Surface Controller - advice please!

I’m a relatively new user of Cubase and all things DAW and VSTs in general really, but have been getting to grips with it and starting to get some decent results. However, my principle keyboard (Roland RD800) is not much of a midi controller and I’m looking at buying an add-on controller - hopefully for not too much money! I know I could buy an alternative keyboard controller, but I don’t want to ditch the Roland and I already have 2 other 61-key ‘boards that might do the job, but at the cost of keybed quality and I don’t have room to set-up and store many more keyboards!
My principle aim is to be able to control instrument expressions when using instruments in my sound library (particularly orchestral). I’m less concerned about having hardware control over Cubase functions, although it would be a bonus if that came too.
I’ve seen the Beringher X-Touch, which looks interesting, but I’m a complete novice at this stuff and don’t really know what I need.
Any help and advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Hi and welcome to forum! :slight_smile:

What kind of instrument expressions did you want to control? Are we talking on/off/toggle key switches? Or variable parameter changes such as volume, vibrato level etc?

To give you an idea - If you wanted a cheap controller that you can sit on your existing keyboard, something like the Korg nanoKontrol2 will give you a lot of control as you get the buttons, faders and knobs in a small space. And despite the size they’re very useable.

With a generic controller like that, you get two options of mapping in Cubase:-

  1. Is the plugin supports it - you can map the MIDI CC messages from your controller to the plugin.
  2. If the plugin does not support direct MIDI CC mapping, then you would use the Cubase built-in Generic Remote editor to map to plugins.

Something like the Behringer X Touch offers additional modes of operation beyond the generic MIDI mode - called Mackie/MCU mode. This mode works best with the hardware models with a screen as everything plugin related is controlled using the faders and rotary knobs at the top.

With your requirements i don’t think a Mackie/MCU device would really be my first choice - they’re best for controlling the DAW. Although you can run them in MIDI note, you’re still left with a lot of buttons that are designed for MCU mode.

The icon platform devices seem better designed for more generic MIDI controller. If you wanted something with the powered faders? (Presuming that’s why the x-touch appealed).

You may be interested in some of the videos Guy Michelmore does - he uses Cubase for orchestral work and often runs through the hardware he uses, and his opinion. This video may help:-

sorry for the slow response, but Thanks very much Skijumptoes for your very detailed and helpful reply. I have indeed already discovered the wonderful Mr Michelmore and he has added the Platform M+ to my list!

Having also considered this some more since my original post, I think I do also like the idea of using a Mackie/MCU device to give me hard control of the DAW itself and I think the X-Touch looks a very good bet for this. However, I’m not at all sure how it would also stack up as a cc controller and, given that this is important to me, I wonder whether I’d be better off with 2 devices - one for each purpose? Or is that overkill??

In answer to your question, I’m primarily concerned with controlling variable parameters, like vibrato and articulation and would prefer using faders for this. My search has generally found controllers recommended for their DAW capabilities (like the X-Touch), but write ups say little about their CC controller capabilities.

I’m still pretty ignorant on the subject, but my short list at the moment is the X-Touch (if it also works as a cc controller, The Icon Platform M+ (dedicated cc controller) or the Nektar Panorama P1.

Any other thoughts would be much appreciated and I’ll let you know how I get on!