Mine Modular Controller: Put Faders, Buttons, Knobs Where You Want Them

From the coming soon on Kickstarter department, meet the Mine modular controller. It’s a MIDI controller with removable modules that lock into to a circuit board. Keep reading to learn about this boutique controller project!

Mine and Mines: Modular MIDI Controllers

  • Project: Mine modular controllers
  • Manufacturer: Specialwaves
  • Availability: Launching on Kickstarter in January
  • Expected Price: Unknown.

The Mine is a system of two circuit board cases that allow anyone to pop in standalone modules to their exact design. The larger Mine can fit up to 64 modules on it, while the smaller Mine S can fit 32

In terms of I/O, there’s a power adapter port (additional power for LEDs), a USB-B connector for plugging into your computer, and more USB-A ports to daisy chain other devices (two on the Mine, one on the Mine S).

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There are five modules that have been designed for the Mine system so far:

  • Pad module (velocity and pressure sensitive with RGB backlighting)
  • 2 Buttons module (similar to the size of the pads on the APC40MK2, with RGB backlighting)
  • Encoder module (endless rotary with pushbutton switch)
  • Pot module (a center-detent rotary potentiometer)
  • Slider module (a 60mm fader)

Specialwaves also mentions that they want to design future jogwheel, trackpad, display modules.

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The Modules are a clip-in design, meaning they can easily be attached to the board, but are stable once attached and need a special tool to unclip them and remove.

extract-fader

The Mine and Mine S cases are pretty simple-but-elegant. It’s a rounded wood design that looks clean and polished. One open question: what do you do with spaces that don’t have a module plugged into them

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One particularly cool feature is on the software side – the software editor is able to automatically recognize what modules are plugged in where, including orientation. You can push settings back to the module as well – like encoder acceleration to a specific module.

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DIY Controller Design

A bit of an editorial here about modular controllers: many people have flirted with modular projects like this in the DJ and production space. In fact there have been half a dozen start ups offering similar ideas because it’s a very attractive concept. The problem of course is that modular systems have a very high “effective price” per fader, knob, button. You end up with the right configuration of objects but at a price that ends up being un-attractive to most.

“Mine is the controller that adapt itself to the user, not the contrary!”

Modular gear is great – being able to swap in and out individual components of a rig to have a setup that reflects how you currently play live. Modular control systems like Mine also remove any intentional use design from the product and puts that on the end-user at a significant markup: so who is it good for?

In my opinion, “everyone who is a DJ or producer” isn’t a fair answer here. Many users of DJ gear have good ideas about controllers to make (see the history of the Midi Fighter Twister, which was designed by a contest run by DJTT), but that doesn’t mean they have the time or resources to actually build their own. The Twister and other boutique products offer intense customizability under the hood, but at a much lower cost. DIY controllers that are custom built to spec can be surprisingly affordable, but require a lot of time investment and are not as reliable.

What do you think? Are modular DJ systems like Mine a sleeping giant ready to take over the controller world? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Check out more similar modular projects featured on DJTT:

  • Luiz Zen

    This is exactly what I have been looking for for ages 🙂 Al avaliable PRO and small controllers for Djs (X1 and K1/K2) don’t fit perfectly my needs. I always want something more or less of the unit. Another option is using an iPad with TouchOsc, where one can create his/her own layout, but this lacks the touch experience of a real knob/button.

    Awesome to see this 🙂 Just concerned about the final price hehe

  • Tomas Morey

    If modular hardware stands on quality, assembling, expansibility and price, the rest it´s all about software permitions.
    The well-known electronics engineering business nowadays.
    I already contacted, I´d like to try one of them.
    Thanks to keep in the edge.
    Best from Majorca.

  • Alan

    A pair of 2x8s would be perfect in conjunction with my Z2 mixer for better control over channels C and D.

  • CUSP

    I’m a little concerned with the “In my opinion” part of the article. It almost sounds like “the authority on the topic” (vis-a-vis the author of the article) is trying to dissuade people away from buying other ‘customizable’ controllers by stating theirs are less expensive, *already vetted by pro-users*, require lots of time to configure and are less reliable.

    I agree with your conclusion ““everyone who is a DJ or producer” isn’t a fair answer here.”, because most DJs won’t need this amount of layout control, nor will Producers need much more than the standard “instruments and studio mixer” solution readily available today.

    The entire, last paragraph sounds like a “We have to show you this, but our products are superior” protectionist piece, rather than showing pros vs cons. Sure, most of the standard-faire DJ controllers can be had at a lower price, but this openly-modular approach is much better than the “suction cups on an iPad” solution, and seems more stable than the connected-blocks solution. Also, it doesn’t seem like it will take that long to plug blocks into a grid and configure them with the helper app they show in the video… 20 minutes max? Some people spend that long in the restroom.

  • Envinite

    Very interesting. I’ve been looking forward on designing similar idea, but seems like someone else already made it first to test the market.

