umidi aims to let DJs create their own custom MIDI controllers
By Paul Ridden
December 4, 2013
If you're the kind of DJ who is dissatisfied with having to use faders or knobs placed in a certain position on a ready-made, bog standard MIDI controller, the folks over at umidi have something that's sure to both delight and amaze. Each umidi DJ controller starts life as a blank template and, using an online creation tool, artists can select interface components and place them anywhere, in any order, and in whatever configuration that suits. The company will then build your dream umidi controller and ship it out. If this sounds a little too good to be true, then you'd be right ... for the moment. The designers behind umidi have just launched on Kickstarter to bring working concept to reality.
umidi designers Bartosz Kowalski and Joseph Chehade say that the idea behind the device comes from experience gained during seven years of working in nightclubs, and not being satisfied with commercially available equipment. They say that this inspired them to develop a system that allows DJs to "interact with and experience their music in a whole new way."
They've spent the last two years refining, tweaking and perfecting numerous designs and prototypes to arrive at a pre-production prototype and web-based custom creation system that will allow customers to choose precisely what hardware components they'd like for their umidi controller, and where they should be placed.
Users can drag and drop up to 36 components onto the 11.3 x 9.8 in (286 x 248 mm) face of each module, including knobs, faders, encoders, jog wheels, and aluminum or silicon buttons with Cherry switches, and even opt for a laser-etched graphic on the face plate. The developers have stated that if a stretch goal on Kickstarter is met, DJs will also be able to include drum pads on their umidi creations.
The USB-powered, high definition (14-bit) MIDI controller also features 288 RGB LEDs that can be placed at the mercy of the DJ. Using the umidi editor portal, which is currently under development, the lights can be programmed to provide anything from button backlighting to music-driven pulses and custom light shows. A number of color options are available for each bit of hardware, and for the 0.9-in (24-mm) thick enclosure (which is milled from a single piece of aluminum). Once the customer is happy with the overall design, the company will build a unit to the customer's specs, test it and ship it out.
The umidi benefits from quality Alps rotary and linear pots and rotary encoders, and promises low latency thanks to a 32-bit, 120 MHz ARM-based processor. It's reported to work with any MIDI DJ software, including Traktor, Scratch Live and Virtual DJ, and is plug and play compatible with Mac OS X, Windows and Linux machines.
The company says that the Kickstarter funds will be used to overcome the final hurdles to commercial availability, including FCC certification, firmware development and testing, and costs relating to the first production run. Early bird specials are listed at AUD920 (about US$845) each, and once they're gone, pledge levels for a standard single unit will rise to AUD975 (US$895). If all goes according to plan, the first umidi controllers will be available from early next year.
The umidi pitch video is shown below.