SonicLab: Faderport - Pocket Rocket Mix Control
Somewhere 'twixt mouse and mixer
Automating a mix just using a mouse or worse still, a track-pad, is not my idea of creative heaven, mind you, neither is lugging around a giant control surface, sweeping the debris off my desk (what yours not a mess then?) and then generally only using one fader at a time and the stop and play buttons...
When I first saw the Presonus Faderport, it was love at first sight. This diminutive, single (motorized) fader desktop device looked like it was built for me. So I was pretty pleased when it arrived at the office for testing.
However it's not all cuddles and warm feelings, the first thing I noticed being the inclusion of a PSU wall wart. Not enough power over USB to throw the fader up and down? Evidently not. How come the Frontier Designs Alphatrack can do it then? Presonus told us that their fader is way more pricey (9 times) and has a higher resolution so therefore requires the additional power - okay, fair enough, but perhaps I guess I should hook this little critter up and see how it goes...
Good news - XP SP2 and OS X require no additional drivers/software to get this going. At least on the Intel Mac with Logic Pro installed, the Faderport was up and running in no time, but I suspect that the Mackie HUI protocol will not suit all flavours and software types - for instance Sony Vegas - video editing software we use on the PC under XP was not able to see it (Mackie Control required), and I know that Logic Express will not dance to the HUI tune. There is talk of additional drivers that will presumably convert the protocol into Mackie or Logic Control formats to give you more compatibility, Presonus say they are "in development".
Compatibilities aside, in my setup it integrated very well. I found that for grabbing a fader (ok THE fader) and quickly writing automation data, it was the bees knees, and made the mix/automation process much more intuitive and speedy. Just to be able to switch from READ to TOUCH or WRITE mode on fader meant I was recording fader moves much more instinctively.
The dedicated rotary Pan knob did seem a little under-utilized, I don't find pan automation to be one of my regular production chops - I'd love to have seen it double as a scroll knob (for moving the playback point around) or as a send for effect automation , but perhaps this is unrealistic at this price.
However, there are a few issues that I found slightly irritating. The transport control, while play and stop and record were all fine, the REW and FFWD controls were not. Being of the latching variety, ie: you press it and turn it on until you turn it off again. Small movements in either direction were nigh on impossible - by the time you've hit the desired direction, then stop, you've generally overshot, better IMHO to make the buttons momentary for a DAW so that it moves only whilst your finger is on the button. But perhaps that's just one of my peculiarities... Note - Presonus say that this is due to HUI and Logic, in Cubase for example, the buttons are NOT latching and will behave in the way I would like.
I also had problems with the Marker functions, namely that prev/next marker buttons threw up the goto marker dialog in Logic rather than just going to the prev/next and I couldn't create markers either - I think this maybe a HUI protocol issue though.
Another issue that is still to be addressed by a firmware update is the foot-switch input (on the rear panel). This currently does nothing other than provide a place to store your headphone adapter, I guess it should drop you into record at the very least - c'mon guys sort it out!
While many people are happy to wait for these tweaks and drivers to arrive, it's perhaps not the soundest way to instill brand confidence by releasing product that's not totally working.
I know this seems like a catalogue of stuff that doesn't work, and perhaps seen as a slating, but you'd be wrong. Truth is that the Faderport works really well in the core areas (presuming you don't want it specifically for the things that don't work yet), namely zipping about within a mix, and writing fader or pan automation. It's not going to totally replace the mouse, but it does enough to warrant a precious USB slot. I found it to be extremely useful and would certainly recommend it to someone with a similar setup to me (Intel Mac/ Logic Pro).
Doesnt run off USB power? That sucks!
18-Apr-07 06:08 AM
Of course the fader motor can't run off of USB power. There simply isn't enough available current to drive it. It pulls 1.2 Amps of current as listed on their website (although 2Amps is written on the rear of the unit).
This brings up my primary concern regarding the reviewer. I've seen a prior review as well and I find that the reviewer tends to not be very well versed in the markets or the technical aspects that are relevant to the product at hand.
It would be nice if the reviewer could have correctly listed the software with which the Faderport will function. It is, however, listed on Presonusâ€™s website. Just guessing and stating â€˜I believe it works withâ€¦â€™ is not helpful in the slightest.
The comment about not needing drivers because it is a â€œHuman Interface Deviceâ€� leaves me scratching my headâ€¦ Although it uses the Mackie Human User Interface protocol, it probably does not need drivers since it is what is known as â€œclass-compliantâ€�; at least the part of it that interfaces the USB connection to the host computer and from the HUI protocolâ€™s MIDI language. In short, Iâ€™d bet that it is a simple, built-in, 1-In / 1-Out USB MIDI interface that is class-compliant.
