DARK Fire

RGB illuminated rubber pads meets DARK metal home
Visualize and remember mapped MIDI actions with your favourite colors
Traktor user can map all NI hotcue type colors


NEW - Available NOW

The idea behind Dark FIRE

The DARK family grows .. here is our 3rd controller, Dark Fire offers RGB illuminated controls for DJ’ing and MIDI applications. Available (ready to build on request) since Oct. 18, 2020.

The idea of such a controller was in our mind since 2 years, but we first had to gain our experiences in industry assembled printed circuits in order to realize it (QFN sized SMD chips were needed).

Background: Many user (me too) love to use hotcues in the mix, and as a long year Traktor user I wished always to have this beautiful Traktor hotcue colors on my controller. Blue/green/orange/white was needed, and supporting any RGB color could cover even more use cases.

Dark Fire feels like “made for Traktor” but the midi compliant protocol allows to trigger midi application outside the Traktor world too, that’s why we love it. And the usb bus powering and portability allows a nice mobile setup with DJ Player Pro (iOS).

Dark Fire is a sibling of Dark Wheel. We replaced the Jogwheel and Pioneer panel with RGB illuminated silicon rubber buttons. And we kept the rest: the flexible firmware features (e.g. customizable Shift, Bank, Deck layer) and all other controls (MEC switches and encoder), even their midi messages are exactly same. Funny story: when I connected my Dark Fire the first time and launched Traktor a smile came over my face: all controls in all 4 decks worked well because the earlier Dark Wheel mapping was linked ; ).

Metal case and silicon pads .. does this fit together? We feel the tactile resistance of silicon pads (allowing strong and fast strokes) complement perfectly to a rock solid metal case, in design and in usage. It makes a lot of fun, feels like ‘made to firing actions in live performances’.

Each pad can be midi triggered with any different RGB color (125 values, not 3-7 only as many competitors), this makes Dark Fire universal: Colors remind me on controller what is mapped (e.g. magenta & green for Cue/Play on lower pads), even complex mappings keep intuitive and memorizable in different layers.

Dark Fire is size compatible to Dark Fader and Dark Wheel, they all work perfectly together.

For more details to firmware features (customizable Shift layer, 2 to 4 Banks, 1-4 decks) see: midi concept (on our Dark Wheel site), Dark Fire supports the exact same features too.

Let us know what you think about Dark Fire! 

We build on your request

Dark Fire is ready to build and sell on request. We will not keep a lot on stock to keep our costs in budget. All is hand made as always, user who loves them can contact us and we start to build.

All PCB (Printed Circuit Boards) and the black brushed metal panels are designed by us, CNC manufacturers and professional PCB vendors build to our plans/specifications. The Dark Fire PCB is assembled by industry (SMD components), all THT components and the complete Dark Board below are soldered by us manually.

We mount each device manually, customize the setup parameter and check quality of each control before shipping. We developed and support the firmware. Firmware and default mappings are published online.

We include the latest documents as printed manuals (available after beta).

Projected Retail Price

Dark Fire: 388 € (brushed black aluminium, single height version, USB/In version, no hub).

Please let us also know if you want a mounted USB hub (with additional USB/Out, DC/In connector, DC cable). We can add for currently 39 €.

The dimensions are same on all Dark Controller and compatible to our new Dark Xpander. So let us know if you are interested in a double height version, matching perfectly to height of professional mixer and club equipment.

As we got 2 questions often in past: Yes, we can deliver world wide, insured shipping costs and PayPal will be added to the invoice amount. And yes, in case you are interested in more than one Dark Controller, we are happy to offer an individual discount.

If you are interested in our new Dark Fire, then please contact us!

