As controllers get wild and creative and integrated with software, here’s one that might be simple and versatile enough to work with anything for some time. Photos courtesy Livid Instruments.

Finally: a boring controller. No, that’s a good thing.

We’re in an amazing era of controller hardware, witnessing an explosion of kit with fancy features, tight integration with software, and slick oceans of colored LEDs packed with sophisticated sensors.

Only… wait a minute.

Sometimes, you want something fairly generic that maps easily to a variety of software, not just the new Abletive Tracktletron DJ Studio Pro Scratchly Edition. Something with some basic faders and knobs and things, not something you play by wiggling your nose and waving the thing around as you fling your hair.

To put it another way, I know plenty of people who still swear by Evolution’s UC-33e controller, and neither the controller nor the company still exists. We ought to have a UC-33e for 2012, right?

Meet the Alias 8. It’s just a nice, compact controller layout. It looks like every controller, in a good way: it has a generic layout you could map to your favorite soft synth organ or a lighting rig or an Ableton set or a granular patch you just made or … you get the idea. In fact, like the Evolution, it has a master fader (or vertical crossfader) on the right, and pairs knobs with faders.

True to Livid’s personality, you do still get some nice colored pads, but in a 2×8 matrix that’d work perfectly for arming tracks, or as a step sequencer, or… the list goes on.

It’s boring, like a screwdriver is boring. It almost looks like integrated hardware, rather than a controller. You start looking at the pads and faders and knobs, and seeing mappings. That could be $299 well spent – because, like the UC-33e, you could be using it ten years from now.

And since it’s class-compliant, it’ll work with your Mac, Windows, Linux, iPad, Raspberry Pi, or something that hasn’t been invented yet.

I hope to get one to test from Texas soon.


8 – 30mm faders
1 – 60mm fader
16 – rotary potentiometers
16 – RGB LED backlit buttons
1- push-button detented encoder
2 analog expansion ports for Livid XPC and DIY controllers (up to 16 additional analog controls)
15 banks of control on separate MIDI channels
Character display
USB powered class-compliant MIDI
Crafted by hand in Austin, TX USA

Dimensions: 7.5” x 11” x 1 ⅝” (including knobs and feet) (19 cm x 28 cm x 4.1 cm)

  • anechoic

    erm, $299?! I’ll take a Korg Nanokontrol for $60 thanks!

    • Derp

      Support your domestic economy and buy something made in the US. that will likely last a lifetime… or buy something mass manufactured in China that will likely break in a few years.

    • bill

      Sorry, I have to agree with @anechoic…this is basically a very large, and expensive nanokontroller. I respect Livid, but as an artist, cost and functionality are important important factors for every purchase. I’ve had my nono for 4 years now without any problems or glitches, and it fits in my laptop case (i.e. small). I need that as I carry enough stuff around to gigs without adding something several times it’s size and cost to do essentially the same job. I only wish someone would make an equivalent piece of kit with knobs…say 9 by 4, that was SMALL, FLAT, and affordable. Again, Livid makes one, quality no doubt, but it’s BIG and EXPENSIVE.

    • anechoic

      this might be a little bigger than you want to carry around but…

    • Bill

      Cheers anechoic, yeah, I’m thinking it might be too big though maybe I’ll reconsider it again…I agree with your post below, same for me…

    • TQ

      I have had many controllers including a nanokontrol and I just purchased my second livid controller. This is nothing like a nanokontrol…at all. Livid controllers are meant to be PLAYED like an instrument meaning the build quality is outstanding and honestly i’d be pretty embarrassed to play a show with a nanokontrol.

    • anechoic

      a) unless you are making A LOT of money selling your product via download, cd or performance (music wants to be *free* remember?) then you are just financing an expensive hobby. I’m just a struggling professional laptop musician.

      b) I’ve traveled all over Europe with my Nanokontrol for the past three years and it has always worked flawlessly – never broken or damaged in flight or in use.

      c) it has essentially all the same controls minus the extra row of knobs…I have the nine fader version and plan on buying another as backup. When connected to Pd-extended it becomes a little powerhouse for performance and sound design.

      d) there is no reason to buy expensive boutique gear unless you are a trust fund kid or living off of your parents income.

    • Ricky Ambilotti

      I’ve just sent an e-mail to return my new “Korg NanoKontrol 2” because, besides the painful process of installing badly done drivers to make it work, it died completely for no reason after just 3 days of moderate use.

      If NanoKontrol was reliable it would of been close to the perfect controller, but unfortunately it’s no way near that in real life. Think that you take it on the road and bails on you before or during the gig!

      If you do a search on its reliability you will see that tons of people complain. I didn’t took them into consideration because I thought they are subjective. They are not.

      I’ll order my Alias 8 next week as I am tired of cheap build, unreliable MIDI controllers and this also includes the Behringer BCR2000 – had 2 replaced and it’s still faulty – they can’t find a working one! :))).