The transport buttons MUST function in the manner described since that is specified in the HUI protocol and that is how the programmers of Logic determined it should work in their software. Each DAW program determines what each and every physical button should do within their environment. It would well be different with another application. The original HUI had additional features for true Jog & Shuttle.
Additionally, the comment about not automating more than one track at a time, due to only having a mouseâ€¦ is, umâ€¦ quite revealing as to the probable scope of the review. Perhaps someone that routinely uses multi-fader controllers should have reviewed it? Of course one can only control one parameter (far less than just one fader) when one only has access to a mouse or trackpad.
I do agree with the reviewer regarding his statement that Presonus may have missed a trick by not enabling the rotary controller to control more than â€˜panâ€™.
On more general notes:
Please donâ€™t refer to features within the context of your preferred DAW, in this case; Logic Pro, without stating â€œknown as xxx in Logic Proâ€�. To call something â€œAudio Object controlsâ€� (while pointing to something that is obviously not labeled as such) is confusing to a beginner or a person not well-versed in Logic. As is calling the â€˜Projâ€™ button â€˜The Arrange Pageâ€™. Keep it platform neutral please.
Please rehearse what you are going to say and do a test take or two; hopefully according to a malleable outline. It shows that much of this is stream-of-consciousness and it only makes the review longer and the video editing harder.
A reviewer shouldnâ€™t use words that he does not understand. Please look up the word â€˜infamousâ€™. The â€˜Notoriousâ€™ B.I.G. wasnâ€™t just letting people know that he was well-knownâ€¦
If a reviewer isnâ€™t familiar with the technical aspects of implementing a controller that is based upon defined protocols, please just stick to reviewing the product for what it is. To make guesses as to the â€˜hows & whysâ€™ of feature development just shows that said aspects arenâ€™t understood in full by the reviewer. It is also potentially misleading to others that look to a reviewer to be more fully educated than themselves, and damages the credibility of the reviewer and hosting website.
P.S. this is just offered as constructive critique. I donâ€™t work for Presonus either.
P.P.S. and please donâ€™t use Radiohead at the beginning of your drop for your reviewâ€¦ thatâ€™s straight-up illegal unless you paid them for it or got permission. We must retain value of the efforts & works by others in our own industry. Sonicstate is a music-oriented siteâ€¦ surely one of you could whip up your own beats.
Grumpy Old Man With Insomnia
01-May-07 06:54 PM
Nick Batt Said...
Okay thanks for that rather fulsome critique! I'll address some your points, and leave others.
Regarding the fader - it'€™s irrelevant as to what current it pulls as to wether is can be powered over USB to the user IMHO - the fact that the Frontier Designs AlphaTrack does means it's a disadvantage.
Listing the software, you may have a point -€“ and it was a bit vague the way I put it, but the fact that it does work with some, has work in progress to make it work properly with some sort of makes the list obsolete which is why I did not present one. Perhaps a mistake.
HID â€“ specification here
Thereâ€™s no such thing as MUST in this context. I am the user and I found it to be a pain working that way and mentioned it. The transport buttons DO work differently in different software Presonus wrote "..in Cubase and other programs the transport controls are not latching as Nick showed in the video"
Not automating more than one track at a time, I guess I'€™m talking from my point of view, but I don't think how many faders you use reflects on how experienced of â€˜goodâ€™ you are which appears to be what you are implying. I know people who work on many major records who just use the trackpad and no MIDI input at all, myself I use multiple fader surfaces too, but generally (that does not mean exclusively) only automate one at a time â€“ I donâ€™t think that makes me a bad person.
My presentation style is what it is Iâ€™m afraid, I aim to make it informal and hopefully informative â€“ perhaps in this case for your specific needs I failed â€“ Iâ€™m not going to apologise for that, itâ€™s the way it works best for me. I think we can put it down to an incompatibility of expectations :-) and leave it at that?
Re Radiohead: If you mean the beats â€“ that was (ok, Iâ€™m ashamed) a preset pattern from the Ultrabeat drum-machine plug-in from within Logic... I know that means I might have been a little lazy, but what does it say about them? Either way Iâ€™m still not 100% thatâ€™s what you meant.
Anyhow, Iâ€™m glad you found at least one of my statements acceptable and have you thought about doing this sort of thing yourself? Weâ€™re always looking for good contributors and it sounds like you might know what your talking about.
02-May-07 05:25 AM
Hey, Grumpy Old Man With Insomnia.. F8&^ Off And Get Some Sleep! And get a life, while you're at it.