Technical Specifications

Chassis

  • Full metal chassis, available in single or double height (double height via optional Xpander)
  • CNC made panels, brushed and double black anodized 3mm aluminium, polished bare metal side surfaces
  • Engraved logo, product name (no painting, no laser cut)
  • Dimension (single height): 207 x 65 x 38/52, with Xpander: 207 x 65 x 76/90
  • Weight: 450 grams (650 grams with Xpander)

Control elements

  • RGB PADs: 10 translucent silicon rubber button PADs, RGB illuminated. Optimized for high force presses, conductive contacts without
    moving parts guarantees long-term durability
  • RGB PAD LEDs: each pad LED supports 125 mixed colors via MIDI values (RGB 5x5x5 cube)
  • ENCODER: 2 original Panasonic encoder, soft click (low pressure) push rotate encoder, 20 TPR. Full metal knobs with concave top shape
  • BUTTONS: 5 original MEC tactile switches (US made), single and bicolor illuminated LEDs (1 blue, 3 red/green, 1 yellow/green), MIDI
    receive on all LEDs (flashing supported)
  • INDICATOR LEDs: 2 unicolor LEDs between encoders (orange and blue), MIDI receive on both LEDs (flashing supported)

PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD

  • Bottom layer PCB: Dark Board (CAD factory made PCB, dual layer, black glossy surface, immersion gold contacts). Mounted CPU: Teensy 3.2
    (72 MHz 32 bit ARM processor)
  • Top layer sandwich PCB: Dark Fire control elements carrier PCB, SMD QFN components soldered in SMT (surface-mount technology), I2C bus connected to Dark Board

IN/OUTPUTS

  • USB-B IN: Connects Dark Fire to MIDI host. USB bus powered (no power adapter needed), low power consumption: 60-110 mA
  • USB-A OUT (optionally): Available if an active hub is mounted on board. Intended use: connect additional MIDI devices in daisy chain
  • DC Power IN (5.5/2.5mm, center pin +5V): Only available if USB-A OUT and hub is mounted. Intended use: Relieve any power consumption from USB-B IN and powering daisy chain connected devices on USB Out

FIRMWARE

  • MIDI class compliant, no driver needed
  • Multi-deck and multi-layer support. Built in ‘Power-On Configuration Setup’ to customize user settings/preferences
  • Supporting: 1-4 channels, multiple layers, multiple devices

Dark Fire Features

ENHANCED MIDI MAPPING CONCEPT

  • Each control sends and/or receives unique MIDI messages for individual MIDI mapping. MIDI class compliant protocol, no drivers or
    additional software needed
  • Additional firmware features: 3 buttons are highly customizable: DECK SELECT, SHIFT and BANK (via built in ‘Power-On Configuration
    Setup’). These buttons can be customized as ‘normal buttons/LEDs’ with MIDI In/Outbound OR as full automated controls (the firmware
    covers all logic, the mapping keeps lean)
  • Examples: DECK can toggle between decks (A/B, A/C, ABCD…), SHIFT can add an additional layer, BANK can enable 2-4 bank layers
  • Users can customize ‘their’ Dark Fire to their needs – from a single 1 deck controller with a few control to a multi-layer multi-deck device
  • This concept allows easy mappings with one mapping file, independent of the number of decks or connected Dark Fire controllers

DECK SELECT Button

  • Typically customized to toggle between decks (MIDI channel). User can customize behaviour (e.g. button only, deck assignments etc.)
  • Bicolor illuminated button (red/green), MIDI I/O mappable or firmware triggered
  • Dark Fire stores selected user mode and last used deck/channel on next Power-On

RGB PADS

  • All PADs can be separately mapped to different MIDI actions or LED colors. Unique layer notes allow multiple assignments
  • The 10 translucent PADs with RGB LEDs complement perfectly, allowing to assign DJ APP SPECIFIC COLORS, as well as DISTINGUISHING
    ACTIONS in different layers
  • DJ APP SPECIFIC COLORS – Example: Mapping of all Traktor hotcue type colors to the PADs (e.g. CUE=blue, LOOP=green etc), or adding
    additional colors (e.g. RED for deleting HC)
  • DISTINGUISHING ACTIONS – Unique colors simplify multiple layer mappings considerably, allowing intuitive and easy to memorize. Example: the 2 bottom PADs could be mapped to CUE (orange) and PLAY (green), on SHIFT layer as NUDGE pair with any different colors

RGB PAD Colors

  • RGB LEDs consist of 3 LED colors (R, G and B), each support 5 intensities, resulting in 125 mix colors in total (5x5x5 cube model), values: R=0,25,50,75,100 | G=0,5,10,15,20 | B=0,1,2,3,4. All PADs can be color triggered with MIDI note values (e.g. 52=red50+green0+blue2, results in mid intensive magenta, or e.g 124=full white)

