zayik

What is ZAYIK?

is...

...a website for creating custom MIDI controllers.
...a take on the world “Mosaic.”

...Software by Mark Hiner of Pierced Veil Projects.
...Microelectronics by Kenneth Graham of Hale Microsystems.
...Hardware by the fine folks at Front Panel Express.

...Assembly, Support and Operations by Dave Cross of 60 Works.

...your controller, the way you want it.

(This site looks & works best in Google Chrome.)

Gallery: Close-Ups

Gallery: Parts



Technical Specifications

Enclosure, Width / Length / Height (including feet and components): 11.3 X 11.22 X 3 inches [28.7 X 28.5 X 7.6 cm]
Enclosure, Weight: 6 - 6.7lb [2.7 - 3kg]

Knob: Rotational life: 50,000 cycles; Conductive plastic element; 1/4" shaft; 300 degree rotation.
Button: Non-illuminated; Electrical life: 200,000 operations; Snap-acting contact mechanism with audible feedback; Momentary action.
Slider: Operational life: 100,000 cycles; Length 60mm.

    How do the components feel?

Ordering

Price: $700.00 - $1900.00 (USD), plus shipping.

Shipment: Anywhere UPS/FedEX will allow us. We abide by all Duties & Tariffs, meaning: if you live outside the USA, your government may charge you extra to receive a controller.

Payment: Google Checkout or Paypal. Initial orders will be processed with email invoices, with a plan to advance towards an automated payment process.


Questions & Answers

COMMON QUESTIONS

I want to add text/lines/drawings to my controller. Can you add them to the website?
We can’t add these features to the software anytime soon, but we can add them to your controller for little to no extra cost. Contact us with your ideas and we’ll work with you.

What is this? How would I use it?
It's a gadget that lets people manipulate music on their computer. We're expanding on the basic idea of the gadget by allowing people to customize the location of its various controls. This is not a new idea — we're hoping our particular implementation is a good fit for today's market.

Our customers are largely hunting for something different than what's already out there. If you're new to all of this, we'd suggest perusing the product catalogs of popular controller manufacturers like Akai, Korg and Novation. They're much larger companies that make a wide variety of nifty gadgets.

I want help integrating this in my existing setup.
We'd love to assist with that! We can help configure Ableton/Traktor mappings to match your performance workflow. This is a free service — we're keenly interested to see how our controllers get used.

I'm having trouble with your website. I want something that looks like this [crude drawing on a napkin]. Can you help?
Sure! We made the software so we're half-decent at using it. Just contact us and we'll walk you through it, or we'll start a design so you can make slight modifications.

I want [endless rotary encoders || joysticks || touch strips || sexier buttons || light-up buttons || drum pads || LEDs || etc] on my controller. Can you add them to the website?
Not anytime soon. But please contact us so we know what to prioritize next. If you don't want to wait, bug us anyways and we may be able to work something out for a fee.


PRICING

Why so expensive?
This is what it costs to make these right now, taking into consideration the quality of the components we chose.

No seriously, why so expensive? I can get a similar controller for less than half the price.
The big difference is this custom technology. The flexibility to put components anywhere changes the equation when it comes to manufacturing costs.

If an existing controller meets your needs, buy it!, and you'll benefit from the price breaks that come when someone makes & sells thousands of a single thing.

Still, it seems pricey. Are you making $500 off each sale?
Hah! No. Margins are pretty thin at the moment.

Also, since the base technology (custom) is so expensive, it didn't make sense to try and build cheap controllers. So we went all-out with our enclosure and components.

What's with the $1200 price variance? ($700 - $1900)
Pricing depends on the following: number of components, types of components, and knob/slider graphics.

A ridiculously simple controller with just one knob would cost close to $700. A ridiculously complicated controller with 32 controls and maxed out graphics would cost close to $1900.

Bottom line: the "average" controller will cost north of $1000. A $1900 design is very likely unusable, as is a $700 design.

I could do this myself for less than one fourth your price...
Go! Do it! This industry needs more awesome ideas from DIY-ers. Use Zayik as a sketchpad if you want. (In Firefox, you can easily save the controller picture with a right-click.) A primer on DIY controller-building is here.


GENERAL

I'm famous. If I promote the hell out of you, can I get a discount or a freebie?
No, sorry. We don't have that kind of budget. But if you want free promotional stuff like stickers, we're happy to send that to you at no cost.

How are ZAYIK controllers made?
Every morning, Buddhist monks from a remote monastery awake from their slumber. They get into their robes, have a simple breakfast, then check their email. Their inboxes contain ZAYIK orders from the previous day. The monks meditate deeply upon each configuration, evaluating them for ergonomics, playability and flair. If the controller meets their strict standards, they pray for its successful creation, and send notice back to us.

Upon receiving approval, we begin construction. Despite our weariness from the previous day's work mining the requisite iron and copper ore, we sit down at our dimly-lit workshop. Using tiny watchmaker's tools handed down to us from 18th-century ancestors, we begin work. Before we know it, the sun has gone down. We may have inadvertently skipped lunch and dinner, but there it is: your controller, in all its glory.

This Q&A keeps referencing a "we." Aren't you just one guy?
Yes and no. The site and all its moving parts are a collaboration of a bunch of people. But the guy answering your emails and building your controllers is just one guy, this dude. He's not a monk, but he is part Asian.


CONTROLLER

Where's the USB Plug?
What's that black thing in the back?
You just answered each others' questions. The cap is a hinged plastic cover for the USB port.

How do the knobs feel?
They feel like a master volume knob, but a bit chunkier. If you pick the "small knob," the tension will be tight. If you pick the "big knob," it'll feel much easier to turn.

