Compact and/or augmented MIDI controllers

Is it me or is there an overwhelming lack of compact/portable MIDI controllers? Similarly few companies make controllers that are meant to be used in tandem with instruments.

There’s stuff like the Livid Instruments MINIM (or Guitar Wing) or the (much discussed (and sadly very disappointing)) ROLI Blocks, and a few other somewhat gimmicky things (1, 2), but I’ve yet to come across a compact MIDI controller that isn’t awful or awful looking. On top of that all seem to be designed towards a “wireless MIDI controller you can stick in your pocket then use with your iPhone while chilling with friends at the park” kind of thing.

I backed this thing on Kickstarter ages ago as I like the (mini)grid interface and simple(ish) aesthetics but the compact has been pretty rude/shitty with communication and I worry that, like many things, it’s going to be a poorly designed product that ends up being some lifestyle+ecosystem thing rather than a robust and usable controller.

For the most part, I quite kind making DIY/custom controllers, especially since I often have quite specific requirements for mounting and using them, but when it comes to things with buttons and LEDs, it’s harder to DIY something elegant. Things based on the Adafruit 4x4 keypads are quite bulky as are things based on Cherry keyboard-style hardware, and trying to DIY or customize anything in that domain seems like a much bigger effort than I’m capable (or perhaps) interested in.


Does anyone know of any cool/useful/compact controllers, or have insights on DIYing functional/elegant controllers, etc…


I’m waiting on my pre-order of this but I don’t know if it’s really what you’d be looking for?

For one, it’s MIDI out only, for two, the interface may not be your cuppa (I have a really nice hand pan I don’t play often enough so the Wing is an ideal halfway point for me), three it’s only nine touchpads, so maybe no use to anyone looking for a multi-octave keyboard-style controller.

On the plus side, it’s velocity sensitive and it has an accelerometer.

Hoping to receive mine in the next month, so will find out then!


This has been on my mind for some time. My repeated ruminations on the topic in recent years played a role in @TomWhitwell exploring small MIDI controllers. There’s a bit about it here: “Have MIDI, Will Travel.”

Due to the pandemic, I’ve not been out and about the way I had been in 2019 and previous, so having my little Pelican case with me is, for the moment, a thing of the past. I trust that will change. I am also hopeful that small devices like Tom’s become more of a thing as time proceeds.


Fact that there’s no ‘open-ended’ small midi controller out there is criminal.
I’ve been looking for something like controls on digitakt for long time. 6-8 encoders, bunch of buttons, screen showing you current page and parameter values, maybe names of params. All I need.

With current proposal for midi 2.0 where gear will be able to dump all assignable parameters to controller, this will eventually surface from some company.

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Perhaps one of Intech’s models might be what you are looking for:


I haven’t held one of these neotrellis things in person, but been curious for a little while. It looks like most of the bulk comes from the height of the pads & the need for stabilizers to avoid accidental multi presses. The controller itself looks relatively flat and takes care of the multiplexing and LEDs, so there might be a DIY solution in there which involves an aluminum foil conductive switch and some simple dressing-up.

I had seen that before, but not a great form factor for mounting on another circle (snare) as would end up being the least efficient use of space, hehe.

Ah yes! I remember seeing this a bit ago. I was wracking my brain trying to include links to the relevant-ish small controllers I had come across but I wasn’t diligent with saving links.

I always forget that they made a smaller footprint of the elastomer pads too, but it’s probably quite doable having something laser cut or 3d printed that gives you the chub where you need it while leaving (internal) height available for a Teensy and whatnot.

I’d not seen these before. Interesting.


Gustavo’s courses are great and you can get direct support from Gustavo and other course participants:

Also, check out @pangrus multi : GitHub - pangrus/multi: usb to 5 din midi converter-filter-router, sound generator :eyes:


A friend of mine has one of these, which I’ve had a chance to play with. It’s an interesting form factor (although somewhat poor ergonomics in the execution… video games have taught us that hands are better with rounded controllers, right?).

In your context, it actually makes me think or controllers to hold or shake in conjunction with drum sticks

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Haven’t tried them meself but Yaeltex has some pretty elegant looking options and a fully custom thing too.


I’m well aware of those and as matter of fact, I’ve spent couple of evenings just posting on forums trying to let people know this is around and help those guys reach that Kickstarter goal. That was least I could do at that moment, my wallet was bone dry at that time.
It’s very interesting project and year ago, I would be still interested in it, but at the moment I’m selling studio gear and going as minimal as I can.

Man can only dream, about nice midi controller

I’ve looked at a couple of options doing that, though latency becomes an issue as IMUs (particularly when wireless) don’t have the snapiest response time.

I did have some somewhat promising experiments a while back with those (now discontinued) Myo armbands where I could “squeeze” while holding the drum sticks and be able to recognize that reliably and pretty quickly. So, theoretically, I could carry on playing with sticks as I normally would and just tense my muscles a bit to trigger things.

I’ve not played with them in ages as I’ve lent them to a friend, but it would be interesting to revisit that idea of “invisible” control.

I searched high and low for a small footprint midi controller to use for video synth gigs and landed on the Faderfox UC4. It’s worked out beautifully so far. No whizbang features, but small and completely reliable.



I’m partway into a design for a half-size OMX-27 (which is already pretty compact). So… 16 keys instead (one octave of switches + function keys), midi only, battery power. Probably Kaihl Choc switches to make it a little more low profile.


I have the UC-4 and it’s great. What I’d really like to see is something like the UC-4 (or smaller, like the MIDI Fighter Twister or that Music Thing Modular one above) with Bluetooth. I think the only knobbed Bluetooth controllers that I know of are the Korg nanoKontrol Studio and nanoKey Studio. Are there others that I’ve missed? The other Bluetooth controllers I know are things like Sensel Morph, Seaboard Block, Lightpad Block, etc., none of which have knobs.

What I’d love to see in compact lightweight form also is a midi foot controller, i feel like besides KMI’s Softstep (which comes with all the usual caveats of KMI gear and at 300€ it’s hard for me to justify it having heard some less than perfect feedback), there’s not really much of an offer in the spot between very small midi controller and bulky and awfully heavy FC300 / Nektar foot controller / Behringer FCB1010.

Ideally as always with KMI I think I’m just looking for an elusive premium version of the softstep, but that’s definitely not what the other makers are offering.

I’d love some advice if any of you have some to give.


Oh, I was eyeing those Choc switches just today for a project. Have you tried them before? I’m looking for some nice backlit buttons, but those on Digitakt and modern Electron machines are way rattling way to much and are to high in general. I’m sure some of that rattle is due to fact that those are pretty much sitting in hollow metal box, but still I’m looking for something low key (…eh)

Here’s a thread I made a little while ago around a controller idea, seems like it would fit well here: early-state idea: a portable & durable parameter controller

Yeah - i’ve got chocs on the Dirtywave M8 (M8 uses Kailh Choc Browns). Good switches, but they can be a little rattle-y just due to the interior parts of the switches jiggling around (springs mostly I think).

The BIG problem with backlighting Chocs is that there’s nearly zero options for plain (unprinted) keycaps with a window for LEDs to shine through.

In doing some “Let’s Get Small” design/layout this afternoon I’m wondering what people would think about Thumbwheels for pots? Thumbwheels on a edge a small device would be an interesting solution when using handheld. Perhaps less immediate on a desktop tho?

Any controllers out there using thumbwheels?

By the way this reminded me I’m super sad Livid isn’t around anymore. The guitar wing was kinda meant for me and I always postponed buying it and now it’s not around anymore. And also just in general I liked livid as a “more focused and pedestrian monome” company.