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Old 01-31-2020, 03:58 PM   #1
not-relevant
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Default Cheap control surface for REAPER with continuous encoders?

Can anyone recommend a cheap control surface with good REAPER integration and reasonably high resolution continuous encoders?

I'm looking for something:
- physically small
- no note keys, just a control surface
- cheap!
- with a good few knobs (12-16)
- faders + transport controls might be handy but not essential.

I particularly want continuous encoders. I currently use an Akai Mini Mk2, which is a simple MIDI controller. It's usable, but as it only transmits CCs, the takeover behaviour is really quite annoying. Plus for some parameters, as it's limited to 127 values, the jumps from value to value are a bit high.

Thanks
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Old 01-31-2020, 04:57 PM   #2
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Small and cheap is relative.

As far as a solid unit for continuous encoders, the Midi Fighter Twister is nice. It doesn't integrate with Reaper explicitly, but it sends configurable MIDI so integration is implied.
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Old 02-01-2020, 02:41 AM   #3
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Thanks - that is the kind of thing I'm looking for

It's about the right size, maybe a bit more than I wanted to pay (yep - cheap is always relative!), but it looks very configurable and might be worth the extra.

I've also just found the Faderfox EC4, which is slightly more expensive, but appears even more configurable in terms of output.

Both have endless controllers with relative MIDI CCs, which will solve the takeover issue.

The Twister has a load of options for display, but if using it in dumb MIDI mode with REAPER forces it to be uni-directional, a lot of that functionality might be wasted - all those crazy lights won't be connected up to anything.
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Old 02-01-2020, 09:52 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by not-relevant View Post
The Twister has a load of options for display, but if using it in dumb MIDI mode with REAPER forces it to be uni-directional
Reaticulate has a feature where it can feed MIDI back to a control surface, making the experience bidirectional (at least for CCs).

In fact, by using Bome MIDI Translator as a hub, I have full syncing to my motorized control surface, the MIDI Fighter Twister (when it's connected), my Komplete Kontrol keyboard, and even my expression pedal (although that one is obviously not motorized ).

Reaticulate takes care of getting the MIDI out of Reaper into something, whether directly to some control surface or to something like Bome that can act as a MIDI router.

It's admittedly rather customized, although I'm not sure if any DAW that can facilitate that kind of multi-device syncing natively. And of course there wouldn't be much point in using Reaticulate if all you want is CC syncing. I do have standalone scripts for that but they're a bit old and bit-rotty.
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Old 02-01-2020, 05:44 PM   #5
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I'm not sure if MIDI feedback for knob positions is worth the hassle and risk of introducing non-standard components that might destabilise my set-up: I did see a YouTube video detailing a crazy multi-component solution for MIDI feedback for the Twister linking ReaLearn and a bunch of other stuff - I can't imagine that set-up could be any way reliable!

I was hoping that relative MIDI CC (i.e. values 63 + 65 to decrement + increment) would work well enough and I could just ignore the knob position indicators on the control surface.

To be fair though, at least Rearticulate would only introduce one extra dependency. Plus Rearticulate might actually be useful to me for other stuff, if its articulations are customizable, although the examples all seem aimed towards classical. The virtual instruments I have with articulations I'd like to control are drums, bass + guitar.

Last edited by not-relevant; 02-01-2020 at 05:48 PM. Reason: More details
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Old 02-01-2020, 05:54 PM   #6
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Plus Rearticulate might actually be useful to me for other stuff, if its articulations are customizable, although the examples all seem aimed towards classical. The virtual instruments I have with articulations I'd like to control are drums, bass + guitar.
The examples are mostly orchestral mainly just because that's what I use, but it's ultimately usable for any articulation control scenario. Basically any use-case where you could benefit from translating a Program Change event to arbitrary MIDI to control a patch.

I suppose the articulation icons are biased toward orchestral articulations, but if you want to submit icons for other instruments (that are tasteful and legally unencumbered ) I'd be happy to include them.
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Old 02-01-2020, 05:59 PM   #7
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OK, cool - the Twister looks like a good option + if I do get one, I'll give Rearticulate a try. Thanks for the recommendation.
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Old 02-02-2020, 04:33 AM   #8
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off topic, but I was going to suggest a used BCR2000. Went and looked them up on ebay and they appear to be selling USED for anywhere up to around 200 UK pounds!!! I bought my BCR used for £30 a few years back. Same with my 2 BCF200s. I paid £50 for one immaculated boxed one & £40 for the unboxed one!!! Wish I had bought 20 of each now....
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Old 02-02-2020, 06:34 AM   #9
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Sadly I think continuous controllers will give you the same issues as your Akai have now unless it has midi feedback. You could set a none feedback controller up with relative encoders, but in my experience it doesn't really work out because the increments are weird and I seem to recall having others issues in my search for a cheap midi controller.

What you need is a controller that receives midi feedback and then you have to set it up with Realearn and/or LBX Smart Knobs script.

The cheapest controller with midi feedback is the BCR2000, if you can't find one you'd have to go with a Midi Fighter Twister, which is expensive but worth it.

