An open-source controller for musical instruments

16n is a bank of 16 60mm faders. It was originally designed for controlling electronic musical instruments and devices.

It will send data over MIDI - via USB or minijack breakout - and has a control voltage output for each channel, suitable for talking to analog equipment. It will also send fader data over I2C to devices such as an ER-301 or monome teletype.

And that’s it. Anything else you want to do with it is up to the user - it is a general-purpose control surface that makes few specific demands of its end-users. If you can parse MIDI, you can use its data - making it useful for applications beyond purely musical ones.

The guts of an earlier version of the 16n

16n is, notably, entirely open-source. The firmware is open-source - but so are the files for the electronics schematic and circuit board, as well as plans for the top/bottom panels.

16n is a community project that emerged from the Lines forum. Brian Crabtree and Sean Hellfritsch made the first version. I then redesigned the electronics: I added MIDI outs, and also per-channel CV outs, which required another 70-odd components and rerouting the board. Brendon Cassidy and I extended the firmware; I added a variety of simple configuration options, as well as rewriting the code to use the multiplexer now on the board; Brendon’s contributions included major updates to the I2C code.

A render from Fusion 360 of the 16n

I also developed precise 3D models of the controller, which enabled developing precise models and mechanical drawings of the top and bottom panels for fabrication.

I’m proud of how this project developed: it helped develop a lot of my CAD and engineering skills, and the reception to it has been hugely pleasing. Many people are making these devices, either for themselves or others, and feeding back their developments into the project in one way or another. It was exciting to see fanufacture become real - not something I’d anticipated would happen with a project of my own!

16n is another kind of toolmaking for me - I’ve always liked making things that enable other people to create, and to be able to do something for people working in sound and audio is a great fusion of my skills and interests. I couldn’t imagine the many things other musicians have done with this device; watching their videos has been hugely rewarding:

Update: looks like Richie Hawtin has one: