Before buying a midi controller - which do you use or recommend? The less headache to set up the better

I almost bought Arturia mk2 but then I saw some comments… I understand Cubase is complex but is there a suitable midi controller with piano keys that works well with Cubase without diving into lengthy setups?


Do you want to control Cubase function (so do you search for DAW controller) or do you want to control the MIDI tracks (so you will send the plain MIDI CCs)?

In the 1st case, I would recommend any keyboard with Mackie Control or Mackie HUI support. Or consider Steinberg CC121 controller. In the 2nd case, it doesn’t matter, all are compatible equally.

As Martin has said, it really comes down to your needs.

There’s one issue to be aware of, and that’s if you want to control Cubase’s mixer elements with faders and knobs (i.e. to control volumes and pans) is that without motorised faders it makes navigating and adjusting tracks quite hard. And this is applies generally to all non-motorised MIDI controllers.

So if volume/fader control is something which interests you, be aware that once the ‘new’ factor wears off, you will probably go back to mouse/keyboard control because of the detachment of on-screen values to hardware values. (If going for something non-motorised).

There is a new MIDI Remote (API) system being introduced soon to Cubase which has the potential to dramatically improve the interaction between controllers and the software… But no idea if it’s planned to be part of the C11 update cycle, or put back to C11.5. It’s well overdue, however.

In regards to hardware that exists now, Something like the Nektar Panorama P series works really well out of the box and offers a screen so you can see which parameters are mapped. It’s almost like a Mackie Control hybrid keyboard. Plus it offers a single motorised fader for the track you’re focused on. However, the keys aren’t the best, and the fader and general design is a little bit dated/plasticky - so incredibly good DAW controllers, but better suited for synth style playing.

What about Arturia 40 mk2?

The Arturia 49 Mk2? It’s a really great controller. But again, when it comes to mapping to instruments/effects (If that is where your focus will be) then it’s going to be a manual process and quite complicated to setup…

Out of the box it will control Arturia’s own Analog Software very well, and also control the mixer in Cubase, including volume faders, pans, mutes, solos, play, stop, record etc.

I think in regards to where Cubase is heading with the MIDI Remote API that Stienberg are working on, the Arturia keyboards will become much more powerful with Cubase as it seems we will be able to set up pages of mappings per instrument, or plugin. So, it would be a good investment with that on the horizon.

At this time, however, your options will be to manually map to each instrument via MIDI CC data ‘OR’ utilise the VST Quick/Track controls - which are limited to 8 parameters each, and track controls do not recall themselves, so you have to manage your own presets - it gets cumbersome.

It would really help if you explained what you are most interested in controlling within Cubase, i.e.:

  1. Mixer elements (Volume, Fader, Mute, Solo, Record - for each track)
  2. Transport elements (Play, Stop, F.Fwd, Rewind)
  3. VST Instrument elements (i.e. Cutoff, Resonance, Attack Envelopes)
  4. VST Effects (i.e. Reverb level, Reverb Type etc.)

It’s only deep mapping devices such as the Mackie Control based devices, Nektar Panorama etc. with displays that can get to ALL those parameters (Plus extras such as send levels etc.).

Something like the Arturia Mk2’s come with out of the box support for Items 1 + 2, but 3 and 4 is where you’d have to manually set up. So, if 1+2 are your primary focus then you’re in luck.

I hope i’m helping here,and not confusing you more. :confused:

Thank you so much! This is the answer I was looking for.

Of course I’d like all 4 mentioned stuff so I wonder now:

IF I’ll get mk2 now would that be supported somehow in the future Steinberg’s work that they’re doing now?

They appear to be working on a system whereby you can define your hardware controller, so it shows in Cubase as a graphical representation, and then map to elements such as Mixer, VST Instrument through that interface - obviously it’s all in development so the full details are unknown as yet.

Hopefully there will even be an option to page through different parameters, so you could have a page for synth Oscillator 1, 2, 3 and Filters - who knows, at this point, but that should be included i hope.

For people with MIDI controllers it’s going to a HUUUGE addition and i’m super looking forward to it.

It was originally planned for Cubase 11, but they couldn’t get it completed in time. I was gutted when C11 released and it was not included, as here:-

There was some additional comment made today on it, and it looks like it’s definitely being held back for C11.5 now… So gotta wait till end of year, i wish i was part of the beta testing for this feature as i’m really driven to see it become a success. :frowning:

Does it mean that if I buy arturia mk2 now (or similar) it won’t work with this future update or?

What it means is that to currently control an instrument or effect you would either have to:-

  1. Manually map to each plugin using MIDI CC - This is a relatively old method of mapping to plugins, as you need to remember which MIDI CC values are going to which instruments or it can be confusing as you’re turning a knob and it’s affecting an instrument out of view.

  2. Use VST Quick Controls (For instruments) - These are limited to 8 parameters, but there is a page system so you could have have 4 pages of 8 parameters, for example.

  3. Use VST Track Controls (For effects) - These are limited to 8 parameters, with no page system, and you can’t keep the mappings you create as they map across the track as a whole (i.e. you could have first parameter control EQ, second parameter control a compressor plugin etc.). So the track control mappings that you setup really tend to sit within projects, rather than globally. Unless you’re mapping to fixed elements such as the EQ in Cubase, and you can save presets knowing that they will recall correctly.

With both the VST Quick controls and VST track controls you only have to map your hardware controller once to Cubase. With the Arturia Mk2 you could apply Track Controls to the faders, and Quick controls to the rotary knobs (For example).

So yes, hopefully the upcoming MIDI Remote enhancements is really going to help progress beyond these current methods, and provide a more ‘control what you see’ approach, and take full advantage of utilising the faders and rotaries into a single plugin at once.

By that i mean that the controller can dynamically take control of plugins based on your focus in the DAW. And that will really benefit controllers such as the Arturias with the fader and rotary layouts.