Read through this thread if you need more info: https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=209311
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Old 02-02-2020, 12:23 PM   #10
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Hmmm... OK. I'm thinking maybe this will turn out to be a procrasination magnet, rather than a productivity improver!
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Old 02-02-2020, 01:24 PM   #11
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Hi there!

I made the video in question a few posts back

Although convoluted, it is most certainly stable.

Its just an extra track in my template with realearn on it and a script that connects the controller to the plugins.

Procrastination magnet is fair. With Reaper all this freedom is both liberating and suffocating
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Old 02-02-2020, 04:43 PM   #12
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Behringer X-Touch Mini.

$80 (used to be $50 new)... worth it, totally worth it. I use it more than my MIDI Fighter Twister, honestly.
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Old 02-04-2020, 01:57 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Hmmm... OK. I'm thinking maybe this will turn out to be a procrasination magnet, rather than a productivity improver!
It 100% was for me. I spent so much time getting it setup and I hardly use it anymore.

But in defense of my quest to have a workflow with a tactile analogue feel, I did write a synth part using a midi fighter twister, that I just don't think would have come about with a mouse workflow. That part turned out to be my best song yet... So I guess it wasn't a total loss.

I am gonna use it when I get time to play with synths again, but for mixing it just isn't something I tend to use. And it doesn't really speed things up for me personally. On top of that it's a whole thing to setup up and you kinda need to do it for every plugin you use.

All of that said. Now that I have it I probably should give it another chance, though.

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Old 02-05-2020, 02:27 PM   #14
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Behringer X-Touch Mini.

$80 (used to be $50 new)... worth it, totally worth it. I use it more than my MIDI Fighter Twister, honestly.
THIS^

Better get some now before the price goes up more! They are highly undervalued if you ask me. Get 2, and have more rotaries and buttons and cheaper than the Twister.

Get 4, make a custom box to house them, improve your workflow and look cool doing it! (you heard it here, first!)

Seriously, these are underrated.
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Old 02-13-2020, 10:39 AM   #15
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Not helpful for your procrastination (as you will have to wait for it to be on the market ) but I’m currently developing a MIDI controller that has 9 faders with 2 knobs each, so total of 18 knobs (not continuous encoders though, not sure how important that is for you).

It supports 14 bits precision, so values 0-16383 (which, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe is now supported by Reaper).

Do you have any suggestions for my controller, like functionality that should absolutely be in? I’d love to hear them
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Old 02-14-2020, 01:54 PM   #16
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neat!

I think 2 things are very important for a digital controller:
- endless encoders
- motorized fadrs

This is because mixing in the box requires a lot of scrolling around to different parts of a project and tracks. Without the benefit of having a dedicated control for every process like a large format console, we need to have the state of controllable parameters in real time. Soft takeover of parameter control is disastrous and workflow killing....trust me.
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Old 02-15-2020, 02:37 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poetnprophet View Post
neat!

I think 2 things are very important for a digital controller:
- endless encoders
- motorized fadrs

This is because mixing in the box requires a lot of scrolling around to different parts of a project and tracks. Without the benefit of having a dedicated control for every process like a large format console, we need to have the state of controllable parameters in real time. Soft takeover of parameter control is disastrous and workflow killing....trust me.
I know! But unfortunately motorised faders are still ridiculously expensive , not to mention how big they are and the fact that they require more power.
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Old 02-15-2020, 08:02 AM   #18
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To me, LED feedback indicators around a knob or in a strip next to a fader are as valuable (and more practical cost-wise) than motorized faders. I'm surprised those haven't become the norm on modern controllers.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:13 AM   #19
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To me, LED feedback indicators around a knob or in a strip next to a fader are as valuable (and more practical cost-wise) than motorized faders. I'm surprised those haven't become the norm on modern controllers.
I'm guessing because there still is a lot of demand for "normal" potentiometers. Loads of people don't actually look at their controller but rather feel the knobs or look at the screen or (God forbid) their audience.
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Old 02-16-2020, 09:55 AM   #20
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I would definitely agree with that for live use, where you have your controller mapped to the same controls every time, or pre-recorded sequences where volumes and fx parameters always start at a given reference setting.

But for mixing recordings, reaching for a knob, giving it a little twist to see what it is (or maybe even a large twist if you're in pickup mode) can quickly destroy a carefully crafted mix or fx parameter setting. The visual LED feedback gives you two things - A) the relative feedback levels of various knobs can function almost like labels, potentially keeping your eyes off the screen altogether because you might see that, say, the feedback LED's on track 2 are very low and you know you've got your drum reverb set very low, so now you have an immediate visual reference point for what's mapped to the surrounding knobs. And B) if you're in pickup mode, feedback LED's immediately tell you where the control is going to "pick up" so that you're not just twisting until you suddenly hear a change as the controller catches up with the parameter's current value (again, possibly destroying a carefully set mix or fx setting).