  • Dark Fire offers an inbuilt COLOR EXPLORER in the ‘Power-On Configuration Setup’. This feature allows exploration of all supported colors, calculates the mixed color value automatically and presents as note value in any MIDI monitor

  • LED BOOSTER: PADs can be adjusted on-the-fly, allowing adapting between bright daylight or dark club night settings: Press & hold DECK
    SELECT and push left ENCODER to toggle thru 3 intensities (dimmed/normal/boosted)

Encoder

  • Two Push/Rotate Encoder (20 TPR) with full metal knobs and top shapes. The low pressure and short-stroke encoder feels very pleasant
  • Free for mapping, in Traktor typically mapped to Beat jump (left), Looping On/Off/Size (right) and e.g. to FX controls in additional layers
  • Two unicolor LEDs (orange, blue) close encoder with MIDI receive inbound

SHIFT BUTTON

  • Bicolor illuminated button (red/green), MIDI I/O mappable or firmware triggered
  • Users can customize SHIFT button behaviour as ‘normal button/LED’ with MIDI In/outbound or a button which activates a 2nd SHIFT layer
    (modifying notes of other controls)
  • SHIFT layer can be activated during hold (default), optimally also latching toggle mode possible (this allows the usage of SHIFT as an additional BANK button)

MID BOTTOM BUTTON

  • Unicolor illuminated button (LED blue), free for user MIDI mapping
  • MID Button offers layer specific notes (same as on all buttons) and a global note to simplify mappings of DJ application SHIFT notes

BANK LAYER BUTTON

  • Bicolor illuminated button (red/green), MIDI I/O mappable or firmware triggered
  • Users can customize BANK button behaviour as ‘normal button/LED’ with MIDI In/outbound or a button which activates 2 or 4 banks
    (modifying notes of other controls)
  • BANK button can be customized similar to SHIFT (2nd bank on hold, kind of an additional SHIFT), or in latching mode (default). Button walks thru all 4 banks in 4 bank mode
  • Any combination with SHIFT supported, results in max. 2×4=8 layer in total (32 in 4 deck mode)

POWER-ON CONFIGURATION SETUP

Holding a BUTTON during power on activates the ‘Power-On Configuration Setup’, allowing customizing user settings/preferences

All changes are stored permanently. Supported setting options (holding dedicated button, using Hotcue 1-4 to select favourite mode):

  • 4 DECK MODES: normal button/LED – 2nd deck on hold – 2nd deck latching – 4 decks toggling
  • 4 ABCD MODES for 2 decks: A/B – A/C – B/D – C/D
  • 3 SHIFT MODES: normal button/LED – SHIFT layer on hold – SHIFT layer latching
  • 4 BANK MODES: normal button/ LED – BANK 2 on hold – BANK 2 latching – 4 BANKS

Additional customizing, holding:

  • SHIFT + BANK on power on: RESET to default settings
  • PUSH RIGHT ENCODER at Power-On: Activating built in COLOR EXPLORER

DOwnloads

Documents

Datasheet

Dark Fire overview, technical specifications, features, MIDI chart

QuiCk guide

How to use Dark Fire, control elements description

Customizing Guide

How to customize Dark Fire, Power-On configuration setup

Mapping Files

MAPPING PREVIEW

How we mapped Dark Fire controls in Traktor Pro and DJ Player Pro

Traktor Pro
Mapping fileS

Supporting 8 hotcues, full RGB support of all Traktor hotcue colors. Including loop controls, Nudging, FX effects, NI stem channels, Master deck control .. and much more.

Universal .tsi file for 1-4 decks, detailed mapping charts (pdf) included.

DJ Player Pro
Mapping fileS

Supporting 8 hotcues, including loop controls, Nudging, FX effects & pads, NI stem channels ... and much more.

