Switching from Alphatrack to CC121. Wise choice?

Hello everyone,

I have been using Alphatrack for more than two years now and I am pretty happy with it, especially when I use it in conjunction with the BCF2000.
What I liked in this unit was that it was portable(USB powered), it has an lcd screen so you know what channel you are affecting, and it is pretty customizable, you can control inserts, sends, etc.

I am thinking of switching to CC121. I understand that it is not as portable as the AT, not so customizable, but it seems to be of much better build quality and it has the most common features I use every day in Cubase.

Here are my concerns/questions:

  1. I have noticed that for every new Cubase version there is a new Tools software released. That scares me a bit in the regard that Steinberg does not have a good reputation of supporting their hardware long enough. I mean, will I still be able to use CC121 in Cubase 7 if Steinberg stops supporting it? With Alphatrack I used the same driver for Cubase 4/5/6.

  2. I have read here in the forum that the EQ section of the CC121 has a reversed order than in Cubase/Nuendo? I have not seen more info on that so what is going on with this matter? Aren’t the EQ controls of Cubase mirrored in CC121?

  3. About the AI knob. This is a big selling factor for me. Can it control everything? For example, can it control sends, 3rd party plugins? I am planning to use it to control the tempo recording slider found in the Tempo track so that I can create smooth accelerandos and Rallentandos.

I believe that the thing I will miss the most is the LCD screen.

I would be happy to listen to your opinions!

just replaced my Alphatrack with an cc121.
It’s a great unit. I find the price for it a bit high though. But the build quality is very good.
Also how the fader and knobs respond is excellent. I got it used on eBay. the 370€ for a new one would have been too much for me. The Alphatrack is not bad a t all too.

Steinberg has much improved their hardware support. I use also an n12 since 2008 and the drivers have been updated frequently. In fact, their drivers are among the best and stable from any company i have used.

Some people have complained about that, for me it’s no problem.

Yes, it controls every plugin i use here, i have a lot…It has to be at least VST 2.4 as far as i know. I did not try to control the tempo recording slider though.

I find my self using it a lot, because it works so smooth. The way the controls work is very nice and much better then the Alphatrack. It’s a joy to use the EQ now.
The Quick Control feature is very handy too, the learn function does sometimes not work perfectly, but you can assign any parameter using the popup list for each Quick Control.
The function Knob and 4 buttons are great. You can switch the metronome on and off and control it’s volume. Great! I would like to have at least 4 free assignable buttons more though…

Some people have complained that the buttons are not illuminated when not pressed. Yes, it would be nice to have them generally illuminated a bit.


Thank you for the reply Paul!

So, to sum up, can the AI knob control sends? Can you name some of the VST 2.4 Plugins you use?

May I ask you why you chose to switch from Alphatrack? Were you not satisfied with it?

I switched from the Alphatrack to the CC121 and have been very pleased. I came to really dislike the sound of the Alphatrack motor, since I am often mixing at low volumes (or mixing material with a lot of dynamics), so the motor sound really got on my nerves in some situations. That may seem silly, since all motors will make some sound. But there was something about the Alphatrack motor that really annoyed me. I also didn’t like the build quality of the Alphatrack. It just felt a bit too cheap for me. Even the buttons annoyed me on the Alphatrack… their loud click sound bugged the hell out of me. Overall, it just didn’t feel like a fine piece of hardware (for my taste) so I started searching for a replacement.

I was hesitant at first, but when I felt the build quality of the CC121, I thought I’d give it a try. The store didn’t have it hooked up, so I couldn’t listen to the motor, but just the whole package seemed better than the Alphatrack after physically handling it. The trial was worth it. The CC121’s motor is superior (although you can of course still hear it, but it’s not annoying to me), and then I found out you can also just unplug the power supply and the motor will simply stop, and the rest of the unit is still powered by USB, so I use it both ways. When I need the motor, it doesn’t bug me, so that aspect was a good solution. And the buttons just felt better to me. Those little physical things might seem small, but when you have to use it for hours on end, it matters. The build quality of the CC121 is definitely a full step better than the Alphatrack, but then you’d hope so for the extra cash. :slight_smile:

The CC121 delivers in the feature-set, too, of course. I do miss the LCD screen from the Alphatrack, but it’s more than made up by the 1 to 1 nature of the CC121 with Cubase. The CC121 just fits Cubase like a glove. I’ve found I’ve used it far more than I used the Alphatrack, and my workflow is definitely faster now. It makes Cubase feel a little more like a dedicated piece of studio hardware rather than just software now. It is “one” with Cubase, as opposed to just “controlling” Cubase.

I am annoyed by the reversed EQ, but I can understand why they did it that way. I would prefer if they gave us the option – maybe just a little software check-box on a driver preference page. :slight_smile: They still can give us more tools like that with a software update! I hope they’re still paying attention! There is a lot of life left in the CC121, so I hope they still have development budget for new, even minor, features.

I also wish they had always-on dim lights as an option – that would not only be cool, but useful in a dark studio.

And now that I’m slowly getting used to it, I kind of wish for more Function buttons. :slight_smile:

But basically, those minor issues aside, it’s a superb controller. Maybe the best single-channel controller on the market, if maybe a little pricey, but I think you’re paying for the improved build quality. The AI knob works on most plugins, although I’m still getting used to it. With the mouse in right hand, CC121 on the left, you can rock around Cubase like a madman… to me, much better than the Alphatrack.

As for plugins, I use typical, current plugins like Native Instruments stuff, Omnisphere, Arturia, FabFilter, etc…, and off-hand, I can’t think of a major, current plugin that doesn’t work with the AI knob… but I’ll pay more attention in upcoming sessions. I haven’t had the CC121 all that long, so there may be some issues with some plugins I have, and I’ve probably missed something. My guess is that it will work with most current plugins. Your mileage my vary. I haven’t tried it with tempo control yet.