I currently use an Akai MIDIMix, which has zero LED feedback on knobs and faders, and I've destroyed many mixes by the "twist it and see what it is" method. The only way to use it safely is to be constantly referring back from screen to controller to make sure you have the right knob, where the control is going to pick up, etc. It improves with familiarity, but will never be ideal. Preferably, when using a controller I'd like to rarely look at at the screen at all, but that's impossible without feedback of some kind.

Last edited by billybuck; 02-16-2020 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 02-17-2020, 06:31 AM   #21
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I would definitely agree with that for live use, where you have your controller mapped to the same controls every time, or pre-recorded sequences where volumes and fx parameters always start at a given reference setting.

But for mixing recordings, reaching for a knob, giving it a little twist to see what it is (or maybe even a large twist if you're in pickup mode) can quickly destroy a carefully crafted mix or fx parameter setting. The visual LED feedback gives you two things - A) the relative feedback levels of various knobs can function almost like labels, potentially keeping your eyes off the screen altogether because you might see that, say, the feedback LED's on track 2 are very low and you know you've got your drum reverb set very low, so now you have an immediate visual reference point for what's mapped to the surrounding knobs. And B) if you're in pickup mode, feedback LED's immediately tell you where the control is going to "pick up" so that you're not just twisting until you suddenly hear a change as the controller catches up with the parameter's current value (again, possibly destroying a carefully set mix or fx setting).

I currently use an Akai MIDIMix, which has zero LED feedback on knobs and faders, and I've destroyed many mixes by the "twist it and see what it is" method. The only way to use it safely is to be constantly referring back from screen to controller to make sure you have the right knob, where the control is going to pick up, etc. It improves with familiarity, but will never be ideal. Preferably, when using a controller I'd like to rarely look at at the screen at all, but that's impossible without feedback of some kind.
Yes you're right. My controller will have colored LEDs above each track to identify which track it is. Would that help with that problem you think? I do have to say that I mainly had live use in mind when designing my controller.
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Old 02-17-2020, 08:01 AM   #22
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Yes, the colored track indicators would be a huge plus. Are you designing it as a universal controller, or specifically with Reaper in mind?
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Old 02-18-2020, 04:39 AM   #23
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Quote:
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Yes, the colored track indicators would be a huge plus. Are you designing it as a universal controller, or specifically with Reaper in mind?
It'll be a universal controller but I was already looking into Ableton's MIDI remote scripting which seems to work well. I'm still trying to figure out if I can accomplish the same with ReaScript (controlling a set of tracks and sending the color info back to the MIDI controller using SYSEX)
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Old 02-18-2020, 08:23 AM   #24
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You might also look at OSC as an option. Out of the box, my Akai device sends direct MIDI via USB, but when scripting it for Reaper, goldenarpharazon used OSCII-bot, so the Akai connects to Reaper as an OSC device, rather than a MIDI device. However, once connected, the user-mappable controls show up as MIDI again.

I believe the reason he did this was to allow the device to be bankable (arrow buttons allow you to choose which 8 tracks you're currently controlling) and to simplify the feedback process. The Akai doesn't have feedback led's on the knobs or faders, but it does have simple on/off led's on the buttons for solo/mute status. Using OSC as a translator makes for a pretty simple script that doesn't appear to require sysex, and is easy for end users to customize if they want to change the default behaviors.
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Old 02-19-2020, 04:26 AM   #25
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You might also look at OSC as an option. Out of the box, my Akai device sends direct MIDI via USB, but when scripting it for Reaper, goldenarpharazon used OSCII-bot, so the Akai connects to Reaper as an OSC device, rather than a MIDI device. However, once connected, the user-mappable controls show up as MIDI again.

I believe the reason he did this was to allow the device to be bankable (arrow buttons allow you to choose which 8 tracks you're currently controlling) and to simplify the feedback process. The Akai doesn't have feedback led's on the knobs or faders, but it does have simple on/off led's on the buttons for solo/mute status. Using OSC as a translator makes for a pretty simple script that doesn't appear to require sysex, and is easy for end users to customize if they want to change the default behaviors.
That's an interesting construction, I'll have a closer look at OSC (did check it out a long time ago). I'm also not really up to date on MIDI 2.0 yet. I believe that also introduces some new possibilities with bidirectional communication and configuration exchange.
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:43 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by poetnprophet View Post
Better get some now before the price goes up more! They are highly undervalued if you ask me. Get 2, and have more rotaries and buttons and cheaper than the Twister.

Get 4, make a custom box to house them, improve your workflow and look cool doing it! (you heard it here, first!)

Seriously, these are underrated.
^ THIS
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Old 02-29-2020, 01:28 AM   #27
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I did a bit of research on the various options given above. It seems there are indeed many control surfaces that can work acceptably with REAPER, given sufficient commitment.

However, none of the options is really sufficiently plug'n'play for my needs - I've come to realise that it's more important to me to spend time writing + recording music than configuring a control surface: the time spent on configuration would very likely outweigh any productivity gains I might get.

I think I'll return to this when the control surface project is more stable and integrated.
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Old 03-02-2020, 03:56 PM   #28
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I just got my 2nd Xtouch Mini to work with CSI, 16 encoders and 32 buttons, whoop
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