John at HighlyLiquid has been busy this year- he’s got a new kit out and one in the works that really step up the game. You may be familiar with his previous kits, which add MIDI control to Speak & Spell, Atari 2600, or pretty much every Casio. HighlyLiquid also stocks more open-ended kits which can add MIDI control to pretty much anything- I used one in my MAKE Magazine article last year to build a drum-playing robot.
The new MD24 falls into the latter category. It takes a MIDI input and gives you 24 discrete +5V outputs that can be used to drive relays, transistors, or servo motors. Functionally, the MD24 is similar to HighlyLiquid’s MSA-T or MSA-R kits, except that you now have 24 outputs instead of just 8- a significant improvement.
Certainly, people with a lot of time on their hands will say “I can do that myself with Arduino, running MIDI through the USB-to-serial converter, and I’ll build a custom Max/MSP patch to control the parameters.” Sure you can, but personally I prefer to spend only as much time as it takes to get my musical systems up and running, instead devoting my time to actually making music and practicing my live set. If you are like me and love DIY stuff, but also don’t want to spend 6 months programming your own ATMEGA chips, then I recommend you consider this type of solution.
I found the kit very easy to assemble. The board is laid out with a decent amount of space between the components and is clearly labeled. The online instructions were very thorough and identified any potential problems. I was able to assemble the kit in about 40 minutes and I was able to hook the MD24 up to my handmade sequencer synth very quickly. It all worked on the first try. (Disclosure: I’ve built one of these kits before and pretty much knew what I was doing, but I didn’t find it all that difficult the first time I did it either)
I made a little video to demonstrate the system in action, which works a lot better than trying to describe it with text. (See top)
My conclusion: The HighlyLiquid MD24 MIDI Decoder kit is a very affordable, powerful solution for all your analog sequencing and control needs. My imagination was really sparked by this one, and the potential applications are immense. HighlyLiquid bridges the gap between the analog and digital worlds very elegantly and with a minimum of time and fuss- 100% win.
And, a teaser: There’s a DIY MIDI controller kit in the works which looks totally awesome. I hope it’s released soon because I got all kinds of plans for it.