    My only concern with a configurable modular device like this, is that not many people going to bother reconfigure their whole setup again once it finished, and it seems that many modular controller nowadays already cover pretty much any configuration you will make with this product. Not to mention the price. Obviously, this is a new player in the market with smaller production batch; Xone, NI & MF going to beat the shit out of Mine in ‘price vs function’ competition.

    Besides, reliability & durability is the concern here. This thing depends on surface contact between plastic modules that is secured with few small lids that simply snaps to the board and the potentiometers possibly only secured by the soldering to the board inside module case. Likely a live performance danger.

    I would love to be proven wrong tho. I’ll see where this thing going and decide whether I should scrap the idea of buying Push 2 and buy the Mine instead.

    • CUSP

      Think about the long-run though. If a part fails, you can unslot just that one, and replace it (even with a lesser-used part on the controller if need be), instead of having to send it away to be repaired. I forsee anyone using this platform, purchasing a few extra modules just to be able to make repairs (should the need arise). I can also see the logical upside to this kind of modularity, but as most people are calling out, what really matters is “How well does it work?” and “Is it durable?”

      Ideally, I think these bases should “dock” to give the user ‘extended range’, should someone choose to ‘upscale’ their controller (think along the lines of going from a Kontrol S2 to a Kontrol S4 for example, both the functionality AND footprint size increases). A person could (in theory) make a 6, 8, or more, -deck mixer with all the controls laid out just as if it was a 4 deck mixer.

  • CUSP

    This is a great concept. I’d like to see quite a few more modules made such as small monitors, touchstrips, Jog wheels, etc., made (as suggested in the video) as well. I’d wanted to do something like this a few years back, but I bought modular gear and learned how that worked instead.

    Unless these units are price competitive, I don’t believe it will be well-adopted. However, this modular gear allows for the option of building upwards (into the 3rd dimension), and that may give future DJs the platform they need to do things we haven’t even thought about here.

    I wish these people much luck.

  • Be

    I hope the knobs and faders are compatible with Chroma Caps and Cooler Caps.

    • CUSP

      I hope they’ll make (semi-) transparent, internally illuminated knobs. In dark spaces, even a small light under the knob can make navigation much easier.

      • Be

        That would be freaking awesome and innovative!

        • CUSP

          Yeah, the best we can do right now for our mixers is get the glow-in-the-dark knobs.

          • Be

            Or bring a little lamp. You could even use a USB powered one with these.

          • CUSP

            Yeah, I resolve my “light issues” with an LED ball cap, brim light clipped to the bottom of my laptop stand. It refreshes the glow of the glow-in-the-dark knobs when lit for a few seconds.

  • Be

    I hope the configuration doesn’t require a proprietary application or driver from them. Ideally, it should be fully configurable as a class compliant MIDI device with standard, publicly documented MIDI signals. This way it can be used to its full potential with any OS (not just the ones they provide their software for) or even with stand-alone MIDI-compatible hardware without a computer.

  • LJ

    I’m very interested in this. I’d love to get on a Beta program if they offer it. Their website http://special-waves.com has a mailing list you can sign up for to get notified about the Kickstarter (I did).

  • Jike

    Amazing idea ! Hope it will be strong enough for intensive use… I’ll probably put money on this project.

  • Anthony Alonso

    As soon as this goes live, I need to know. Omg so excited. Define putting money on this!

  • Tony Mitchell

    What about Jog-Wheels?

    • Hetto Vennik

      The website states jog wheels and more is planned for later – just as ‘user requested designs’

      • steve

        no time for later-jog-wheels now. 🙂 seriously though.

        • Hetto Vennik

          lol.

    • steve

      that’s the deciding factor for me right there- jog-wheels!

  • jm2c

    ThIS thing will live or die with the MSRP, both for the case as welll as the modules. I hope the devs realize this. Also, two very generic container designs are not enough IMO if we are talking about custom controllers. You need more cases, 1×8, 2×8, etc etc. one square and one 4×8 is nowhere near enough.

    • Be

      Two case sizes could just be the beginning. I’d imagine they could lose a lot of money if they offered too many case sizes at first but only one or two of them sold much.

  • couic

    cool. I’ll finally be able to do my perfect controller !!!!!

  • Minh Bear

    promising, but it looks like it’s gonna be a pain to clean especially, with dust problems, with those gaps in between the modules. Also I wonder how durable it is to water. Again, with the gaps it looks like a small spill of drink can destroy the whole thing.

    • CUSP

      It might be easier to clean noting that each piece is removable, but that also is a concern: contact is surface mount, pressure fit only. I believe this could be addressed with a similar design to the ZIF CPU sockets (lever lock fashion) used on computers.

  • Minh Bear

    promising, but it looks like it’s gonna be a pain to clean especially, with dust problems, with those gaps in between the modules. Also I wonder how durable it is to water. Again, with the gaps it looks like a small spill of drink would destroy the whole thing.

