Birdkids' OffGrid

I’ve just received my BirdKids OffGrid Kickstarter. It’s a midi controller which uses Bluetooth LE (and USB?). I haven’t done much with it yet. The packaging looks nice, opens easily & it looks like the material (cardboard) can be easily recycled. It seems they are still quite busy, so there’s no manual included (yet?) for instance. The sticker on the back did raise some eyebrows & does not bode well… :thinking: :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

I’ve tried to update my firmware, but I get errors (I’m using Ubuntu Linux 18.04) when I connect it to USB. There is no mention of Linux anywhere on the site, so I might need to retry this with a different machine.

I’d like to use the OffGrid as a wireless controller for my Norns shield, I think it has great potential.

Are there any other Lines members with an OffGrid? What are your experiences?

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I purchased one recently and received it a couple days ago. So far my experience has been pretty good.

I did not back the project on Kickstarter, but I signed up for their mailing list and ordered one as soon as they were available.

Mine did not come with a sticker like that on the back. I checked for firmware updates on a mac without issue, but apparently in my case the device was already running the most updated version so I can’t comment on the update process.

So far I’ve used it with a 1010music blackbox (via usb) and to control the Ruismaker ios app on my phone (via bluetooth).

I’ve had hours of fun so far. The pads feel nice, and I am still experimenting with the differences between the various layouts.

I’m pretty excited about this little device.

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Yeh, not sure that circumventing consumer law is as easy as printing a sticker… bit odd.

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I got mine last week at some point. Seems decently made, though I don’t like the sloppy play in the joystick bit. It even makes an pretty loud clicking sound when you move it left/right.

I’ve inquired on their forum about an API mode as it would be great to be able to address the LEDs (ala monome/launchpad stuff) for making custom apps and all that. Hopefully something like that is possible.

Completely agree about the joystick, though that feature didn’t really appeal to me so much to begin with, so it’s not such a deal breaker for me.

Any further comments and experiences - how is the OffGrid working for you?

Seeing the “grid” is apparently velocity sensitive and FSR based, do you think it’d work for finger drumming for someone with a relatively light / accurate touch? Have you tried it out - are they something you can hit lightly and get a consistent velocity response?

I’ve long been looking for a super portable pad thingie that would actually be velocity sensitive to a sensible degree, and just realized this might fit the bill, unless it’s a letdown in some way. Could use it with the phone and earbuds on the go for practise, and with a groovebox thingie together with CME Widi to whack in some drums.

I suppose the next options in size would be the standard issue 4x4 grid devices like Presonus Atom etc., but haven’t found anything else that would be nice to hold in hand for longer periods, and wouldn’t always need to be hooked up + powered via USB which kind of makes using on the sofa / in transit awkward.

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I’m enjoying the Offgrid.

My main reason for purchasing was that I wanted something super portable to make beats with while on a vacation or when traveling. As I mentioned earlier in this thread I use it with a 1010music Blackbox. Both of those things together fit in a small case which makes them easy to pack.

As a result, I cannot comment much about using it via Bluetooth, but I’ve certainly spend a good bit of time sitting on a sofa with the Blackbox plugged into an Omars power bank and the Offgrid plugged into the Blackbox. Though some people on the Offgrid support forum are reporting that, when connected using Bluetooth, the device will go to sleep after some time of inactivity, which is particularly bad in a live setting. Birdkids said five days ago that they are making it a high priority to look into. Here’s the thread.

I don’t have a lot of experience with other pad controllers, so I can’t really compare how it feels to other devices. Previously I had purchased a K-Board which I use to knock out little chord progressions and melody lines, but I much prefer a grid style controller for beats.

One thing about the Offgrid for beat-making, each pad is relatively small compared to some other devices you might consider, such as the Presonus Atom. I don’t mind it, particularly within the context I am using it, but I could imagine someone who gets really into it when finger drumming losing a bit of accuracy in the excitement and becoming frustrated.

As far as velocity sensitivity is concerned, there are a number of default presents. The one labeled “DRM-HiDynamic” is probably what you are looking for. I tend to switch between that one and the standard DRM preset depending on what I am going for, or even what kind of samples I am using.

Hope that helps.

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That helps a lot, thank you! It sounds like it would definitely be worth trying out for me as well… Travel controller / instrument + couch jamming thing is pretty much exactly my use case too.

I can’t say I’ve tried heaps of different drum pad controllers either, but some of the worst ones felt they essentially have only one or two separate velocity levels, so it’s good to know there’s a decent usable dynamic range. The pad size shouldn’t be an issue either: I mainly play the Linnstrument which doesn’t really have discrete / separate pads, and the pad areas are about the size of a (large) fingertip, so I’ve tried to learn to focus when I’m fingerdrumming.

Aside the phone + apps, I have a Synthstrom Deluge that is nicely self-contained otherwise, but it doesn’t have velocity sensitive pads, and the drum kits are always mapped to edge pads that are a bit hard to hit naturally. Apparently there are still USB incompatibility issues with Offgrid and current Deluge beta firmware, but one of those CME Bluetooth MIDI adapters and a wireless connection would solve that if I end up trying out the Offgrid. (Plus would mean I wouldn’t need any extra cables in the setup other than the one attached to headphones…)

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I got one and its a surprisingly good controller for such a small form factor.