Universal .djmap file for 1-4 decks, detailed mapping charts (pdf) included

Firmware

Firmware

Latest firmware collection (unzip download to see all .hex files)

Uploader

Link to TyTools (free open source project from Koromix)

How to upDate your Dark Fire Firmware

Many tools are available to upload firmware into Teensy based controller. We recommend the tool ‘TyCommander’, part of the open source TyTools project (from Koromix). TyCommander is easy to use, available for Windows, Linux and macOX, no install procedure needed; you can directly launch TyCommander after unzip. A big ‘Thank you’ to Koromix!. Workflow instructions:

  • Download latest version of our firmware collection, use left ‘Firmware’ link. 
  • Open the zip file, inside you will find all firmware (.hex files) of all Dark Controller
  • Download latest TyTools (use left ‘Uploader’ link), extract TyCommander
  • Launch TyCommander (no install needed), then open tab ‘Serial’
  • Connect your Dark Controller, the current installed firmware version gets displayed 
  • Check your current version: the 12 digit prefix (e.g. DFIRE1.0-32-) must match to one of the downloaded .hex files. Contact us if you can’t find a matching download version 
  • Press arrow button ‘Upload’ and select your downloaded hex file with same prefix
  • Wait few seconds until upload process finished. Disconnect Dark Fire .. DONE
  • Let us know if you need support at any step – always welcome!

MIDI Mapping

Traktor: All 8 RGB pads are mapped to HOTCUES, supporting all Traktor hotcue types. We mapped the original gui colors to the controller. We even added additional colors, e.g. red in shift mode (for deleting hotcues). On the bottom pads we mapped CUE and PLAY with a nice magenta and green (inspired from Denon controller), the CUE/PLAY button change to cyan in SHIFT layer (when they work as Nudging pair). The encoder pair supports the Traktor typical features Beatjump and Looping. On BANK 2 we use the encoders as FX controls and the PADs to control NI STEM channels.

DJ Player Pro: DJPP does not support different colors on hotcues (unfortunately), we hope that DJPP will this support this in future. But Dark Fire feels still great with DJPP because the portability (no powering needed) and flexibility in mapping. We mapped one standard color on hotcues (blue), and added additional colors depending the workflow (e.g. red for deleting hotcue or green/white in FX pad mode). A friend of us made powerfull mappings (2-deck mappings, mirrored A/B controls on same layer supporting DVS features). And we found a totally different and inspiring use case with DJPP: Triggering songs in stem format feels great with Dark Fire: 4 hotcue controls (left pads), 4 Stem on/off (right pads) using stem songs with sample. Using deck C and D for this (similar to remix decks in Traktor) allows nice background beats and samples for techno DJ mixes.

Ableton or Serato: We did not test yet, but quite sure the RGB pads and encoder would allow nice workflows, exited to see some first user ideas.

Beyond the DJ world: Dark Fire is MIDI class compliant, so not restricted to DJ world. We have user who even use Dark ‘Fader’ for triggering video cutting systems or as main stage light controller. Quite sure user may find use cases for Dark Fire we even never thought about.

INSIGHTS INTO THE TECHNICAL CONCEPT

Some technical details may inspire you to build your own controller: 

Dark Fire architecture is based on the universal Dark Board combined with a Dark Fire specific 2nd layer PCB (Printed Circuit Board) as carrier for all controls. Both PCB are connected via I2C bus (similar Dark Wheel)

We decided for the well known Sparkfun silicon rubber button pads for the 10 pad controls, they feel best for us (in particular for strong strokes). The LED inside allow a nice optical feedback. The challenge was the circuits and PCB assembling. Tech folks may know the published hook-up guides and breakout PCB from Sparkfun, they do not support any real (means stepless and dimmable) RGB color mixing. Their circuit can toggle the 3 colors on/off only, a real color mix (dimmable and stepless for each color) is not possible with Sparkfun circuits – they mentioned it is too complex and too power consuming. So their circuits was a No-Go for us, we wished to allow mixing any color. We decided to build our own circuits (as carrier for the Sparkfun silicon pads). In our circuits we trigger each LED pin separately (not using any key matrix simplification) and made them dimmable. State of the art IC technology was needed; hundreds of connections are only possible in smallest SMD package sizes (QFN-UT), often used in smart phones. Manual soldering is no longer possible, so we moved over to industry built and assembled PCB (Printed Circuit Boards) on our plans. A huge learn curve for us, and we are quite proud about ; ). The Dark Board below (the PCB with Teensy, hub and connectors) are still hand soldered completely.

