Friday, March 12, 2010

Livid Instruments

The digital audio market is flooded with cheap MIDI crap built in China at a fraction of the cost we end up paying for it as consumers. Trust me, I've bought plenty of it. It's not all bleak though! There is one company creating products that aren't made overseas from cheap plastic, with limp faders, chunky knobs, and sticky buttons.

Livid Instruments is a section of the Livid family based in Austin, Texas that invents and manufactures hardware and software for digital musicians and performers. All of their products are manufactured here in the United States from quality materials that are assembled by passionate craftsman and artists. When's the last time you've seen a midi controller with a powder coated aluminum top case and wooden sides??? Not to mention, high quality faders, knobs, and buttons. This is what Livid does, and they do it well! Think of them as the Moog of software controllers. Robert Moog decided a long time ago synthesizers should be built with the same care, craftsmanship, and attention to detail as violins and custom guitars. Thus; Moog was born, and the synthesizer market has never been the same. Moog set the standard by which all other synthesizers are judged. Livid is doing that same thing today except; instead of creating analog audio products they are creating high quality software controllers that give the user fantastic control over any software that supports MIDI communication.

I had the opportunity to chat with Jay Smith; the founder of Livid Instruments. I could've wasted his and your time by asking him a bunch of pointless questions about the current state of Livid. Fact is, all of that info is available on the internet at Livid's Website. I was most curious about what Livid had planned for the future. Can you blame me though... I'm trying to get some fresh new, never before seen material for Ze Sound Suite & my readers! Before we find out what's coming, let's see what Livid has to offer us right now!

Hardware Controllers:

Ohm64: A beautifully designed all in one software controller featuring bi-directional MIDI communication. The Ohm64 has been designed to be truly adaptable to each end users own ideas and creative ways of expression through digital music and media. As Livid says "the quality can be felt down to your fingertips" their not lying. The Ohm64 (as well as all of Livid's other hardware products) was conceived, designed, and manufactured at the Livid Industries shop in Austin, Texas. The faceplate of the Ohm64 is cut from aluminum and then powder coated, the body is surrounded by beautiful hand-finished wood. The Ohm is also available unfinished for those of you who want to add your own personal touch. Speaking of customization, the software that allows control of the MIDI Messages and lighting known as; Ohm64 Editor is open source, and Livid actually encourages changes and modifications to the original software design. The Ohm64 also comes ready to control any number of Livid's other open source programs which include; an FM Synth, Monome Bridge, Step Sequencer, and Sampler. The Ohm64 features a 64 button matrix perfect for controlling video mixing software, vst's, Ableton and any other application that accepts MIDI data. It also has 8 high quality dual-rail faders and an ultra sensitive DJ style crossfader. Throw in 16 precision knobs as well as a few other miscellaneous buttons and you have yourself an Ohm64. Oh yeah... the whole thing is USB bus powered!

Block: Cut from the same cloth as the Ohm64, the Block is a more compact MIDI controller for users out there who are mainly concerned with having the 64 button matrix as part of their hardware setup. (Monome guys, take note of Livid and what they're doing.) The Block features all the high quality design elements and open source software as the Ohm64, the Block simply has less faders and knobs. However, you still have 2 high quality dual-rail faders, 8 knobs, and 7 extra buttons for your tweaking pleasure.

DIY Builder Kits: Tired of having the same controller as everyone else? Can't find a MIDI controller on the market that will help to satisfy your creative needs. Then Livid's line of DIY Builder Kits is for you! Livid's BYOB (Build Your Own Board) Series is a collection of circuit boards sold in pieces so you can create your own custom controller. Livid has done all the geeky work for you and with little technical knowledge you can create your own custom MIDI slaying machine! Livid has not only designed the kits to be simple to build, they have also released a series of tutorials to help you out as you build your own MIDI controlling masterpiece!

Livid's Software:

Cell: Cell is Livid's introductory VJing software application. Livid designed the software to be easy to use and simple to manipulate on the fly for live VJing performances. An intuitive drag and drop interface makes it easy to load up video clips and images on the fly. Cell's built in effects will help you to be as creative as you wish and add that little personal touch to any project. All of Cell is easily controllable with any MIDI controller, may I recommend the Block. :)

Cell DNA: As Livid puts it, is Cell's bigger sister. The same easy to use design idea was implemented in the creation of Cell DNA. With Cell DNA you simply have more features and effects to further manipulate your live visual production. Cell DNA can even be run over a network so multiple computers can work together to create even more radical visual displays.

Livid Looper: This little bit of software genius was developed in Max/MSP and is completely open source and free to use!!! Drop some audio loops in Livid's Looper and go crazy! With Looper you have the ability to transform any loop of audio into something quite insane. Use on board or VST effects to tweak and sculpt audio loops. Chop up the loop however you would like or use Looper's auto-segmenting feature to break the loop down. All of the actions are quantized, and pitch control will prevent any tempo issues from occurring. Try it out... What do you have to loose? It's FREE!

Livid also has a host of free open source software designed to be used with their controllers. An FM Synth, Step Sequencer, Sampler, Monome Bridge, and Max/MSP patches can all be downloaded from Livid's Download Page for free!

Livid has done an excellent job providing all the information you could ever want on any of their products at their website. What I've wrote here on Ze Sound Suite is merely a broken down version of what's available at Livid Website. Take a look, I can guarantee you're going to be impressed with this company. I sure as hell am!

The Future at Livid Instruments

As I said before I had the opportunity to speak with Jay Smith; the founder of Livid Instruments. I really wanted to know what Livid had planned for the future. I find their isn't too much of this information available to the public from most companies. So I figured I'd do some asking and see what he would tell me. Jay was more than helpful even after finding out Ze Sound Suite was a new blog with a small audience at present time. Keep in mind Jay is the founder and one of the three that run and own Livid Instruments so, for him to take the time to talk with me was quite respectable. Thanks again Jay, and I'm sure all my readers appreciate your help as well! I hope I've done a good job of representing your company and dreams on Ze Sound Suite! =)

While I understand they don't want to completely let the cat of the bag, Jay let me in on a few things Livid is working on right now that will be available for their customers in the future. First and foremost he told me that Livid was currently working on expanding their controller line to add even more controls and features to their already impressive hardware lineup. This should be quite exciting considering their current controller line is something for all the other controller manufactures to take note of. Jay also told me they were working on expanding their DIY builder kits to make it even easier for users to design and build their own software controller. Monome DIY guys... You really should check out Livid's DIY Kits. On the software side of things... Livid's Step Sequencer will be available in the future as a stand-alone version and, they are also working on Max 4 Live objects to easily integrate VJing into Ableton Live as well as even more open source software for their controllers!

Livid Instruments is a truly amazing company with a vision that is sure to change the digital audio market as we know it in the very near future. Livid isn't cutting costs and taking shortcuts to maximize profits, they're centralizing their precision manufacturing process to save you the end user, lots of money while still offering a quality product. This is something that must be recognized by all of us in the music and visual performance industries. If we can support quality gear assembled and designed by passionate designers and artists, we will change the entire market place. Start this change by showing Livid Instruments some love. After all, it was love that created everything.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for all your kind words and support! If you anyone has any questions regarding the products don't hesitate to shoot us an email!