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Best Midi Fader Controller 2022: 14 DAW Controllers Picked Apart!

Best Daw controller 2022 - what is it? We dissect midi fader controllers...

The best midi fader controllers are hard to come by.

Something that when you look at it, is hardly surprising. What with every music producer pledging their allegiance to different DAW + new genres of music springing up from all over the place, finding a controller that gels with your workflow is more difficult than ever!

All of which makes DAW surface controllers in themselves, a bit of a minefield. Some have faders – some don’t. Certain controllers come with umpteen assignable buttons, while others do practically everything through a screen. Heck, some are even designed specifically to integrate with certain DAWs. So really, when it comes down to tracking down the ‘best’ midi fader controller for your setup, there’s a LOT of variables to consider.

Not that you should let that get in the way though. We know just how important it is to have some analogue feel when producing music. So if you’re eager to track down which midi fader controller is the best, then keep reading & we’ll help you make that decision.

After something specific about midi fader controllers? Or just curious what a midi fader controller actually is? Use the menu below to find all the answers you need in a couple of clicks…

The best MIDI fader controllers @ a glance…

14 of the best MIDI fader controllers you can buy

Selecting a midi controller with faders, from all the DAW surface controllers out there, is (let’s be honest) quite the challenge. Aside from the fact that there’s virtually dozens to choose from, there’s also the question of: how many channels you need, whether you’re after something portable & what budget you have to spend.

But don’t worry yourself. See, we’ve done 90% of the work for you & compiled a list of what we believe to be the best midi fader controllers out there today. All you have to do, is read on…

1: Presonus Faderport midi control surface

2: QCon Pro G2 midi fader controller

3: TC Helicon Go XLR DAW surface controller

4: Korg nanoKONTROL 2 compact controller

5: Akai Professional APC40 MKII DJ controller

6: Novation Launch Control XL MKII controller

7: iCON Pro Platform M+ surface controller

8: Mackie MC Series fader controller

9: Behringer X-Touch fader controller

10: Nektar Panorama P1 fader controller

11: PreSonus ioStation 24c midi fader controller

12: Avid S1 control surface

Cheap MIDI fader controllers (around £100): the best DAW surface controller for beginners…

Any beginner searching for a midi fader controller is likely just on the hunt for 2 things. Something that’s rich in features, yet not all that expensive. Exactly why when we saw this midi fader controller from Akai, we knew that with 99% of beginners, it’d be an instant hit…

13: Akai MIDImix DAW fader controller

 

Got an unlimited budget? Try this midi fader controller…

In the case your budget is slightly larger – perhaps you’re kitting out a professional studio? – the type of functionality you’ll be after is likely to be more than what you find on the average controller. More channels & parameters for instance.

If that’s the case, we’d say this high-end boutique mixing console from Roland is right up your street…

14: Roland Mx-1 boutique mixer

Which MIDI fader controller is best? Our editor’s choice

As you’ve probably gathered, pinning down the best midi fader controller is NOT easy.

Hence why our verdict has remained quite broad, as which midi fader controller is best, all depends on how you produce. But with that being said, we have managed to whittle them down to our favourites 2 to be exact.

So if you’re an experienced producer who’s after ultimate control over both your DAW, mix & software instruments, then we’d say it’d be best to invest in what’s arguably the most advanced midi fader controller on the market – the…

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A fader controller that’s earned itself a healthy reputation for being one of the most advanced & pro level pieces of kit on the market. And you can see why.

This DAW controller has pretty much everything! Right from the LCD display to those motorised faders, the whole unit feels so well thought out & put together. the word ‘deluxe’ springs to mind. Plus, in terms of feel & to work with, this interface puts a lot of of cheaper DAW controllers to shame too. The build quality is second to none!!

What’s more, the integration you get with this controller is also superb. For Ableton users especially, tweaks with the mouse will quickly become a thing of the past. All of which makes it an ideal centrepiece to your studio setup.

And yes, it’s not the cheapest DAW controller out there, BUT considering just how much control it gives you over your studio setup, we’d say it’d more than repay itself in terms of the quality of your final track + all the positive impacts it’ll have on your workflow.

With that though, not everyone has such a healthy budget. So if you’re yet to reach the stage where you can justify such an advanced controller, then we’d say you’d be hard pushed to go wrong with the…

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That’s because as far as budget DAW controllers go, the Faderport is up there with the best. Yes, it only has 1 fader (opposed to 5+) so if you’re after multiple faders you may want to look elsewhere – the Akai MidiMix for instance.

However, when we produce, we generally don’t find ourselves lunging for multiple faders all at once, even when mixing & mastering. Hence why we’d say it’d be wiser to downsize on faders & trade that larger footprint for higher build quality. Something you can tell Presonus have heavily focused on with the Faderport.

Alongside other fader controllers, really does show. The whole unit feels solid & the fader (aside from being motorised) has some good resistance to it, which for us, made it more accurate. What’s more, the transport controls are all intuitively laid out in such as way that even a complete novice should be able to understand.

Combine this with the slim form factor + small footprint & as far as all-rounders go, the Faderport is up there with the best. In fact, the only reason we see that you wouldn’t buy this controller is its bigger brother, the ioStation 24c – essentially the same controller, only with a built in audio interface & a few extra perks.

Food for though, especially when considering what you get, the upgrade isn’t actually that much £££. Food for thought.

