offer lifetime warranties, this is essentially what we offer."

  • Esol Esek

    energizer bunny – still waiting…for a real assessment of this controller – btw – cell64 does NOT export QT movies, something any VJ software worth its salt MUST do in my opinion..

  • Pauly

    So what's the verdict?

    I have an APC on order but came across the ohm and want to know.

    What about the vci by vestax?

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