I should probably read the manual… I just discovered that you can control the metronome with value knob/button, and now I use that every day. :slight_smile: What other secrets lie within?

Basically, on a scale of 1-10, I’d give the CC121 a solid 8. It’s a bit short of perfection for what I’d personally like… it’s the type of product that spoils you for something that has even more potential, but that doesn’t yet exist. Some of that potential could be realized in driver updates (i.e.: dim always-on lights and option to reverse EQ knobs). Some of that potential is simply missing in the design (i.e.: no LCD screen, wish it had more function buttons). I think I understand why they chose to implement what they did, so there are trade-offs. For the most part, I think they made the right decisions, and as far as Cubase goes, the CC121 is the one to get, IMO.

Comparatively, I’d have to give the Alphatrack a 7. Maybe a 6.5. Why? Because it really tries to do everything right, and for the most part it succeeds in the basic design concept… and you can’t beat the price of the Alphatrack, so that has to count for something. However, the build quality of the Alphatrack annoys me enough that it has to take a hit that even its low price can’t compensate for. They compromised a little too much in physical implementation/quality, IMO. Plus, it is inherently a “generic” controller which adapts to many DAWs. That’s good and bad… the good is that it is super-flexible for what it does, and you can use it with anything. The bad (for lack of a better word) is that it pales in comparison to the CC121 when dealing with Cubase. The CC121 actually gives a natural, physical extension to Cubase in a way that the Alphatrack just can’t match.

Based on how well they did with the CC121, I’d probably end up buying a multi-channel version of it if they ever made one. :slight_smile:

Finally, as for driver support and commitment for the CC121, the jury is still out. While I believe that Steinberg has improved recently, I will admit that old habits die hard… and the corporate culture at Steinberg has to show it has permanently changed. I hope it has, but you never know. Steinberg is a strange beast… inconsistent to say the least. They have provisionally earned my cautious confidence, and I think they’re safe enough to start buying hardware from them… So I caved in bought an MR816 and Yamaha N12 as well. :slight_smile: PG, the main WaveLab developer, has already pledged support for the CC121, so that also goes a long way to show that Steinberg stands behind this. But I’ll still be slightly skeptical for another year or two before they’ve earned my complete trust. I’ve been burned by them before. Right now, Steinberg is on a good streak, so whoever they have hired to run the ship is doing a better job than what was going on before.

Hey uarte!
Thank you for the comprehensive reply!

I guess the eq won’t be a problem for me either. The dimmed buttons would be great though. I only hope that the AI knob will work for my effects and Vsti’s. Does the lock mode work for you for the vst 2.4 plugins?

I’m currently not at my studio PC but IIRC you can turn the motor temporary on and off by pressing the Write button and the VST button at the same time. So there is no need to unplug the power supply all the time.

Edit: Sorry, skip that. I’ve thought that this would work in Cubase too. My bad.

Yes. There’s no going back.

I want a Jog wheel (or strip),hardware transport controls, a fader and an AI knob ( I have not tried it but I think the idea is brilliant).

So the alphatrack is discontinued and I phoned all the music shops in town and there is one left in the whole city (all the on line shops list it as unavailable).

So it seems I have two choices - try to get the last alphatrack in town plus the AI cmc controler by steinberg
This would set me back a total of $375 plus tax

or just get a C121 for $450 plus tax.

When using these products what happens when you try to control other apps in rewire. for expample if I am using Cubase with REASON in rewire - does the AI knob do anything useful in REASOn (or ableton?)

any suggestions?

BTW- normally I cant see the point in having hardware transport because the keyboard shortcuts for these functions are so …functional. but I am currently working on a project that requires lots of transcription, so it would be useful to have Cubase running with Word or Finale running on top - be able to remote control cubase transport so that the mouse does not have to leave word or Finale while transcribing. When not doing something like this - why bother with hardware transport - what is wrong with space bar etc?

I have a novation SL zero (original one) works fine with Cubase on my MACBook, works with Reason and ableton on my PC. CANNOT invest any more time in trying to get it to work with CUBASE on my PC (the transport controls work but nothing else).

I don’t think AI works in applications other than cubase, but it sends midi so you can assign it to things in that software like you normally would.
If I were you I’d shop around for a second hand cc121. I got mine for 225 which is half the newprice. After a bit of cleaning it’s as new. Seeing as these are very sturdy, there’s a good chance they survive the first owner very well. Do try it out if possible beforehand obviously.

I’m watching this topic because I too am a fan of the AlphaTrack but yes, it’s discontinued and I would have plumped for the CC121 except for my doubts in Steinberg’s commitment to ongoing support of their hardware (which has recently been restored somewhat since the ‘unsupported’ Midex drivers for Win7x64 were released).

I fixed this to a large degree by opening it up and stuffing foam into it

I’m assuming the might of Yamaha is behind recent Steinberg hardware offerings so that increases confidence somewhat.

The CC121 does not need a specialized driver by it’s own. The device is not class compliant but it shares the same generic MIDI driver with all Yamaha keyboards and all Steinberg/Yamaha controllers including the new CMC series. As long as all these devices are not abandoned the CC121 should continue to work fine even if the device itself is discontinued at some point.

But this is just the OS/driver support. Application support is a totally different story.

You may want to look into the new controllers as I feel the CC121 has been left behind already. Sad, but I still prefer it over the new controllers for the build quality itself.

+1 :smiley:

it’s a more seamless integration with cubase than even the euphonix controllers I have.