Knobbee 32 – A Open-Firmware Arduino-Based USB-MIDI Controller

UK-based Knobtronix has introduced the Knobbee 32 – a new open-firmware, Arduino-based MIDI-controller.

The KNOBBEE 32 is built with having tinkers and hackers in mind. You can modify the Open Source firmware or even create your own.

You can configure the KNOBBEE 32 via MIDI system exclusive messages. This includes aspects such as the resolution, MIDI mapping, behaviour of the switches / LEDs and calibration settings.

You can also buy the KNOBBEE 32 with an enclosure or build your own.

knobbee

Features:

  • 32 soft-touch knobs
  • 8 illuminated switches
  • 1 expression pedal input
  • ergonomic spacing of the controls
  • sloped enclosure for comfortable access of the controls
  • class-compliant USB-MIDI and additional MIDI-out via 3.5 mm socket
  • bus-powered
  • 7 bit (MIDI standard, 128 unique values) or up to 10 bit resolution mode (~1022 unique values)
  • compatible with Mac OS X, Windows 7-10
  • Arduino based (ATmega 32u4), including Open Source firmware and utilities
  • configurable via MIDI System Exclusive messages
  • editor configuring the controller (currently Mac OS X only)
  • utility for receiving MIDI and sending OSC (currently Mac OS X only)
  • dimensions including enclosure (W/D/H): 260 mm / 165 mm / ~45mm – 52mm

The Knobbee 32 is being manufactured via a Kickstarter project and is available to backers starting at £180. See the project site for details.

27 thoughts on “Knobbee 32 – A Open-Firmware Arduino-Based USB-MIDI Controller

  1. Gotta be honest, that’s pretty expensive for what it is. I think people who know how to hack it would rather just build their own midi controller by themselves.

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    1. i think people that know midi and arduino just build it.
      i would use a mega for stuff like that instead of multiplexers though.

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    1. It does seem kind of silly to not include some normal MIDI jacks.

      The 3.5mm to MIDI cables are annoying as hell, and really rather delicate.

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      1. On the other hand, normal MIDI connectors means they’d need a much bigger and different type of enclosure, this type of cheap laser-cut layer sandwich wouldn’t work.

        Like this comment?: Thumb up 4
        1. Hi,
          thanks for taking the time to comment.
          yes, we used 3.5 mm jacks because they are a lot smaller (and cheaper) than din 5 connectors. the later ones are so big it would have made the whole controller way too big und looking clunky.

          Like this comment?: Thumb up 3
        2. Nonsense.

          Make it slightly thicker, since most of it is laser cut acrylic, you can make it any thickness you want.

          Or mount the jacks on the faceplate at the top, the way many mixers do for their connections. The thickness and back end of a midi jack is about the same as most pot bodies.

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    2. You may have a look on the fabulous Faderfox PC4 Controller. 😉
      At least 24 knobs with USB and MIDI In/Out, compact form factor and standalone.
      Love this little bugger!

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      1. Hi tobi,
        thanks for commenting.
        we had designed to give more space surrounding the knobs so it’s easy to tweak knobs adjacent to each other. we also thought that there might be only limited use to a MIDI-in port as it would add cost and many people may not need it.

        Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  2. MIDI merge?
    No faders / sliders;
    – Should be an option for a different physical layout – less knobs – a row of sliders.

    Only 1 expression input?
    – should have a header pin strip to accommodate more analog inputs – for potentiometers / sliders, touch, light, pressure sensors, X-Y analog joystick…..

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 4
    1. Hi Mick,

      thanks for taking the time to comment. Pins of the Arduino we are not using are opened up in header connectors on the Knobbee’s pcb. so if you want you could totally add other things. You would have to make your own enclosure though to accommodate the new features.

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  3. … (from previous)… I’m very interested in this.

    This knobbee looks like printed template overlays can fit over the top.

    I have an Evolution – UC33 knob/fader box and a Behringer – BCR2000 knob box.

    Have been thinking of diving in to Arduino MIDI controllers using the Teensy duino device because it hase USB built in.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
      1. I know this controller. Unfortunately:

        – It has only 16 encoders (as opposed to 32 in the BCR2000).
        – Bank switching is VERY awkward.
        – There is no digit display for showing values.
        – There is no place to label the knobs.

        So it is no real competition to the BCR, at least when speaking about VSTi control.

        Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
  4. Perhaps the elephant in the room is the BCR2000, which balances affordability with a great feature set. BUT it brings with it more than the usual amount of risk of unreliability and poor build quality that comes with a Behringer product.

    The Knobbee is different enough to not be an Apples-to-apples comparison. However, the BCR2000 does offer all endless encoders, and LED rings, which is pretty handy. And banks. And buttons. And DIN in/out/merge, and config software.

    Highly Liquid makes the MIDI CPU which won’t do all this, but is very configurable. My only complaint is that it is not very user-friendly, and the docs are very technical. So if you are a novice DIY’er, you might be directed to a forum where the answers are all pretty geeky and not especially helpful to dummies like me.

    This project definitely fills a particular void that exists out there.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  5. BCR2000 is a solution yet it is somewhat outmoded. Also today the option of USB power is important for a set of knobs.

    I’d strongly look at the Launchpad Control XL, not strictly the same sort of solution but a great set of hands-on features with a big supportive community for modding, for a little less money.

    And then, The DJ Tech Twister for similar money to the device here, for a good endless option, half the knobs but twice the buttons, but color based banks make it highly configurable, and again has a strong supportive community.

    But this Knobbee 32 is also a nice solution, all these devices have a wide range of options covered, and so much more. I guess it comes down to that perfect setup we have in our heads in relation to what is on offer, or not, given the time and resources.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  6. my issue with this (and most MIDI controllers) is that you don’t have a screen to tell you what you’ve spent all that time mapping. And I’ve always found the mapping part of these devices also halts creativity. It’s why I’ve shifted back to hardware instruments. Though I do find things like Push, Maschine and the old Novation SL series more in the right direction.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  7. Why would someone buy this when you could get an arguably superior Akai midimix or launch control xl for have the price, let alone the notation remote zero

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 0
    1. Boutique products cost boutique prices.

      If your needs are mainstream, a mass-market controller is going to be a better deal.

      This is for the monome audience – people that want open-firmware, want an Arduino-based MIDI-controller that’s easy to hack and that builds on a culture of open software and hardware.

      As far as I know, the MIDIMix and Launch Control XL are closed products, so it Akai or Novation doesn’t want to support it any more, you’re hosed, and if you want to do something custom with it, you’re hosed. The Behringer controller can unofficially be hacked – but that takes a lot deeper knowledge than programming a well-documented system like the Arduino.

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 3

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