Providing physical control for our arsenals of software instruments, plug-ins and DAWs is a big responsibility, and the following controllers have surpassed themselves by combining comfort, design, functionality and more. But which do you think is deserving of our highest accolade? Vote below!
1zeroDebug touchAble Pro
Launched eight years ago, touchAble has risen to the top of the touchy Ableton Live control app pile. The new touchAble Pro brings significant developments, including split-screen, full MIDI editing, a waveform view, automation drawing, icontrol of Live’s Devices, and customisable templates for non-standard devices.
It’s easy to configure, fast to use and engages with the software like nothing else. Also, it doesn’t exclude the use of hardware controllers alongside it. The Device control is outstanding, and the ability to view two modules together is the icing on the cake.
touchAble Pro is simply the best app controller for Live, and a solid rival for Ableton’s Push – though each has its unique advantages. Not cheap, as apps go, but a bargain for what it does.
2Akai Pro Force
Akai’s Force is a standalone sampler, sequencer and effects processor with a display, lots of tactility, and plenty of connections to the outside world. It also connects to a computer and acts as a controller for Ableton Live, which gives it a unique hybrid status – like a toaster that also makes coffee!
It’s great to use for song sketching, sampling, jamming and live sets. It’s a great prospect for anybody interested in creating or performing with music hardware. Even if you’re a software diehard, this is another way to think about presenting live music, especially if you experience the occasional option paralysis that comes bundled free with every DAW. An absolute blast!
Studiologic has come up with a great little product here which could easily enhance the user experience for many DAW users in a number of areas. The ability to control certain software instruments in real time to provide layers of expression and interest is a very tempting prospect, especially if you’re using packages that really take advantage of this sort of technology. The Mixface is a beautifully adaptable controller and if you find that DAW control is not what you need, we bet you’ll find plenty of other possibilities for use, and having a decent bank of faders to hand can be very useful. If you already have a Studiologic keyboard, you’ll want to at least give one of these a try.
4Native Instruments KK M32
Native’s 32-note keyboard covers a very small footprint and is as light as a feather. This is great if you are carrying the keyboard around and have only a small amount of desktop space, of course, and lighter does not necessarily mean flimsy. It actually feels okay in terms of build – plastic, yes, but also very solid. The M32 is ridiculous in terms of bang for buck. The keyboard is perfectly usable – especially if you are not a player, as such – the software is great and it delivers the complete NKS experience. And as the marketing pictures on the NI website prove, it probably just about wins it over the A-Series in the portability stakes, too – it really is very backpack-able. Quite simply, if you don’t already make music with technology, you really darn well should. Here’s where you start.
5Nektar Panorama T4
The Panorama series takes a little bit of everything, using its own software shell like NI’s Komplete Kontrol and Akai’s VIP software – but adds more DAW integration and all for a very tempting price. The deeper DAW integration is an absolute joy and the Nektarine software is genius. It’s very intuitive, highly malleable and offers total control over any AU and VST plug-in in any DAW. Can you ask for more than that? It’s a surprisingly revolutionary bit of kit that not only tackles your plug-in control with ease but offers unprecedented DAW control, too.
6Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid
Joining an ever-expanding world of DAW-less jamming, live electronic-music performance and an eagerness for producers to close the laptop, the Squid fills a similar space to performance sequencers such as Arturia’s BeatStep Pro. Opening the box, you’re greeted by a familiar-looking layout of pads and controls on the surface, but unlike other hardware sequencers, the Squid packs in many more features and creative control options.
The Squid is a device that will grow alongside your gear in the studio and help inspire you for years, but take it to the stage and it’s a beast. For anyone looking to take their electronic music live, the Squid offers so much capability and connectivity it should certainly be on your list to check out.
Cast your vote here:
Check out all the Gear Of The Year 2019 categories here.