Digital mixers are pretty excessive for home studio producers. This is because we can do everything in the box (inside our computer).
And when we look at different MIDI Keyboards, most only offer manual faders!
These manual faders are good for adjusting a single knob or slider inside your DAW, but not for mixing! Since manual faders are not motorized, the fader does not switch positions if you switch between banks! (This makes manual faders on a MIDI Controller pretty much useless for that hands-on mixing you’d get from a USB control surface.)
Let’s say you have 20 audio tracks you want to mix inside your DAW, but your MIDI Keyboard Controller only 10 manual faders.
You start adjusting the first 10 mixer inserts inside your DAW with your manual faders, but now advance to the next bank of 10 mixer inserts with a push of a button which switches to the next 10 mixer inserts.
Since the manual faders cannot move to the new mixer insert positions, your manual faders are in different positions than what’s inside your DAW for those 10 new audio mixer inserts.
If you go ahead and move the manual fader on the new inserts, you’ll notice the new insert in your DAW will automatically jump to that new location; whether that be extremely loud or quiet, or just move in a way you don’t want.
The alternative around this is to get a motorized control surface.
My Choice of Studio Mixing Control Surface
Motorized audio control surfaces are super fun to work with and give that real hands-on mixing experience. It avoids this manual fader problem 100%.
So that’s a rundown on motorized faders.
I will also point out, these are control surfaces, not recording audio mixers.
This means these USB motorized control surfaces have no sounds within them and just send MIDI data to control your DAW. (They simply connect through USB to your computer.)
There are no preamps or any way to connect microphones to them! They are just a controller!
I have frequently asked questions about these Motorized Mixing Control Surfaces at the very bottom of this post. I hope this article helps you select the best one for you.
Mackie Control Universal
The Mackie Control Universal is a beast!
It is one of the most popular control surfaces because of its price-point to feature ratio!
It is by no means the most expensive on the market, but it does what it is meant to do great!
I personally have the original Mackie Control which uses actual MIDI Cables!
This version is USB, making your connection super easy to computer.
The Mackie Control Universal comes with 9 motorized faders, and when moving to new banks, it’s so cool to watch all the motorized faders move to their new positions.
When you are labeling track names in your DAW, the Mackie Control Universal will display the titles of each track.
It can really make your home studio look professional!
Behringer XTOUCH (Previously: Behringer BCF2000)
The Behringer XTOUCH is geared towards any DAW, and this time around is JAM-PACKED with features.
It includes 9 motorized faders that are touch-sensitive, 8 of those faders have an LCD strip allowing you to see track names, and has a TON of buttons as you can see in the image above.
There is also a compact version of the XTOUCH, too!
The Presonus FaderPort is an even more economical solution for a motorized mixing control surface!
Even though it only has 1 fader, it still gives you that motorized fader feeling.
(Watching a motorized fader never gets old! It just looks so cool!)
Another benefit of the Presonus FaderPort is that it has transport controls! This allows you to play, stop, record, rewind and fast forward your track from the unit it self!
Presonus Faderport 8
The Presonus Faderport 8 is the newest addition to the Presonus FaderPort family!
It’s all the goodies from just the single channel Presonus FaderPort, but now with 8 channels to be in competition with other control surfaces out there!
Control Surface – Frequently Asked Questions
What is a DAW control surface?
A DAW controller allows you to get that hands-on feeling when mixing your music.
They come with motorized faders so your faders automatically adjust, unlike the manual fader problem I mentioned above.
There’s many terms out there for what this device is like:
- MIDI Control Surface
- DAW Controller
- Motorized Mixer Faders
- USB Mixer
- DAW Fader Controller
At the end of the day, you want to make sure that the faders are motorized so that you can enjoy the real experience of what it’s like to use an audio mixer.
What is a Mackie Control?
The Mackie Control has been through many generations, which is currently the MCU – Mackie Control Universal.
I’d personally say this is the industry standard when it comes to this motorized control surfaces.
I personally have owned the first version of the Mackie Control. The way to set it up was through two MIDI cables! (Talk about old school!) The new version of the Mackie Control Universal is easy; just connect with a USB cable.
In addition, the Mackie Control Universal also offers extenders to allow for even more faders to your hands-on experience.
There are other alternatives out there, but they can start to get pricey!
Especially from companies like Avid!
My personal recommendation?
These are by far the most popular control surfaces on the market, and will get the job done great in regards to getting that hands-on mixing, and having a central hub to work from in your studio.
If you end up getting one, I hope you enjoy your audio control surface!