  • mikefunk

    Finally. Just small point that always bug me with all USB devices. Please, make power swith for USB. I know you can pull off cable but small on off button would be much more convinient.

  • Hetto Vennik

    RE: “One open question: what do you do with spaces that don’t have a module plugged into them”
    19″ racks have these ‘blind plates’, so where you don’t fill the rack with 19″ equipment, you place these blind plates. So, a variation of ‘blind blocks’ could solve this!

  • Hetto Vennik

    I love it! Could make an end to this: DJ Player (iOS) supports STEMS. There is no controller on the market that is bang on STEMS (apart from N.I. D2 and such – BUT those aren’t MIDI).
    Totally depending on the price, i’d love to get 2 ‘S’ versions (one for STEMS deck A/C and one for STEMS deck B/D. The Mine S already looks like a D2! It could be great for Traktor users as well, if the price is considerably lower than a D2. I already made a drawing of a Mine, kind of in the design of the ‘Q-bar’ but, for STEMS. That would be perfect for me (ergonomic reasons) +1 for the ‘daisy chain UBS connector’.
    (PS: there’s a lot of controllers that will/would work for STEMS, but none are as perfect as a D2)

    • Stewe

      Check out DJTT Midi Fighter Twister!

      • Hetto Vennik

        Thanks for the idea. Yeah, the twisters are great. But i’d love to have 2 pretty small, bang on STEMS units. With 4 faders per deck/track. N.I. D2 style – so the MINE S in the pic would be excellent! PS: i already have the Denon MCX8000 (big!) and sometimes use DVS. Anything added to this setup makes it redicilously larger. lol. Smaller like the “Q-bar`’ concept (have you seen that?) from earlier this year would be even better, but that doesn’t leave room for faders…

        • Dubby Labby
          • Hetto Vennik

            Thnx. I know. Would work too! No sound card needed for me, so 2 x K1.
            However – Getting 2 K1’s just for STEMS decks only, is a major, major overkill. Beside that (layers etc) also the rows of knobs is more than needed. I have the MCX8000 already. That’s why a small, but ‘pro’ enough and preferably not too expensive, D2 design would be the jackpot.. I now have 1 Samson Graphite MF8 for STEMS. Also works! And the size is great, however a bit cramped and the faders don’t feel that great.. Thnx for thinking along 🙂

  • Meikel Stoz

    it looks totally awesome!! i would like to order now 😉 it so great if you want to change your setup and need more fader you just can easy upgrade and not need to buy a new controller. i really hope that they can run this project. good luck

  • SweetGwendoline

    IMO that is a typicall product that everyone loves but no one really buys / uses.
    Of course it would be nice to be proven wrong, but I guess this looses against specialized controllers in regards of: price, durability, weight, etc

    • Tomas Morey

      If hardware works fine, anfitrion software is fully opened and let its parameters being controlled by this modular, I don´t think it should be a trouble.
      Most of inconvenients come with software hidden data to access full control. Just to sell their staff. Just another box with colored faders, pads and knobs to twist.
      That´s the electronics engineering business, haven´t you seen before, jajaja.

  • Dubby Labby

    It will be expensive compared to F1 or so. If not totally winner…

  • As a big fan of modular DJ-setups and custom-mapped controllers, I like this product concept. However, I’m not too crazy about the aesthetics. Those large grooves between modules seem like a dirt and dust magnet.

  • The greatness of this product will only be proven once it has been battle proven and moved around and mashed on. Looks nice though.

  • Mark Lentczner

    Getting closer… but… I also worry about the strength of the build: Could I really take this to live gigs, being packed and unpacked weekly or more?

    It is also big: The unit is substantially larger than a LaunchControl XL, a Launchpad Pro, or even a FaderFox UC44. And yet it offers the same or fewer controls as those. Customizable is great – but I need density.

  • Oh yessss!! I often imagined something like this and hoped someone would build it. I am certainly going to play with this piece of Lego 😉

  • Jacob Stadtfeld

    Sploosh…
    This looks awesome. Possibly the most polished modular controller concept yet, and I’d love to play with this. The integrity of the tabs and holes that the control elements use to lock into the surface, however, are going to make or break this product, so to speak. If those aren’t sturdy enough to stand up to repeated reconfigurations, or result in any noticeable wobble when twisting a knob or moving a fader, usability is going to be severely hampered. But I’ll be watching this one closely, I’m stoked.

    • CUSP

      Yeah, I mentioned earlier that they’d probably do very well using the ZIF CPU slot design that certain CPU motherboard manufacturers use to mount their CPUs. I think they could design this “breadboard” to dock as well. If they do both of these things (make docking boards and add the ZIF slot design) they stand to do very well.

  • Echobreaker

    I mean I can’t even get all the stuff I want made on my F1 and my Midi twister to sound awesome. For producers who REALLY lover tweaking stuff sure, but who has that much time? Might as well make a song or a super live performance.