You spend so much time messing around with your DAW as a producer. So much of it is done using the mouse and, occasionally, the keyboard, from changing songs to adjusting the volume. Although things work, they are scarcely intuitive. Dragging a fader to regulate the volume feels different from dragging the mouse. It’s not the same as tapping a single button to switch tracks as it is to use a complex multi-key keyboard shortcut.
In essence, a control surface transfers your DAW from your computer screen to your workstation. It gives your production a level of intuitiveness that a keyboard, mouse, or even a MIDI controller can’t. Track switching becomes simpler. It is easier to control EQ. When you can pan by turning a rotary knob, it feels more natural.
The most crucial benefit of a control surface is that it restores control to your production. When using a control surface instead of the mouse, little adjustments and automations feel more secure and natural.
Remember that the term “control surface” itself lacks a clear definition. Everything from MIDI controllers and mixers to specific DAW controllers are included. We consider something to be a “control surface” if it enables you to “control” the DAW. Let’s examine the top control surfaces available right now with this in mind.
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PreSonus FaderPort 8
- 8 touch-sensitive, 100 mm long-throw, motorized faders
- 8 high-definition Scribble strip displays
- Recording-transport, session, channel, and automation controls. Computer...
A best DAW control surface is the Presonus Faderport 8. It allows you to physically control a sizable number of DAW parameters. The construction quality is excellent. Thanks to the lighted soft buttons, the aesthetics and clarity of the controls are also excellent. The motorized faders are exceptionally quiet when compared to the competitors.
The FaderPort 8 was created by PreSonus to speed up mixing and DAW control. This 8-fader control surface has motorized, touch-sensitive faders that are 100 mm in diameter and have good handling and automation accuracy. A full set of digital scribble strip displays and conventional channel controls like level, pan, solo, mute, and record arm are included to keep you on track. You can use the FaderPort 8 with nearly any DAW software because it includes native compatibility for PreSonus Studio One and support for the HUI and Mackie Control Universal protocols.
It is quite disappointing that Cubase does not support the “Mix Management” tools, which allow you to change the mixer view of all channels on virtual instruments, buses, or VCAs. Only the Channel Settings window is displayed when the All button is pressed. However, it does in Logic and Studio One but not in Sonar or Ableton. Special praise is given to Presonus for its ability to modify the FaderPort 8. The speed of the faders, for instance, can be controlled on a scale from 1 to 7. Additionally, you can customize the touch sensitivity to suit your preferences.
You can operate more effectively with the PreSonus FaderPort 8’s main transport component. Along with all the typical transport options, you also have access to basic session controls like undo/redo, solo/mute clear, track management, and more. You may also quickly switch between automated modes. Session Navigator is another excellent feature on the FaderPort 8. This takes care of important activities including channel banking, track scrolling, and other navigation requirements.
It is simple to make tracks for recording, view buses, and view VCAs thanks to dedicated buttons. Your most-used DAW functionalities can be placed precisely where you need them thanks to four programmable User buttons. Additionally, you can adjust bus sends and plug-in settings using the faders on this PreSonus control surface. The FaderPort can be especially appealing if you’re new to recording. This is due to the fact that when you purchase the FaderPort 8, PreSonus’ DAW Studio One Artist and a number of other software tools are also included.
Additionally, you receive the Studio Magic plug-in suite, a sizable selection of well-liked plug-ins that includes recreations of vintage studio equipment made by illustrious producers. These plug-ins are also usable with any DAW because they come in AAX, VST, and AU formats. This is the Best Control Surface in 2023.
Mackie MCU Pro 8-channel Control Surface with USB
- Proprietary Mackie communication protocol for seamless music production...
- 100mm touch-sensitive optical Penny + Giles motorized faders
- V-Pot control over software, plug-in effects and virtual instruments
To bridge the gap between the limitless possibilities in a DAW and the natural feel of faders and knobs at your fingers, the Mackie MCU Pro was created. It has a straightforward USB plug-and-play setup and is compatible with almost every DAW. For the discriminating person who loves actual motorized touch-sensitive faders, buttons, and assignable V-pots for a comprehensive and immersive music-making experience from a control surface, this is our top recommendation.
