The Monome Gets Some Sexy Knobs With Arc

Brian Crabtree and Kelli Cain of monome.org have announced Arc, a high-resolution knob controller designed to complement the monome.

Here’s what they have to say about Arc:

arc embodies the same basic design principles as our other devices. this time instead of having numerous controls with low detail (grids of on/off), arc has few but highly-detailed controls. by decoupling the encoder (knob) input from the light (ring) output we establish the opportunity for adaptable interaction.

encoders are typically low resolution, normally detecting large-ish jumps and few ticks per revolution. analog pots have resolution, but send absolute position, and can suffer from noise and latency. the high-resolution optical encoders we’re using provide a level of flexible control that is uncommon. add a programmable led ring and the single encoder becomes an intuitive control system.

The video above, via tehn, demonstrates using Arc to control a live micro-looper.

$250 A Knob?

Two versions of Arc will be available:

  • arc two: $500
  • arc four: $800

For a lot of people, paying $250 a knob is hard to imagine. With the Arc, though, like the monome, you’re buying a hand-crafted instrument made of walnut and aluminum and you’re buying into a community of monome users.

Arc introduces introduces expressive control in a format that fits with the monome’s minimal aesthetic. More importantly, when you pair the arc two with a monome 64 and turn it the right way, it looks like a little robot dude.

This will be a no-brainer purchase for a lot of monome users. For everybody else, there are plenty of MIDI controllers.

Check it out and let us know what you think of the new Arc.

Update: Peter Kirn has an interview with Arc creator Brian Crabtree at CDM.

18 thoughts on “The Monome Gets Some Sexy Knobs With Arc

  1. ROFL….Nice try Monome, but Im afraid the guys at Livid are still taking you to school. The block has 8 knobs and if thats not enough you can add a code which has much more functionality then this.

    Ill admit its sleek, but alot of us perform and cant fall into trendy hipstershit like this. I fail to see much of a use.

  2. I really like the concept, high resolution control and visual feedback are sorely lacking on most MIDI controllers.

    It'd be easy to criticise it on a "bang for buck" sort of basis but I prefer to look at this like a concept car. I couldn't justify the price, but I really hope that the more mainstream manufacturers sit up and take notice.

  3. I don't get the hostility. You're not going to buy it so can you not just appreciate it for what it is. Can it not just be a really nice performance on a interesting piece of kit. Why does it have to be anything else?

    "I fail to see much of a use." – Maybe you didn't watch the video.

  4. I have to admit, I think that is pretty damn sexy.

    Control resolution has been one of the biggest thorns in my side, ever since the first time I cranked up a filter's resonance and started sweeping the frequency with a midi controller. Stair stepping cutoffs give me a rash.

  5. exactly… trying to map something with a range of 0 – 20000khz on something that can only output 0 – 127 is ridiculous (especially the lower frequencies). with this you get 256 points per endless rotation outputting +1 -1 which with software can be multiplied by however you like. considering most electronic music deals with frequency in one way or another wether it be a filter, eq or an oscillator it seems to be a step in the right direction to make tools that can deal with it in a more logical way. yay for musicians making musical tools

  6. …but just *how* do you want to map this?
    Pitch is the hardest to map – you really need to cover to about 32-bit float precision.

    At low rate I think in terms of BPM in integral steps, or very fine tuning to set up eg beating relations. Same at higher range: we want either note-related values or again very fine tuning.
    In any case, one wants both to be able to skip directly to a value, then fine-tune around that spot.

    While the Arc thingy fills a less common slot, it doesn't solve the problem without some programming – at least one would need velocity sensor so we go faster far distances. You don't want to move 0-3000 Hz in .1-hz increments — or cents! (256 per rotation indeed)

    Point is that this programming or "smart" mapping can be used with any input, eg steps from a mouse pointer or a midi slider.

    I've used centered Midi sliders as adders, ie the +/- value is added to the current value. This way you can skip hole tones for each step, or fine-tune by the cent, with just a very simple scaled mapping.

  7. Buying myslef into a community? No, thank you.

    For sure it is fun to play with a good looking toy even without the senseless wrist gestures, but… it is so easy to spot a music written by a monome….

  8. not saying im getting one but have a monone and know what your talking about but at the same time its not all about mlr…flin is great for pads and polygnome is awesome for leads or chords like everything today moderation, practice, be creative

  9. my wife's 2 knobs cost $5000!…but seriously folks.
    if it was in the black silicone case to match my monome 64, i might not be able to turn it out. there's something simple and profound about this thing.

  10. I won't be buying one, but I think it's very cool.

    I have to add: I read comments on about five Synthtopia posts in the past 24 hours and every one of them was riddled with cynicism, hostility, and disdain. It's kind of pissing me off.

    I didn't realize so many gearheads were such _assholes_.

    : |

    …I have to ask: is this some EM sub-community? Hip-hop? DJs? Or is this just your run-of-the-mill trolling?

  11. I think a lot of the negativity in comments here comes from people's insecurity about their gear choices and feeling the pressure of "keeping up with the Joneses".

    I think it would not be a stretch to say that Synthtopia readers generally want to think of themselves as being at the forefront of electronic music technology. So when something new comes down the pipe (which is everyday since that is the point of this website) there will always be people who will dismiss it out of hand because if they don't then they think their only alternative is to feel inadequate, especially if it is something they could never afford.

    For my part, I get snarky about fanboish reporting on Apple products, because I'm a Windows user and I couldn't afford a mac/iphone/ipad even if I wanted one. Being told "Apple products are the future" gets my back up because I don't want to feel like I've been left out in the cold.

    Ultimately it's a false dichotomy of course, the truth is that it's not what you've got it's what you do with it, but when we do our research and pay out large amounts of cash on gear we cannot help becoming emotionally invested in the "platform" we've chosen wether it be software/hardware, Mac/PC, or whatever.

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