02-May-07 07:44 AM
infamous middle-aged man Said...
Nick - I like Sonicstate's style of commentary and reviews. They're always first-hand, honest & informed opinons of gear in a real-world capacity.
Keep doing what you do and in the way you do it :-)
02-May-07 09:03 AM
Nick B Said...
I've been thinking about Grumpy Old mans comments some more and i think he must be referring to the music at the top of the review - eg the title sequence?
I have to take it as a pretty big compliment as that is an original piece I wrote for the Sonic lab titles quite some time ago. I'm flattered that you think it is Radiohead...
16-Jul-07 10:18 AM
Hey I just read Grumpy old man with insomnia's comment and I felt like I should state my thoughts on this review and the reviewer in general. These reviews are (in my opinion) designed to give you a general aspect of what's up with the gear that's being reviewed. I myself find the informal yet informative style of reviewing very um...informative and very much getting straight to the point which is great. I think Grumpy old man is thinking a little bit too by the book which is not really necessary for a good review. And I mean "by the book" in the most extreme sense (that is what I percieve how Mr. Grumpy old man wants it). I thought the review was very informative and fair and really not biased at all in any way, which is (again) a must in my opinion for a good review. I mean, the fact that it was shown with Logic Pro doesn't make it biased towards only that program.
About the fact that the fader doesn't work on USB power alone...Nick is just stating that it IS a drag that it doesn't run off the USB bus...and that's all he's saying! And I agree. Like...man I think GOM (grumpy old man) just needed to find something he could "criticize"...not really having much reason to do so (IMO) regarding the reasons for the criticism.
And regarding GOM's comment about the word "infamous"...(I shouldn't even say anything but)...man it's called sarcasm! aka humor. A little snippet of humor or sarcasm can always brighten up a review or anything in general.
But of course Grumpy Old Man is totally entitled to his own opinion. And I did notice the fact that Mr. Old Man was very grammatically correct throughout his entire comment... ...which is a good thing...
I'm kind of criticizing the way someone criticized the way a critic criticized this device but...I guess it'll have to do.
Anyway Nick I like the way you do your reviews and nice work on this review! Keep up the good work! Great website!!
P.S.: Love the intro music!! (lol)
20-Jul-07 05:00 AM
Everyone's entitled to their opinions, so here's mind:
I come to SonicState for exactly the reasons GrumpyOldMan didn't like.
I LOVE the stream of consciousness / off the top of your head style because it comes across to me as more genuine.
I want to know how the reviewer actually uses it himself, as opposed to hearing a lecture about all the technical possibilities which never get down to the real world.
I do not want an over-rehearsed script-reading presentation. I want an actual human being telling me about what they've discovered about a product, not somebody pretending to be a know-it-all. I like conversations. I don't like lectures.
I could go on, but I won't. Leave it at saying that I love sonicstate, I love Nick's style, and don't change.
03-Aug-07 12:17 PM
steve from Saskatchewan Said...
Oh yeah. I was going to leave it at that, but....
GrumpyOldMan, I start respecting you quite a bit less when you make snide remarks about Nick's vocabulary generally, and use of "infamous" specifically.
Does Nick need to hit you over the head every time he makes a wry slightly-sarcastic comment and tell you he was joking? C'mon, man. He's British. That's his sense of humour, and just because you don't get it doesn't mean he's dumb.
In fact, listen to the SonicState podcasts for a while and you will very quickly realize that Nick, without rehearsing, uses words and phrases that 99% of the English-speaking population would not be able to use in regular conversation.
And while I'm commenting, I'll also say that Nick clearly at the end told everyone to make sure that it works with your particular DAW software. Since you were so concerned about his rambling style taking up too much time, I would think that you wouldn't want him to spend five minutes talking about the ins and outs of what software it works with.
I mean, are any of us going to go out and just buy the thing because Nick reviewed it? Not me, and I think Nick is great. I'm going to go do my own research, so I don't need to hear Nick talk about compatibility with 5 DAW systems that I'm not going to ever use. Logic (which I don't use) was enough for me to get the idea.
03-Aug-07 12:36 PM
Nick B Said...
Steve, thanks so much for the support - I'm positviely blushing - and thanks for the podcast plug too.
I will continue to do my thing anyhow, but its good to know that some people get it and dont feel that it's colouring (uk spelling) the review.
BTW, I think GOM uses something with a spell-checker to type into first, then pastes it in here, which of course, is something I should do too...
06-Aug-07 10:01 AM
Terry Nutkins Said...
Grumpy old man needs a grumpy old woman me thinks
13-Aug-08 07:38 PM