Enjoy this review of the best midi fader controllers and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Music Kit Reviews, as well as the lowdown on all things Music Production. Recently, we also published a rundown of the Best 25 Midi Controller Keyboards + another on the Best Rack Mount Mixers, which may also be a good read.

Or, if you’ve still got as burning question about midi faders, keep reading to discover even more about why control surfaces like midi mixers are 100% worth your time…

The lowdown on everything Midi fader controllers

I

Whether a DAW surface controller is worth it really all depends on how you produce. Stying that though, here’s a few advantages of having a midi fader controller…

  • The analogue feel – While the majority of music production these days is done on a computer, you can often achieve a more polished (& precise) sound if making adjustments in person. Control that a DAW surface controller allows you to take back & fuse with the wonders of today’s vast array of software instruments.
  • Workflow & inspo – For a producer, be they professional or a rookie bedroom prod, workflow is essential, especially when music becomes your full time income. Something that can easily be streamlined by adding a DAW control surface to your setup. And while this may not always be cheap, consider how much more content it enables you to create (not to mention boost the quality) & most midi faders controllers more than pay themselves off.
  • Less computer work – A major bind for any producer is stopping what they’re doing just to reach over & make minor adjustments with their mouse. Yet another problem which DAW control surfaces more or less eliminate. Buy wisely & not only do you get an intuitive set of transport controls, but also heavy levels of software integration. Meaning that you’ll rarely (if ever) have to reach from the mouse to control your DAW!!

Yes – a midi fader controller is worlds away from a mixer.

While a mixer still hooks up to your DAW & allows you to have command over various parameters, a midi surface controller takes it one step further. So aside from allowing you to mix audio + launch clips, a midi fader controller give you WAY more options when it comes to transport controls, digital mapping & other software-related functions.

And just like with any midi controller (with keys or not), the majority are orientated towards portability. Something you also don’t tend to find with many mixers. The majority of mixers tend to be designed for studio use only & commonly come with a rack fitment kit.

There’s a whole host of ways how a midi control surface can increase workflow. Here’s just 3 to consider…

  • DAW integration – If you’re not a huge fan of navigating your DAW with your computer keyboard & mouse, then a surface controller can prevent you from doing so for most (if not) all tasks. In other words, it speeds up your workflow & makes the whole production process a lot more logical (no DAW pun intended)
  • Finding new sounds – With DAW surface controllers in effect replicating analogue devices, many producers argue that such controllers give you a lot more feel for your sound. Something it’s typically a lot harder to get when making music digitally, especially when it comes to mixing & mastering!
  • Portability – With most DAWs nowadays being up for grabs on iPad or even phone, having a small midi fader controller is a great way to allow you to make music on the go without compromising on quality. Quite a lot of surface controllers these days even come equipped with Bluetooth, so should you choose to do so, you won’t even require any sort of wires or cables… 1 less thing to forget!

M

How you connect your midi fader controller to your DAW really depends on which type of controller you buy. Something to bear in mind before investing your cash.

Here’s the 3 main types of midi fader controller to watch out for…

  • Wireless midi fader controllers – These connect to your iPad/ computer using Bluetooth & don’t need any sort of wires to do so. However, they’ll likely be battery powered & require a good charge before using them, or to be connected to a mains power supply.
  • USB DAW controllers – Much as they sound, these are devices that run off the power stored in your computer & simply require you to connect them up via USB
  • Studio only midi control surfaces – These tend to be larger pieces of hardware, which as well as connection to your computer, also require mains power to function. However, this will only really be the case with the most professional DAW control surfaces that boast high levels of processing power or perhaps contain an audio interface.

W

In many ways, yes – midi surface controllers are in essence, the modern mixer.

So while your traditional mixer will be a LOT heavier & bulkier too, it can (providing it has the enough channels) function as a midi fader controller. However, what you will miss out on, especially with older mixers, is the levels of DAW integration you get with a more modern fader controller.

So if you plan on using a midi fader to trigger a few clips & give your mixing process more of an analogue feel, then yes – a mixer could replace a midi surface controller. BUT if DAW navigation & mapping perimeters is a priority, or you’re after something you can use ‘on the go’, then a DAW surface controller would be by far your best bet.

Whether a midi fader controller is necessary comes back to (A) how you produce & (B) what you’re looking for it to do.

If for instance, you’re looking to streamline your workflow & upgrade your DAW navigation, then a midi fader controller would be a great idea. As it would be if you’re looking to get a more analogue feel for your sound. And even for performances, DAW surface controllers are a popular choice – it’s rare to find a DJ today without one of these nifty devices. However, that’s not to say DAW control surfaces aren’t always a ‘must-have’.

In fact, there’s still a fair few cases where it may not be needed. For instance, if you’re more into live samples than virtual instruments, then you may end up using it a lot less. For creating melodies using virtual instruments, DAW surfaces are super good! But with that being said, we do think that they’re a wise idea.

With more & more music production now migrating online, investing in a tool like this & preparing for a more digital future, seems like a wise idea.

Midi is an acronym, which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.

A type of signal (different to RCA or 1/4 inch inputs) that enables a controller to communicate with a DAW. The stand-out feature about midi is that because its adjustability. Record something in stereo & that’s pretty much it. You can do some slight edits, but not all that much.

Whereas with midi signals being (at the core) a string of data, you’re pretty much free to change them however you like. Be that altering the pitch, note length, volume, arrangement – you name it. Virtually every parameter of midi can be edited, hence the popularity of midi fader controllers over more traditional analogue kit.