Here are a few examples of custom controllers I've built. I use my CNC to machine the body of the controller and them embed custom PCB's. I use DJ Tech Tool's Croma Caps for all the knobs, so they have a nice soft touch feel. The USB connection is a heavy duty USB B type connector. Each controller has a very 'planted' feel on the desk as they all have really grippy anti-slip feet. All the controllers are also designed to work with any midi based DJ software on any OS (Mac, Windows) as they are all standard USB midi devices.
K+Lab Custom Performance Controller
This is a finger drumming type controller I built for K+Lab. It's a 20 button finger drumming grid with 7 performance knobs for modulating effects. The entire controller is lit with RGB LED's and can be animated directly from Ableton using midi clips. The body of the controller is CNC machined zebra wood and the graphics are laser engraved. A custom designed circuit board has been embedded in the back, which provides all the lighting and USB functionality. This one was a ton of fun to build.
K+Lab and I met up at Shambhala Music Festival 2016 in Salmo, BC where I dropped off his controller. I'm sure he'll have it smashing out some funky tunes pretty quick! Here's the pics:
ill.Gates Custom Finger Drummer
Here's a custom finger drummer I built for ill.Gates. It's CNC machined Zebra Wood with custom laser engraved graphics. All the LEDs are animated using midi clips in Ableton. Dylan and I met up at Shambhala Music Festival to chat about some future ideas, and I dropped off his controller.
A.Skillz Custom Finger Drummer
This is the latest Finger Drummer. Custom laser engraved alder with A.Skillz graphic. This one is nice and glossy, many hours of sanding, and finishing. Combined with the LED backlighting Halo (which ducks, in brightness, when you hit a button), this one really pops. Met up with A.Skillz and Stickybuds in Kelowna to drop off the goods!
I built this controller for Stickybuds. The controller is inspired by natural forms.. I CNC'd the body out of Zebra Wood and embedded a custom PCB in the bottom. This concept, of any wooden shape for the body is what I'll be doing more and more. This was a great first big job for my new CNC.
So I've done a bunch of these now and they're super fun. Finger drumming is a really powerful way to get the organic/human feel back into electronic beats. Pad controllers are quite popular utilizing pads for drumming. I build them with classic Japanese Sanwa arcade buttons. These buttons have a real jazzy look and are totally liquid to finger drum on. The reason they feel so good is that they don't 'click'. They're a ball bearing actuated switch, so they engage with just a light touch. Triplets and rolls are easily achieved due to the ultra light feel of the buttons.
I also can't say enough about how fun it is to have a simple grid of buttons that simply make noises when you push them. Pulling out of the complexity and just grooving out to some beats is amazing. Doing sound design and building your own racks for these controllers is a blast as well. Check out Mad Zack of DJ Tech Tools. He shows you what's really possible on this platform.
This mixer I designed specifically for myself and I love it. It's simple to use and built like a tank. The main power of this mixer is built into the upper mixer section. The Hi, Mid and Lo are actually EQ crossfaders that allow you to mix the Hi, Mid and Low of Deck A against Deck B. The mix is then indicated on the oLED display. I prefer this style of mixer because I only ever DJ with two main decks. This method is possible because the Hi, Mid and Lo knobs have two Midi CC's associated with each knob. The 7-12 oClock is one CC, and 12-5 oClock is another CC. This lets you map to two independent track EQ's in Ableton using one knob.
The mixer section also has a Filter knob for each deck, along with a Filter Select knob. The Filter Select knob is mapped to a chain selector in Ableton which allows you to cycle through 32 different filters (could be expanded up to 128 filters). Once you have a filter selected, you can then modulate the filter with the Filter knob. Filters can be a combination of EQ and FX, so with the throw of the Filter knob, you could modulate a low pass filter as well as a redux with some reverb. If you're familiar with Ableton, you know the possibilities here are pretty endless.
The mixer section also includes an endless, indexed rotary encoder which lets you step the tempo up and down. Each deck also has a level control and gain control.
The bottom section of the mixer has a 4x4 grid of Sanwa arcade buttons. This lets you punch a button (red or blue, referring to each of the decks) and then twist the knob beside it. Punching the button enables a punch in/punch out effect (beatmasher, pitch bend, etc) and twisting the knob modulates the effect. The grid can also be used for finger drumming outside of the DJ setup.
I find this mixer pretty intitive to use. It is a step away from the classic Hi, Mid and Lo arrangement of standard DJ mixers, but I think it's really intuitive and simple to use. I will be releasing a smaller unit that is just the mixer section, without the punch in grid.
Zebra Print Traktor Mixer
This mixer was a custom build for a starting DJ. The design is fairly simple, but includes the core functions in order to mix one track into another using Traktor. This mixer has a crossfader for each the Hi, Mid and Lo, along with a standard level crossfader. Each deck has a VU meter, a level control, a filter (Lo pass on one side, Hi pass on the other), track selector, cue point selector, play/pause button and a loop control. The loop control activates the loop when you press the knob, and turning the knob adjusts the length of the loop. The browser control is an endless, indexed rotary encoder which lets you load a track by pressing the knob. It's a nice tactile click when pressing the knob. The play/pause buttons are classic Sanwa arcade buttons and light up blue when the track is running. This looks really jazzy with the zebra print and hot pink knobs. The VU meter LED's are also blue (with a single red LED at the top). This mixer works very well with Traktor and is a great way to nail down some core techniques as a new DJ.