We chose these knobs because they're rated for 50,000 rotational cycles. Most of the other well-known knobs we found were only rated for 10,000-15,000 cycles.

[Looking at Close-Up Gallery] What are those weird holes in the sides of the knob caps?
They're set screw holes. They keep the knob on the shaft. They look big in the pictures, but those are super-zoomed-in. You probably won't notice them in typical use.

How does the slider feel?
Like a quality line fader on a DJ mixer. It's not as buttery as a Rane crossfader, but it feels much better than your typical cheapo fader.

There's a tiny bit of tension — not so much that it'll restrict your movement — just enough to feel like you're actually moving sound with your fingers. The knob cap is tall and flat like that on a crossfader. (The guys who made our favorite studio console-style cap discontinued their line just before we launched.)

How do the buttons feel?
Clicky and super-chunky. Like an old-school computer keyboard, but with a lot more spring to it. You'll know when you've pressed it and you'll know when you've released it.

It feels like it belongs on a control panel at an underground bunker. It's good for everything but ultra-fast presses — the kinds of things you'd use a drum pad for (there's just too much spring action for repeated drumming).

How come the buttons don’t light up?
Short Answer: please bug us if you really want illuminated buttons, and we’ll work with you.

Long Answer: an illuminated button is, by definition, “smart.” It both sends and receives commands. Because this is such a custom affair, it’s difficult for us to pre-program these smarts on your behalf. We’ll get there, eventually.

How does the entire chassis feel?
Heavy. So heavy that some will question why a simple MIDI controller should be so hefty. Every part bigger than a postcard – except for one circuit board – is constructed from metal.

Can you suggest a good travel case?
We designed these to fit in a record case. (LPs, not 45s.) A metal case for 25 records would work well. A full 50-record case would fit the controller + a bunch of other stuff.

We suggest you keep the piece of foam that comes in the shipping box. That should help protect the components that stick out the front. Did you throw it out? Contact us and we'll send you another.
TECH SUPPORT

How does the controller communicate? Does it need PC/Mac drivers?
The controller sends MIDI over class-compliant drivers. No need to install anything on your computer, it'll work right away.

The commands are MIDI Control Change (CC) or Note On/Off messages. The exact CCs, Notes and MIDI channels can be customized by you. (Look down, three questions.)

What software will the controller work with?
Anything that speaks MIDI over USB. So, any piece of music software.

Theoretically, you could get it to speak to hardware synths and sequencers with this gadget, but we haven't tried it yet. (Kenton make the coolest, weirdest stuff, eh?)

My controller doesn't work.
Stupid questions: did you unplug it and plug it back in? Did you reboot? Did you restart your program?

Yes? Then please contact us and we'll get it sorted out.

I want to change a MIDI mapping.
I want to change the behavior of one of my MIDI controls.
There's special PC-only software built by Hale Microsystems to do this. The link to it is here (UMC32+M Configuration Utility). Contact us for help using it.

Don't contact the Hale Micro guy. He's really nice and he would happily help you, but we promised to handle ZAYIK-related Hale Micro support and we want to stay on his good side.

I have two ZAYIK controllers (and I'm awesome). They don't play well together when they're plugged into the same computer.
Again, there's special software by Hale Micro that'll help a computer recognize multiple UMC32+ controllers as separate beings. Link is here (UMC32+M Bootloader), please contact us for help.

Why does my "ZAYIK" controller say "UMC32+" when I plug it in?
Hale Microsystems is one of our technology partners. They make the UMC32+, the brains behind the smarts behind the ZAYIK concept. ("Brains behind the smarts behind..." somewhere an English teacher is crying.)

If you're familiar with the concept of an OEM relationship (or a VAR), this is similar. Only difference is that we're not obscuring the original manufacturer's work from you.


ORDERING

Do you accept returns?
We haven't figured out what to do with the custom aluminum from your returned controller — maybe some kind of art installation? In any case, We'll accept your return.

How about this: contact us within one month, you pay shipping back to us, and we'll refund the amount to your card. Contact us if you're unhappy with what you received.

How long will it take to receive my controller?
We're shooting for three weeks total. Three weeks = Two weeks assembly & testing + shipping time + a day or two of wiggle room.

Why so long?
It's the custom tech. We need to generate engineering files from your submitted design, then we need to get the files milled into aluminum faceplates. All the while, we're working on assembly, testing and programming of the innards.


WEBSITE

I want to add text/lines/drawings to my controller. Can you add them to the website?
We can’t add these features to the software anytime soon, but we can add them to your controller for little to no extra cost. Contact us with your ideas and we’ll work with you.

Why can't I just drag-and-drop the knobs on to the controller?
Why can't I use your site with my tablet or smartphone?
It's a software-development time/expense issue. If this takes off, we'll take the time to do fancy stuff like that.

The controller is a black square, could I get one in a different shape/color?
This is one of those "contact us to work it out" situations. Long story short: yes, but it'll cost extra.

Shape: if you're able to live with the established width, it'll be much cheaper than asking us to adjust the width and the height. (It has to do with the amount of labor required to modify our engineering files.)

Color: the sides of the box come in black or silver. The top/bottom/front/back come in a wider variety.

Um, something funky just happened while I was designing my controller...
First suggestion: hit the "Save" button, near the bottom right. That'll lock what you've done into our database. We've found some problems disappear once the site re-loads from the database. (This happens automatically upon saving).

Another trick... this doesn't work all the time: look up at the URL on your saved design. It should have a bit near the end that says canvasID=10000000. Whatever number you're at, try plugging in numbers below that (eg: canvasID=09999999). There's a chance you'll hop back to a previously saved design (though you could very well stumble upon someone else's design).