Austin-based Livid Instruments has become one of the
hippest controller makers in the industry, with artists ranging from
Bassnectar to Richie Hawtin praising their highly customizable MIDI
control surfaces. A few months ago, they showed me a prototype of the
Alias 8, and as a fan of M-Audio’s old Evolution UC-33, I nearly fell
out of my chair. The UC-33 has a cult following among DJs and laptop
performers because of its flexible design and gig-bag friendliness. Its
downsides were fragility and mere USB1.1 compliance, but as a live
controller, the UC was one of my all-time faves. The Alias 8 is a
similar beast, but with tank-like construction that inspires confidence,
class-compliant USB, and a collection of knobs, faders, and rubberized
backlit buttons that make it a shoo-in for controlling DJ rigs of all
shapes and sizes.
PROS: Knobs, sliders, and pad-buttons feel great. Rugged
construction. Backpack-friendly size. Two expansion jacks for Livid XPC
CONS: Short-throw faders. Hardwired MIDI CCs mean you need to do
all assignments in the receiving software. USB-powered only, and not
all laptop ports output enough voltage—you may need a powered hub.
Bottom Line: A vastly more rugged redux of a DJ and controllerist favorite, the Evolution UC-33.
$299 | lividinstruments.com
Since my UC-33 bit the dust, I’ve relied on a smaller
controller that has half the flexibility but is much more easily
replaced in a pinch—an important consideration when on the road. That
said, swapping that unit for the Alias 8 was a no-brainer, as more knobs
and buttons means more fun at gigs.
Setting up the Alias 8 is generally a breeze, as long as
you’re using software that has extensive MIDI learn capabilities, since
the CC assignments are hardwired. A single clickable knob has an
associated two-digit LCD, but that’s essentially for dialing up the
master MIDI channel out for the device, though you can also use it as an
additional CC knob when it’s in “clicked” mode. Since I use Ableton
live—and every major DJ app and DAW includes elaborate MIDI learn
functions—this wasn’t an issue at all for me, though it may be if you’re
expecting the automatic mapping and extensive soft synth templates
found on today’s better keyboard controllers.
I did hit a small snag while setting up the Alias 8, but
it’s not really Livid’s fault. My MacBook Pro has two USB ports and,
while it’s a known issue, one port outputs more voltage than the other.
Since the Alias 8 is USB powered, it wasn’t getting enough juice from
the USB port I’d originally selected and I thought something was wrong.
After a call to Livid, I changed ports and was back in business with
smiles all around.
In use, the Alias 8 feels wonderful. The knobs and
faders have a slight resistance that gives it a professional vibe, the
backlit buttons are a godsend in pitch-black DJ booths, and the overall
construction feels like it can withstand everything but a direct nuclear
strike. Yeah, I would’ve liked longer faders, but I quickly got used to
the short-throw faders on my old controller, so again, no big. And if I
truly needed those—or a pair of joysticks—the Alias 8 includes two
proprietary connectors that let you add from their stable of XPC
I’ve got to say it: I’m smitten with the Alias 8.
Everything about it reminds me of my long lost UC-33, only more rugged
and modern. The bottom line is that the Alias 8 will be my new primary
gig controller when DJing—and that speaks volumes.