The Well-Accessorized DAW

Aug 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By George Petersen



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M-Audio's AxiomPro 25 USB/MIDI controller

M-Audio's AxiomPro 25 USB/MIDI controller

Once upon a time, every studio had a distinct character — with different recorders, consoles and outboard toys that set each facility apart from the rest. But with the rise of the DAW-based studio, nearly every rig has access to the same DSP plug-ins and unlimited track capability, making for a lot of “me, too”-equipped rooms. So far, you've upgraded your CPU, maxed out your RAM, added a RAID array and/or network, installed the latest OS and are running that new rev of your DAW software. With your high-performance converters/front end, tons of effects plug-ins and virtual instruments and a console/controller, you're close to creating that no-compromise system that's capable of nearly anything. However, a bit of accessorizing — some final, relatively inexpensive touches — can take your DAW to the next step.


DAW Round-Up

Use the "Commenting" feature below and let us know what your favorite DAW accessory is!


Using the same symbols and color-coding system built into Digidesign control surfaces while retaining all the conventional alphanumeric labels of standard computer keyboards, Digidesign's ( Pro Tools Custom Keyboard ($119 in Mac or PC versions) has simple USB connectivity and is an ideal replacement for that old, coffee-stained keyboard you're using.

Novation's ( Nocturn ($199) is a 9.4×5.4-inch unit offering fast fingertip control of your plug-ins. Compatible with any DAW, it features eight touch-sensitive rotary encoders, eight assignable buttons, Novation Speed Dial and Automap Universal 3.1 mapping technology.

TranzPort ($249) from Frontier Design ( offers wireless control of any DAW software for arming tracks, transport control, setting markers, control pans, punch-in/out, start loops, etc. As a bidirectional controller, TranzPort also provides feedback on signal levels, timecode position, track names and more.

Pok ($599) from X-Tempo ( is a wireless surface with eight footswitches that are easily customizable to control any Mac/PC DAW/plug-in/virtual instrument function. It includes simple switch-editor software and a receiver that links to your DAW via USB.

Version 2 of the Lemur ($1,769) multitouch controller from Jazzmutant ( introduces new controller objects to the graphic interface, including Gesture, an emulated trackpad with gesture recognition, and Breakpoint, a multi-segment envelope editor. You can also use Lemur as your mouse and QWERTY keyboard for your computer.

JLCooper's ( MCS-Panner ($1,299) is a three — axis joystick mechanism with five rotary encoders and 10 switches for controlling surround panning for digital consoles and DAWs such as Pro Tools, Digital Performer and Nuendo. It can be joined to other MCS Series products or used stand-alone with an optional MIDI adapter.

There are bigger USB DAW controllers, but PreSonus' ( FaderPort ($229) packs a wallop. Compatible with Mac and PC DAWs, this mini-powerhouse can write single-channel and group fader automation, and features full transport control; a long-throw motorized fader; footswitch punch-in/out jack; pan control knob; and buttons for mute, solo, record-enable and selecting edit, mix and transport windows.

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