The ControllerHub 8 Lets You Create Your Own Custom Modular MIDI Pedal Board

At the 2016 Summer NAMM Show, startup company Amelia’s Compass introduced the ControllerHub 8 – a device that lets you connect up to 8 expression pedals and foot switches and create your own custom MIDI pedal board.

Company co-founder Steven Christensen gave us an overview and demo at the show.

controllerhub-8

At the Summer NAMM Show, Amelia’s Compass introduced the ControllerHub 8 and ButtonPusher:

  • ControllerHub 8 is the central hub for your modular control setup. Connect as many as eight 3rd-party expression pedals and footswitches. ControllerHub 8 converts pedal movements and button presses into MIDI message streams over USB and standard MIDI cables. Within your audio software, simply click the “learn” button to assign these control movements to your desired target parameters. If you need more than 8 controllers, you can combine multiple ControllerHub 8’s.
  • ButtonPusher is a a custom-designed footswitch for use with ControllerHub 8.

They have plans for additional controller designs.

The ControllerHub 8 grew out of a practical need of company founders Liz Grove & Steven Christensen. Here’s their story:

We were playing in a progressive rock band using a 25-year-old product called the Lake Butler CFC4 – a great piece of gear from an innovative company that really seemed to “get” the possibilities of MIDI.

It had four expression pedals mounted on a common base, wall wart input, and MIDI Out. In response to pedal movements, it sent MIDI message streams to control synth modules.

Well, one day it finally died. We searched for a replacement… the company had long ago gone out of business; but of course the entire market segment that once produced a variety of midi control accessories is now a memory.

In our search on-line we found many people looking for the same type of product. We realized that there was an unmet need, and decided “Let’s build our own!”

Pricing and Availability

The ControllerHub 8 is available now for US $390 and the ButtonPusher is priced at $60.

8 thoughts on “The ControllerHub 8 Lets You Create Your Own Custom Modular MIDI Pedal Board

  1. This is a great concept, for guitarists with MIDI compatible effects (hardware or software), keyboardists, and even other instrumentalists with digital effects rigs. It’s one thing to have physical knobs to control params, but having a generous number of foot switches & pots is great for hands-free realtime control.

    Also, one could hack together other types of sensors that could be used in those inputs. Breath controller, pressure sensing, light sensor, tilt, hall effect, etc. etc., would all work, as long as the input just “sees” it as a pot with the right resistance range/taper. I wonder if this device allows for changing tapers & curves in software.

    When you think of how welcome many of the new breath controllers have been after Yamaha discontinued theirs; it is cool to another company take on a missed-but-discontinued product. Let’s wish ’em luck!!

    1. I agree, this looks very cool and it’s kind of surprising that tools like this haven’t been available for years.

      It seems like musicians were either a lot more adventurous in the early days of MIDI or a lot more savvy, because there were a lot more tools like this available.

      That said – this looks to be as flexible as any solution I’ve seen. It looks like they may have some other controllers planned – if you watch closely, it looks like there are some more controller types visible in the video.

  2. If you do not need expression/continuous controller support, the MIDI Solutions F8 handles up to eight momentary/toggle footswitches for $300 new and has been out for a while.

    1. I think for a resourceful person with some patience for a steep learning curve, the MIDI CPU from Highly Liquid is the more affordable solution. (For all we know, that could be at the heart of this device). With that, one could build a similar device, sans USB.

      There are other MIDI process boards that feature USB (but not MIDI) that could also accomplish similar connectivity.

      However, having it all in a unified box with a reasonably friendly config app is worth something. $390 might be steep, but perhaps they won’t be selling them in enough quantities to recoup their R & D and design.

    1. The Audiofront box that’s closest to this has three inputs, though, instead of the eight this has. So it looks like it would be a more expensive option for people that wants the capabilities that the ControllerHub 8 has. It looks like the Audiofront devices are made of plastic, too.

      It’s good to know that there are other options, but it looks like this is designed for a very different audience.

  3. Hi All,

    I’m Steve Christensen, the designer of the ControllerHub 8 — so I must warn you I’m highly biased! But I thought I’d chime in here and add some more information.

    Pricing is difficult for a startup company. We can’t compete with the Behringers of the world, who produce their products overseas in lots of 10,000, filling 50-ft. shipping containers. We’re making our products in the US, in quantities of less than 100. In fact I’m the guy that rivets the nameplates on!

    So we have to do things differently in order to justify a higher price. For this product, the first thing is the quantity of controller inputs. We can’t target those who only need one or two or three expression pedal inputs. But we can offer a large number of inputs at a very reasonable price per input, for those that have this need. The inputs can switch-hit between variable expression pedals and on/off footswitches, so you don’t need two separate products to add those to your rig, and you decide the right balance between buttons and pedals and locate them optimally on your pedalboard. Second, we provide both USB and 5-pin MIDI connectivity with a MIDI patchbay/merger behind the scenes to allow custom routing. Third, the enclosure is made of architectural aluminum with 1/8″ wall thickness, so it’s practically indestructible. Fourth, the unit has an LED on every single input and output, so that it’s very easy to know what’s going on with signal flow. Finally, it’s been designed as a modular unit that can be used in multiples to create very large systems, or even shared systems where multiple performers contribute controller inputs to a common control network. For those that have need for this sort of thing, there really aren’t any alternatives available right now at any price, so we feel good about solving this particular problem for under $400.

    Many a small company fails because they’re afraid to price their product high enough to generate profit. There’s always a balance to be struck between high price / low quantity and low price / high quantity, and it’s very tempting to under-price the product thinking that in so doing the product will sell in enough quantities to retroactively justify the low price. But that is an extremely dangerous gamble, and many companies go out of business because they’re basically shipping their product at cost and there aren’t any profits to sustain subsequent production runs.

    So while we’re going to try to get off the ground here as somewhat of a boutique outfit, our goal is certainly to get up to some sort of cruising altitude where we can take advantage of large quantity manufacturing cost efficiency and pass this on to the end user as a more competitive price. Fingers crossed!

    And now I would like to take this opportunity to humbly ask each and every one of you to buy one! Or heck, buy four of them and build a 32-channel foot mixer… or buy two and make a set of bass pedals out of an octave’s worth of sustain pedals. Can’t wait to see what people do with them.

    Sincerely,
    Steve

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