The Novation Remote SL keyboard has been intriguing since it was first announced way back in October: imagine a keyboard/control surface that automatically displayed what you were doing on LCDs, and assigned its copious knobs and faders to useful functions. Now, it finally seems to be shipping, and while CDM broke the story that it would support Ableton Live last fall, Novation has made that information official.

So, what exactly does the Remote SL control?

Live 5: Mixer and recording on the right side; instruments on the left (automatically selected when you choose a Live device). Note that not everything is assigned in Live; the pots and pads have to be manually assigned.

Logic 7: Both an Instrument Mode and Mixer Mode (apparently each takes over the whole keyboard rather than splitting it as with Live).

Cubase SX/SL 3: Cubase gets the most extensive control of the three. As with Logic, there’s an Instrument Mode and Mixer Mode. Instrument Mode in Cubase, however, works with all your VSTs generically, and Mixer Mode not only controls obvious functions like level, but FX sends, routing, and even individual track metering on the LCDs. Nuendo has similar features.

Reason 3: Reason is probably the best of the bunch here, because the assignments and mappings are set up in advance for this sort of thing. Even switching between Mixer and Instrument modes is as simple as clicking the MIDI in on each.

Needless to say, if you’re using one of these three hosts and have room for a new keyboard, you’d be crazy not to consider the Remote SL. It’s available in 2, 3, and 5 octave versions, so you could get one as a 25-key supplement to your existing keys, or make it your primary controller.

It is interesting to note, however, that this is far from a panacea. In most hosts, Automapping is constrained to controlling built-in instruments. There are a significant number of hosts (SONAR, Pro Tools, Digital Performer) left out entirely, to say nothing of some synths (Reaktor, FL Studio, Kontakt, to name just a few) you might want to map automatically. And, of course, the whole solution is tied to an individual keyboard. The only way to get Automap is to get a Remote SL; the SL keyboards will be flash-updated with new software support, but not other Novation keyboards.

Of course, as a keyboard, the Novation still has very appealing features: that’s quite a control surface they’ve packed into a compact space, with all the usual Novation extras like a pitch/mod joystick, X/Y touchpad controller, and aftertouch.

I hope to get the chance to test this keyboard once review units start shipping, as it is a truly intriguing concept, and my brief hands-on time suggest it’s a very high-quality instrument.

Remote SL Product Page

Automap Support Details, By App []


@AES: Novation’s New Soft Synth-Playing Smart Keyboard Hands-on