      I consider the Alias 8 price difference an insurance that the controller won’t fail when is needed the most, due to it’s build quality and Livid Instruments verified reliability.

  • brian wells stevens

    Mmm… gonna dust off my ageless UC 33 and have myself a nice workout. Silver and round edges, the style of then.

  • Derek

    30mm faders? No thanks.

  • Gargan

    Gotta agree about the price – a bit steep for what it is, although the aluminum chassis is a step up from your typical plastic knob box. Also not into the tiny faders or their placement above the buttons. I never see a Livid controller that quite fits my needs, sadly. Unfortunate looks aside, this one comes closest, but I’d lose one row of buttons and use longer faders.

  • ArmandoC

    glad I’m not the only one scratching my head on this one.

  • Frank

    When every single one of the thousands of posts on your blog is written by you, isn’t it a bit narcissistic to say each one is by you? We know. By Peter Kirn.

    • Rob

      Dear Frank, why the personal attack? While Peter seems to be the main author, there are regularly posts by other people, such as the interview recently with Hans Zimmer’s technology director or the most recent entry on 3D printing and its potential musical applications. Try not to confuse consistency with narcissism. Cheers!

    • Frank

      Yeah, one post in every thousand is not by your boyfriend Peter Kirn. It’s narcissism, pure and simple. By Peter Kirn.

    • cillianjohn

      Bye Frank. By Cillian.

    • esol esek

      someone got their panties in a bunch, and needs to start their own website that someone will care about – but that isnt going to happen, but you can buy more panties.

      your momma

    • retroz

      Every major blog posts a byline in the post – Synthtopia, Boing Boing, Engadget, Gizmodo, I heartily recommend that you tell them off as well. Evil narcissists!

    • Jerry

      This is so true. Every post is By Peter Kirn, so what reason other than narcissism could there be for repeatedly reminding us of this? By Peter Kirn.

    • John

      Agree with this. Why all the narcissism?

    • Peter Kirn

      By Peter Kirn

    • Peter Kirn

      Frank, I can see your IP address. If you repeatedly spam the comment thread pretending to be different people, I will blacklist that IP. Duplicate comments committed.

      In answer to your question:
      1. It’s a template. I’m not saying anything. It’s automatic, via userid.
      2. There are multiple authors, and I want to disclose who they are.

    • Bill

      LOL, that’s great Peter! Nothing like outing a moron :) (@Frank….you sir are an idiot of the grandest order….dumberthandumb! hahahaha

  • nayseven

    Of course, the price is a little heavy but I’m totally agree with the reflexion about generic controller , we need simple tools and why not with an editor ( to have feedback on a launchpad you need to send velocity of 15 for red, 20 for green… and to create a toggle button it’s a pain..what a pity, it’s a fun tool ) APC 40 ?.sysex ( not so easy) Push.?..i’m afraid…..
    so you’re right peter , generic+editor+modular is definitively my choice !

  • Gwydion

    I love my UC-33e and, as you mention, it just keeps on going. For that much money I want wood! Like my UC-33e: πŸ˜‰

    • Peter Kirn

      Beautiful! Works for me. I still think the layout above would work nicely for a step sequencer, though – which could also be worth sacrificing some fader throw.

  • Jason Scott Furr

    I’m still waiting on OSC native controller hardware… it’s 2012. What gives?

  • lee_chaos

    I was all like ‘meh’ then… wait a minute, look at the back…
    *Expansion ports*. There’s your killer app. Basic unit, but with room to *build what the hell you like* out the back of it. So effectively this is a Livid Brain + basic standalone set of controls but with a window to the outside world.

    “Like a Rubber Band
    The Alias 8 doesn’t stop there at stretching out your studio. With two expansion jacks for Livid’s XPC line of controllers, you can add up to 16 more analog controls. Grab an XPC and instantly hook up something simple like more pots or faders for your sends and returns. If you really want to shake things up, there’s XPCs with something exotic, like accelerometers or joysticks. With our DIY line of parts and boards, you can get creative with the hardware and add something you built yourself with one of our Omni boards.”

    Now *that’s * sexy. Try doing that without voiding the warranty on your NanoKontrol…


    did the UC-33e inspire this?

  • Praveen

    WOW I don’t know who you guys saying the nano kontrol holds up are but I’ve been through 5 in 3 years. World wide, actual shows and touring. First night with a new one last night and a knob and fader are gone. Honestly – one of the Alias 8s would have paid itself off by now. Only problem for me is sound.

    • Praveen

      Size not sound :)

  • MadeInMachines

    2 band eq

    • Alfredo bicho Vargas

      Cutoff and resonance!

  • really?

    Of course, no real MIDI ports. So sick of these USB-only controllers…