The documentation isnt that good so I put together an overview of how to use it here

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Thanks, that’s helpful - much clearer indeed :slight_smile: Found one used, let’s see how it works for me once it arrives…

Yeah, here in Iceland if you buy something from a company then it’s a 2 year warranty minimum.
Wouldn’t surprise me if the EU has the same rules since we copy a lot of rules from the EU.

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It’s a bit mixed depending on the country. EU law says all member countries must hold local retailers responsive for any faults in new goods sold within the EU for two years from delivery. Local laws can override this though, if they meet or exceed the directive. (For example, it never applied in England & Wales or Scotland because consumer law already required an equivalent 6-year & 5-year coverage respectively. And, yes, that’s years.)

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6 years of coverage would probably be a good starting point to fight this “use only once” tech that’s been widespread. Sometimes it’s like companies design products that break after 2 years on purpose.

I’ll stop derailing the thread. The OffGrid looks like a great portable midi controller!

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Side note: based on the first comments in the thread, it sounds like those stickers are only in the Kickstarter reward versions of the unit - I suppose whether for tax / customs or warranty reasons, they want to equate a Kickstarter reward to something like a gift or a lottery prize, because you haven’t bought something, you’ve supported a campaign and as the campaign has succeeded they are able to offer you a prize they’ve promised.

I have no idea what EU consumer directives or local laws say about that (I assume there are already legal cases about how Kickstarter rewards are treated in the view of consumer laws), but at least it’s a bit more logical train of thought, than slapping a “non-commercial reward, no warranty” sticker to something that has been bought from the store.

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I got mine today (also a backer, I have the same sticker on the back) and I was eager to test all the potential of this little portable yet powerful looking controller. unfortunately as soon as I started playing with it I noticed that there are a couple of pads in the upper right grid area that also trigger the adjacent (not played/pressed) pad/note while long pressed, and yeah, I also noticed that the joystick is very noisy, clicky in a very “hard plastic” way, it often sticks here and there ant i doesn’t feel smooth at all. I’m a bit disappointed tbh, it’s a nice, handy and useful idea but I have to admit I’m not that happy about its build/material quality. I wrote to their support thou, maybe it’s just my unit.

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That doesn’t sound too good. My used unit is still somewhere in the mail two weeks later.

The Kickstarter page shows that there’s a 1.05 firmware as well as a beta editor out “Now” (though can’t find it anywhere). That may be in reference to the next update they’ve announced for next week.

It seems they explain the sticker in the latest backer update found via that link:

" Generally speaking, whether you’re a Backer receiving a reward unit or a customer buying a retail product, we do not differentiate between the quality of support. It is different in terms of warranty extended or priority support on reward vs. retail units. Seeing as there’s a difference of 200% in price between the average reward pledge commitment and retail, we simply cannot factor in priority support or hardware warranty in reward units. Legally speaking reward units are also treated outside of consumer law as they represent unicates.

If for some reason you would absolutely prefer a retail unit to your pledge reward, reach out to us at (…) to see if there are options to upgrade on an individual basis."

Your campaign reward unit(s) is your property, you’re free to do as you wish. We’ve no issues with those being resold 2nd hand, but, be aware that reward units that were given to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo backers for campaign support are tied to the original backers in serial Nos. logged at the time of fulfillment, and are exempt from any warranty or warranty extension as they are not commercial goods under consumer law. Kindly inform a private buyer that their unit is a unicate Campaign reward to manage their expectations on what terms they’ll be handed the reward down.

So I’m not sure how common this is in KS campaigns, but sounds like the sticker does actually mean that if you get one as a campaign reward, it doesn’t have any warranty nor “priority support”, whereas if you buy it from their store or pay extra on top of the KS price, it does.

I’m not sure if they have mentioned this before in the campaign rules or updates, but certainly the person who sold me his backer unit he didn’t want after all, wasn’t aware of this beforehand.

I find this sort of shenanigans deeply irritating. There seem to be a steadily increasing number of companies who have decided that crowdfunding is an excellent opportunity to raise investment without any of the pesky responsibilities to investors or customers.

Taking the above example, does anyone have any idea what unicate actually means? Aside from apparently being a botanical term, I couldn’t find anything that seemed remotely applicable to consumer law. Google believes it to be a typo. Apparently they’ve either used a wilfully obscure legal term, or it’s something simply minted for the occasion. Either way it feels a deliberate attempt dissuade backers from asking difficult questions or asserting their legal rights.

The EU VAT Committee published a paper on crowdfunding activities in 2015. They found that where there was a reasonable direct link between contribution and reward, this was indeed a transaction sale of goods or services (and so bound by existing EU consumer laws). While the paper was only advisory, and companies can continue to try to assert otherwise, it’s clear that governing bodies are increasingly unimpressed by companies trying to hand-wave their way out of legal responsibilities.

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