Features | Articles

Recently Unveiled Vintage MIDI Controllers

By Mark Abraham | 29 June 2008

Perhaps you’ve seen an electronic musician wonking spastic over a box of buttons. You don’t really know what it is she’s doing, but hey—it glows and the music sounds awesome and you used to like Futureman anyway until jam music became uncool. More infrared MIDI control! More random buttons! More strange objects like that dude from the Boredoms!

This trend has been going in interesting directions lately, though, especially with the success of the user-friendly Ableton Live. Everybody wants to build their own non-keyboard, non-pad-based controller, and many of those designs come from familiar, vintage ideas. To capitalize upon this, Ableton has recently join forces with a whole host of unlikely third party support companies to cash in on the trend. Here are some of the best, with excerpts from the products’ promotional copy.

10: The Milton Bradley Operat(ion)or

Sample Copy: Why fight perfect synthesis? This time, you want to hit the metal; as you do, Ableton Operator’s oscillators will growl and whine.

9. The Tomy Foo-Bass Cromulator

Sample Copy: His eyes beat in time with your side-chain compression. He’s the Daftest Punk, what!

8. The Hasbro Lit-Bit Redux

Sample Copy: Just move the pegs around and hear the sound deteriorate. Watch out for the easter-egg grain delay when you draw a sailboat. Holy. Grail.

7. The Atari Ata/Reso Paddle

Sample Copy: Simply play River Raid and hear your music swirl. Or plug in Pong for some awesome stereo delays!

6. The Hasbro/Betty Crocker Half-Baked Flanger (Vintage Kenner Model)

Sample Copy: No, you still actually have to cook shit. But just think how sweet that jam is gonna be! Whooshalicious!

5. The Hasbro Glo-churn

Sample Copy: Is your chorus feeling a little light? Give Glo-churn a squeeze and watch that shit sprawl. When his face lights up? Bing!

4. The Namco Pacmampler

Sample Copy: None

[ED: This one is still in development, so we’re not entirely sure how it controls Ableton Sampler, but early specs suggest your various ADSR envelopes change as you power-up and eat the ghosts. Also: who cares? It’s Pac Man!]

3. Texas Instruments Re-speak and Swell

Sample Copy: Control Beat Repeat and Saturator in tandem. Also: learn how to read.

2. The Skeech (Ohio Art)

Sample Copy: Okay, so we know you’re think, “sweet! They switched out the knobs for control knobs. Well…not really. But let’s face it: you tape a chord to the back of this mother and turn the regular knobs? Have your audience won’t know you ain’t doing shit anyway, and they’ll think you’re like Ritchie Hawtin or some such shit. Encore!

1. The Ford Edselicious

Sample Copy: Everything—the Odometer, gas gauge, acceleration pedal, brake, lights, radio knobs, whatever—are wireless transmitted to your rig. In other words, you can put on a perfectly good performance while you’re taking your best guy/girl out for Cherry Coke floats and burgers. We know: your dreams have finally come true.

Honorable Mention: The Hasbro Delay-Doh.