View Full Version : Controllers that interface with Sonar

06-30-2009, 09:29 AM
Sorry to ask this question here but this is the only music forum I know and I only do jazz. I don't know where else to ask this kind of question.

Lately I've been hearing about controllers you can hook up to your computer which allow you to adjust faders and such to your DAW. I know Cakewalk put out one recently and Mackie has a couple. These are expensive devices - does anybody know a good place to get the rundown on the benefits vs. cost, an are they even necessary? If it speeds up the process I sure would like to have one. Anybody have any experience with them?


Rich Garber
Living Waters Jazz

07-01-2009, 10:17 AM
Howdy, Rich

---Why are you "sorry to ask this question here"--? This is the Club JABB page of the Garritan Forum--Pretty much the perfect place to be with your question! - Not a Ton of traffic here, but hopefully people will find your post and give you more info.

My reply is more just for starters.

The concept of controlling music software via hardware control surfaces has been around a long time, and in theory is attractive. It brings the virtual studio more back into the realm of the hardware studio which it emulates. Rather appealing, to have physical knobs and sliders under the fingers so you can control recording and mixing in a way that's more like the "old days." To have more controls available than a single mouse is Very appealing.

And it's something I've toyed with a bit - but not enough to have improved my work flow. I've always shrugged it off and gone back to the way I usually work, mouse, key short cuts etc. BUT I haven't experimented with the more expensive full-fledged controllers. I'm sure that after the learning curve, having those physical controls to work would just have to make work go more smoothly and quickly.

In the experiments I did just to see what it's like, a stumbling block I came across was that while I could automate play, record, re-wind and stop on the transport - that didn't deal with the Constant issue while working on a project - the selection of an area I want to work in. I don't know--maybe a sophisticated controller can do that too?---But we're always needing to narrow down the areas where we're working, and it involves a constant selection process in the time line. If That can happen somehow with a separate surface - great!--To me it would essential.

In Sonar, a number of surfaces are supported--you'll see them in the controller list of the program folder:

Mackie Control (generically covering their varioius models)

And there's support for a Generic Surface, and MMC (Midi Machine Control) devices.

There's also Sonar's "ACT" which will learn what any plugged in device's controls will do after it learns what your intention is.

I'm hoping you hear from someone who is deep into the controller surface thing - I'm sure there are people who got it whipped and probably couldn't live without it. Like I said earlier, the theory sounds great - As long as it really streamlines things and doesn't just add Buck Rogers-like gimmickry to a home studio, ya know?

Back to clicking my mouse as I work away on a project.


07-01-2009, 02:14 PM

I'll be quick! No lengthy post. I did some youtubing and watched them working/demo the controllers and I've come to that conclusion too. There's a cost vs. productivity issue and I just don't see where a lot of the more expensive controllers would make me more productive. Where I think they could be of help is the automations but there again, is the cost worth it? So I did some more research and came across the Behringer BF2000 which is very reasonably priced, has great reviews and small enough it should fit in my works space without too much hassle. So I plan on ordering it and giving it a whirl and letcha know what I find out. They have a 30 day money back no questions ask guarantee but I never send things back, too much trouble.

The faders on this unit are motorized too.

Thanks for your post, I was kinda hoping somebody had an idea or some idea of the usage capability of these things.

Rich Garber

07-01-2009, 02:27 PM
Thanks, Rich

Your reply sent me a-Googling for info--you must mean the Behringer BCF2000. I just got through watching some fun video demos. On the manufacturer's site, the first vid shows a guy putting in a drum track using the hip little drum pad unit from Korg. I have their little NAN-Key, purchased for when I'm out and about with my laptop. They also have a $60 controller surface, the same size as all of the NANO products, and that's actually one I've considered - lots of assignable knobs and sliders.

But this Behringer unit looks like it has everything that's talked about in connection with surface controllers--Very cool--look forward to your report on it. Looks pretty much like the home-studio sized analog mixers of yore.

One of those vids shows 3 Behringer's hooked up, and the guy's showing off their motorized faders, he has them programmed to swoop around, undulating impressively. :)

Hope it works out!


07-01-2009, 08:22 PM
*slaps forehead* I meant to post this review link of the BCF2000


There's 3 different versions, one with faders, one with rotary and one with an audio interface. I didn't understand that one. I ordered the one with faders.

That feature with piggy-backing sounds cool, if this works out I'll probably order another one IF it pans out to be a good thing. I'm expecting it to. The lady who took my order says she's been using one for years.

Randi it seemed like motorized faders was the way to go and I thought this was going to get too expensive for my taste. But no sooner than I ordered than one of the salesman started talking about an Akai controller that only interfaces to something called Ableton? ??? I never heard of it but this unit comes with a version of Ableton Lite. It's cost was about $400 though the faders didn't look motorized.

Jon, the reason for not going with Euphonix or the V-700 was just like you said, very expensive. And I'm still in the dark just how much a device like this will really help. So I'm glad Behringer had a low cost alternative that sounds like it's a good deal to boot. Great way to learn.

My next concern is where am I going to put it!? :)

Randi, thanks for the tips about the tutorials, heading over to youtube to see what I can learn from them.


07-01-2009, 10:04 PM
I looked through the link and then Googled up the BCA2000 which is the audio interface you mentioned. You're choosing the Behringer unit that fits the needs you've described.

The BCA2000 is an external audio interface, a very useful thing, I have two of them. I can easily get sound out of my computers and onto speakers. I use them for plugging in XLR microphones and inserting a hardware compressor, and of course having volume knobs is handy. It's what sound flows through when I work in Sonar or Sound Forge, and its a MIDI interface for my several pieces of MIDI gear. But that's basic audio/computer interface stuff. Those are replacements for the soundcards built into computers. That's not a controller surface like the unit you're getting.

A lot of very useful gear is made in this price range now. I would shrug off reviews or comments about how much more solid the more expensive units are - I'm sure they are, but it's not as if something like this isn't going to work. People who are used to everything costing a lot have a hard time imagining how someone like me has rarely spent more than 2 or 3 hundred for anything that's been used in my home studio.

Hope you have fun with it.