The second big challenge for us was the power consumption. Competitive controller with RGB pads are wasteful often, 10 pads end typically above 500mA, also No-Go for us, as Dark Controller should be USB self powered, even on iOS smart phones. We combined several concepts, our Dark Fire needs less than 30mA for all LED (even if all are shining in brightest white), so the complete controller (including Teensy, hub and all components) consumes about 100mA only (even in case all LED are triggered in maximum) – so we keep mobile, no hub needed at any smart phone : )

The firmware of Dark Fire is similar to Dark Wheel, we embedded the same flexible MIDI mode concept (user customizable DECK, SHIFT, BANK features). We enhanced the Power-On Configuration setup with a nice “‘tell me the color value” feature, the COLOR EXPLORER. Background: Supporting 125 different color is powerful, but the user may ask the question which value ins behind each color (for self made mappings). So we added in Power-On Configuration the feature to mix any favourite color (with pads & encoder) and display the color value result in any MIDI monitor (e.g. in the DJ Payer Pro monitor). So the user knows which value he has to add later on in his self made mappings.

The rest of the technical concept in Dark Fire is as expected: full metal chassis with CNC made panels, brushed and double black anodized 3mm aluminium, polished bare metal side surfaces, industrially produced PCB (SMD assembled) with black glossy surface and immersion gold contacts. USB-IN to MIDI host, optionally mounted USB hub and USB-A OUT to connect additional Dark Controller or user MIDI devices in daisy chain.

PROJECT STATUS (Historie)

Update Oct. 18, 2020 (GA):

  • We are READY to GO … General Available (GA) since today, we start to build on request
  • All documents are finalized, published on website, printed booklets available
  • Yes, maybe we should post some new pictures and a video :- ))
  • We hope you enjoy DARK FIRE  as we do : )
 

Update Oct. 05, 2020:

  • Firmware supports a new “LED Booster” feature – thanks to our beta tester for this great idea!. User can adjust the intensity of the RGB PADS illumination (3 steps: dimmed > normal > boosted), allowing to adapt Dark Fire from dark club night settings to brighter daylight. Best: The LED Booster can be activated on-the-fly (during mix), no Power-On settings needed
  • No open issues or bugs identified, beta validation successfully passed : )
  • => Final firmware GA version (RC1) uploaded today to website

Update Sept. 06, 2020:

  • Traktor Pro Mapping files published (full RGB support for all Traktor Pro hotcue colors)
  • DJ Player Default Mapping updated (harmonized to Traktor Pro mapping)

Update August 31, 2020:

  • Firmware link published (Beta Release Candidate ready to download)
  • DJ Player Default Mapping and Documentation downloads updated

Update August 26, 2020:

  • MIDI Message chart published
  • Customizing Guide published
  • DJ Player Default Mapping published (zip download includes .djpmap file and mapping description), Traktor Mapping will be next
  • Firmware enhancements: ‘Color Value Explorer’ tool added in Power-On Setup (allows user to explore all supported 125 colors, finding their favorite colors and calculating the midi value for mix their own mappings)

Update June 14, 2020: 

  • First announcement Dark Fire on our website. Hardware is ready, fully tested, works perfect
  • We have some handful of SMD assembled PCB and CNC constructed chassis panels on stock. We plan to send some first devices to our beta user in upcoming weeks (target: July)
  • The firmware is in beta phase, some first mappings of Traktor and DJ Player Pro are ready, user documentation on work. And we should shoot some better pictures (lol), maybe even some videos, but currently too busy to focus on these ‘cosmetic’ tasks

Our plan for General Availability (GA):

  • GA including complete documentation is planned in Q4 2020 (we target eof October 2020)
  • We will publish all firmware, mapping files and documentation on this website in prepare (step by step)
  • Once GA we plan a delivery time of about 2 weeks (after build request)
  • Let’s cross the finger we keep all dates : )

Let us know what you think about Dark Fire
all feedback very welcome!