Finally, Connect a USB Hub and Audio in One Gadget, on Laptop or iPad

File this directly under “why has no one done this properly before?” One of the few remaining annoyances in computer music making is just getting connected. First, you need an audio interface to get proper sound and headphone cueing. Then, you’ve got all this great gear for control – but where to put it? Macs and even many new PCs have few USB ports (especially ultrathin notebooks like the MacBook Air). Yes, it’s about time someone combined a practical audio interface with a USB hub. Focusrite/Novation seem to be the right folks for the job. Focusrite’s audio interfaces are some …

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This Could Be Your Next DJ or Visual Controller: Allen & Heath Xone:K1

UK DJ builder Allen & Heath may be best known as a mixer company, not so much a controller maker. But that’s a pity, because they make one of the most compelling controller units on the market. Spoiler alert – the K1, like the K2 before it, feels great, has a terrific layout, works with anything you like, and more or less beats every other slim-line controller for DJing or VJing. Whatever you own now, you may find yourself wanting one of these to go along with it.

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Serato DJs Get Slim-Line Controllers at Last, with New Akai Hardware

Serato DJs swear by their software. But one thing they haven’t had lately is a lot of choice in DJ controller hardware. Sure, there’s now a range of hardware getting updated for the latest software. But even after a transition to the new Serato DJ platform, almost all of this hardware is of the “really wide with two big wheels” variety. That big hardware is a big problem. It leaves out Serato DJs working with vinyl who just want some added control of the software. It adds two big platters, which are arguably something you don’t need in the first …

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This is What High-End Audio Can Do Now: New Trio of Thunderbolt Boxes from MOTU

You’d be forgiven for missing it in the blur of press releases and trade show hand-outs – and, let’s face it, most musicians are too focused on music to pay much mind. But slowly, steadily, audio interfaces have been getting a lot better. Talk to the people who make them, and they can tell you what’s happened even in terms of individual components. Next, they’re about to get smarter and more networked. And so that means it is worth paying attention today as industry heavyweight MOTU unveils a trio of new audio interfaces, compatible with Thunderbolt 1 and 2 and …

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24 Knobs, 8 Faders, 16 Buttons, in a Launchpad Form: Launch Control XL

If you’re reading this, and if you care about controllers at all, you’ve probably got one. Now the question is, what are you missing? LaunchControl XL is coming with a whole mess of handy faders and knobs if you’ve got more controls than you can map. In fact, while it would make an utterly horrid marketing statement, I would dub the slogan of this hardware like this: Twist knobs without having to constantly press shift and select keys or give up having some faders. There’s Push, of course, the Ableton-controlling flagship, complete with pressure- and velocity-sensitive grid. There’s AKAI’s former …

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The $100 BeatStep Sequencer and Controller: Everything You Want to Know [Review, Resources]

Even if Arturia’s BeatStep did nothing other than act as a dumb controller, it might get your attention. The compact control surface / sequencer hardware runs about $100 street. As a controller, it has both 16 pads and 16 endless encoders (with notches, so you can feel where you are), plus transport triggers and a larger encoder. With driverless USB operation, some of you will already be happy and can proceed. But the BeatStep is more ambitious than that. It has sophisticated software customization via a companion program, and a built-in step sequencer. It operates standalone, with MIDI gadgets or …

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Control, Shortcuts for Ableton Starting at $99: A Look at the New AKAI APC Line

For any tool that has “live” in the name, physical control will always be important. And so even with a broad market for controllers targeting Ableton’s flagship software, now including the slick Push hardware from Ableton themselves, AKAI’s re-vamped APC line earned intense interest when it debuted at Musikmesse this month. Let’s make sense of what the new APCs can do and how you might choose between models. I got some hands-on time at Messe, and now even in advance of a review of finished, shipping hardware, it’s worth teasing out the breakdown of the 2014 APC line. The original …

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Inside BeatStep: $99 Step Sequencer and Controller Looks Compact, Versatile [Q+A, Videos]

Every new season brings new music tools. Some of these designs, of course, are splashy and grab headlines. Some just look like no-brainers that will see heavy use in your work. Arturia’s BeatStep stood out at the recent NAMM trade show as just an insanely-great use of a hundred bucks, in a tiny box that sort of does everything you’d want. It’s a pad controller. But it’s also a step sequencer. It connects to your computer via USB. But it also does analog CV and MIDI (via breakouts) when your computer isn’t around. It works as a controller. It works …

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M-Audio Trigger Finger Pad Controller is Back – with a Step Sequencer, High-Res Screen

This is not your father’s Trigger Finger. The Trigger Finger has to be one of the biggest success stories in controllers, ever. Back before “controllerism” was a thing, this was what you took along – cheap, light, easy-to-abuse, it was a warhorse 4×4 grid of pads with faders. I’ve watched Flying Lotus tear up his; I’ve seen it win laptop battles. I’ve seen people play them with pads weirdly half ripped-off and all the knob and fader caps missing. I’ve seen Trigger Fingers that looked like someone dragged them through the mud tied to a pickup truck. (I knew that …

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Faderfox DJ44: Full, Rugged Aluminum DJ Controller for Ableton, Traktor – in a Case

If James Bond had a DJ controller, it might look like this. Faderfox, known primarily for ultra-small-form factor controllers, this time has something that looks more like a full-featured, two-deck (or four-deck), two-channel DJ controller. And that’s good news for people wanting a general-purpose, all-in-one DJ control surface with the Faderfox feel and features. The new “Solid Control” DJ44 sports the the usual selling points Faderfox has championed – high-end controls, an aluminum body, and unique hardware/software mapping integration features – but now in a single unit you can tote that does more or less everything. That’s all well and …

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