You can give your workflow a genuine console feel and an analog ambiance by using the touch-sensitive Mackie MCU Pro control surface. It has a MIDI interface for direct connection to your computer and external MIDI gear as well as Mackie’s proprietary communication protocol for simple software integration. By offering you precise control over setups and control surface assignments without the need for mapping, this enables you to make the most of your software.
Your DAW creations will have a distinctive organic feel thanks to the 100 mm touch-sensitive Alps motorized faders on the Mackie MCU Pro, which give you an accurate, smooth, and real-console feel. More than 50 dedicated buttons, precise V-Pot rotary encoders, plug-in effects, and virtual instruments are also included on this control surface. You can easily keep track of your mixes in real-time thanks to the realistic backlit LCD.
Overall, this is a premium but yet portable option from one of the most reputable names in the industry for having control of your DAW at your fingertips. This is the Best DAW Control Surface in 2023.
Behringer X-Touch Mini
- Compact USB Control Surface with 16 Illuminated Buttons
- 8 Rotary Encoders with LED Collars
- 2 Control Layers
With the Behringer X-Touch Mini Ultra-Compact Universal USB Control Surface, the user may easily control many features of their production software. This controls surface is flexible and user-friendly in the traditional Behringer style. You have direct control over all well-liked Digital Audio Workstations, instruments, effects, and even lighting apps with the X-Touch Mini.
With the X-Touch Mini, you can use virtually any professional audio production program because it has built-in Mackie Control emulation. The best part is that you may use it right away after removing it from the package. A 60 mm master fader and a Dual Layer Mode for quick switching between DAW and instrument control are characteristics of this Behringer control surface. You can flip back and forth between any two applications using the dual layer mode.
For instance, during a concert, a DJ can utilize one layer to control lighting and the other to use virtual synths. Additionally, you may playback from a DAW on one layer while controlling lighting on another. This control surface is already set up with the necessary controls for immediate use right out of the box. An easy-to-use, free editing tool is also available if you’d want to further modify the experience. This is the Best Control Surface for DAW in 2023.
Roland AIRA MX-1
- Ableton Live Lite is included
- Control Surface mode for full DAW control via MIDI
- DJ-style cue monitoring, quick mutes, and six fader curves per channel
The Roland AIRA MX-1 may be what you need if you’re seeking for a complete solution that can interact with your DAW and provide a true fader mix experience. You’ll be able to manage your synths, drum machines, audio tracks, and more with this control surface. The AIRA MIX-1, which was created for live performance, is also a superb studio tool. You can create music as you want with the MX-1’s input portion. The MX-1’s user-friendly workflow is used to mix and manipulate the control surface’s six analog channels, digital I/O, and MIDI interface.
With the Roland AIRA MX-1, you may combine components from your analog synth collection with your DAW and other computer-based instruments, opening up practically endless possibilities. The MX-1 has a variety of I/O options, including 1/4′′ inputs for connecting synthesizers, drum machines, and other devices, a 1/8′′ stereo input for audio from an iPad, phone, or computer, digital inputs like USB and digital coaxial, and MIDI in and out for using instruments and audio units with 5-pin MIDI connections.
In addition, Roland included four specialized AIRA Link USB connections to the input area, providing you with 2-way control of any AIRA instrument that is immediately enabled. The MX-1 also has a Mix mode for standalone mixer control and effects for all inputs and outputs as well as an External mode for up to 18 channels of DAW audio. These capabilities allow you to control your mix precisely.
With its transport controls, the MX-1 cab works as a MIDI control surface for simple DAW navigation. Additionally, each channel has a Tone/Filter knob with 10 different EQs, filters, and isolators for precise sound shaping. Additionally, Scene Memory gives you the ability to instantly save and recall whole mixes, complete with tempo and effects. Overall, the Roland AIRA MX-1 is a terrific alternative for the musician who need a control surface with a wide range of options.