My kingdom for a motorised fader.
Text: Brad Watts
What a nifty little doodad. Presonus has noticed that many users of motorised controller units really only need a single fader, so why make them pay for eight?
Motorised fader control surfaces are great for quickly adjusting level over a bunch of channels quickly and easily – it’s nice to be able to have your hands on eight faders and quickly pull those channels into balance. With a mouse, the seemingly simple task can become interrupted when viewing the onscreen equivalents and co-ordinating your hand and eye movement. But there’s an even more widely used application for the moving fader, and that’s for controlling automation moves. Once you ‘record’ an automation move, the movements are replayed, with the fader maintaining its correct positioning should you need to touch up (or rewrite) an automation pass. It’s here that a single fader is mostly all you need and really comes into its own. It’s certainly not as impressive as eight or more faders dancing about, but it’s very functional.
As you’ll see from the pictures, the single 100mm fader gives you an idea of the overall size of the FaderPort. It’s about as big as an average hand and sits nicely alongside your computer keyboard or studio controller. The underside is a smooth plastic but you can avail yourself of the supplied adhesive rubber feet if you need to stop the FaderPort jiggling around on your desk. On the rear of the unit is a USB port, a footswitch jack input (locked to function as a punch in/out controller), and a 9V/2A power input – the supplied wall-wart is a reasonably large one. (Hint: I generally make up a very short [150mm] extension lead for reclaiming powerboard space stolen by chunky wall-wart power supplies.) The rear panel also provides a security lock port should you need to install the unit within a high crime area.
As an aside, everything apart from the moving fader seems to function perfectly when your run FaderPort via USB power. This is undocumented in the manual but could well be prescribed as a feature. You could feasibly use the device for inputting automation and transport functionality away from mains power if required.
The fader itself feels good and appears to be of the ilk you’d find on a Mackie Control or similar. To the top right of the fader there’s a single rotary encoder hardwired to panning duties, then a mute, solo and record arm button. Below are channel select buttons. A Left, Right and Bank button gets you around each eight channels of the connected DAW. Directly beneath are four Automation Mode buttons for control of read, write and touch operations along with an Automation Off button. Further down are Window buttons for opening mix, project/arrange/edit and transport windows. These are accompanied by an undo/redo button. Then finally we see the transport section with a facility for skipping between markers, punch recording and playback looping. The buttons have a uniform feel and give a reassuring click when prodded. They’re also individually backlit in appropriate colours – green for play, red for record, etc.
The FaderPort is compatible with any DAW that will address Native Mode, such as Cubase and Nuendo, along with systems requiring HUI Emulation mode, such as Logic and ProTools. A plug-in is supplied for the Cubase/Nuendo folk who enjoy the added advantage of being able to edit their control assignments to customise how the FaderPort operates. Unfortunately, HUI Emulation mode is not programmable – that’s just how things are. With support for these two schemes the FaderPort will function with just about any DAW you care to name on either Windows or Macintosh platforms. After the strenuous installation procedure (taking the FaderPort out of the box and plugging it in), the unit functioned immediately and perfectly with ProTools, Logic and Nuendo.
So who’s going to want one of these little controllers? I’d wager quite a number of people. Those without the space to keep a larger unit among their desktop and those who really only need a single fader and a transport. For the most part, the FaderPort will do what many people buy eight faders for – simply to write automation moves that are usually a single channel or group. Small and, as they say, perfectly formed.