DJ Grid Warren MI
Saint Clair Shores, MI
Grid controllers are taking off. For musicians and DJs who trigger audio or video clips, a grid of backlit buttons makes more sense than a traditional keyboard. Plus, the blinky lights add to the stage show.
The Yamaha Tenori-On looks like a grid controller, but it’s actually a self-contained musical instrument. Closer to the dreams of experimental electronic musicians is the Monome, a bare box of buttons.
Livid’s Ohm64 aims to go further than the Monome in giving you hands-on control over your music. Its 8 x 8 button grid is supplemented by 16 knobs, eight sliders, a DJ crossfader, and 17 extra “off the grid” buttons that you can tap to trigger special events. The knobs and sliders feel solid and move smoothly. Livid also makes the less expensive Block ($399), which pairs an 8 x 8 button grid with eight smaller knobs and only two sliders.
Controlling Your Software
The sliders are long-throw, with about 2.25" of travel.
The Ohm64 transmits MIDI data—either note info or controller messages. What you do with the data is entirely up to you. Unlike most keyboard-based MIDI controllers, the Ohm64 has no onboard smarts, not even an LCD or a bank of preset memory locations. To program it, you run the free Ohm64 Editor software (see page 55). This is not a limitation, however, because the Ohm64 will always be tethered to a computer by a USB cable—it runs on USB power only, and doesn’t even have an AC adaptor jack.
The best way to take advantage of the Ohm64’s strengths is to use it with a program such as Ableton Live or Cycling ’74 Max/MSP. By assigning each button to trigger a different clip in Live, you gain tactile control over a whole bank of clips—you’ll want to assign the horizontal slider to Live’s crossfader. With Max or Pd (PureData, an open-source programming language popular with electronic music DIYers), you can go much, much further. For instance, you can change the knob and slider assignments on the fly while the music plays. If you have Max For Live, so much the better.
The knobs aren’t endless; they “pin” at five and seven o’clock. None of the knobs or sliders has a center detent, which makes them great for smooth moves like filter sweeps but less so for things with a “home” value, like pitchbend.
Livid just released an Ohm64 template for Propellerhead Reason. The Ohm64 is also widely used with NI Traktor and with trackers such as Renoise. Arkaos Grand VJ ships with an Ohm64 template. The LividStep sequencer for Max For Live is available as a free download from Livid’s website.
When you buy an Ohm64, you get a free copy of Livid’s Cell DNA video software, which otherwise sells for $149. For live shows, you may find this extremely useful, as it lets you trigger video clips directly from the Ohm. Installing the Ohm64 in my Windows 7 system was a no-brainer. The Ohm64 is USB class-compliant on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, which means there’s no driver—I plugged it in, Windows recognized it, and I was ready to go....