Keep it simple

Prototyping the N16B & N01B

The N32B wasn’t my first intention as a single multi-knob unit. It had some iterations before it became what it is today.

In the beginning I planned a modular controller system with “dumb” unit comprising 16 potentiometers called “N16B”.
The plan was to connect the N16B unit into a small primary brain – the “N01B” unit, which included the main Arduino board and an endless RGB encoder for changing channels or any other application I might have.

I also intended it to connect multiple N16B units to the brain unit, which had at first two 8-pin connectors for two potentiometers units.

The process

Prototyping is an important process before creating an actual PCB. So I took a breadboard and started experimenting with potentiometers and Arduino.

After obtaining the required results, I designed the PCB for both parts, sent to manufacture it, and ordered all the needed parts.

While I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I designed two different enclosures, and 3D printed them.
When I finally got all parts and my prototype PCBs, I soldered everything, connected the cables and uploaded the firmware.

The results

Everything went smoothly and worked as expected. Mapping to Ableton Live worked like a charm and all potentiometers were very responsive.

N16B also in a watermelon theme

I programmed some colors to the main RGB encoder so it will resemble the current active channel of the controller. It supported 16 channels, so I chose 16 colors to match each channel.

Although the results were great, I didn’t like the extra cables coming out of the units, which connected to the N01B unit. So I dropped this design and started a full 32 knob unit, containing the brain and 32 potentiometers.

N16B with full 3D printed enclosure

What’s with the naming?

Naming is a hard process. Think about it, how will you call your new dog? cat? What will be your first new born name? Names are forever, or at least feel like that.

I was an absolute beginner when I started building midi-controllers, so I thought why not name my first product line as the newbie I am?

Hence the “N__B” structure. The next step was to fill the gaps, N16B for the 16 potentiometers – well, that’s obvious. N01B for the controller’s brain unit, which had 1 encoder.

Now it was easier to name the 32 Knobs model – N32B.

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