remoteslmkII_25 The ReMOTE SL Mk II series is on its way, an improved version of a controller keyboard of which we’ve been big fans at CDM. In an ideal world, there would be a truly standardized specification for control of music production software – and I still dream of mainstream OpenSoundControl support as a way to start to develop such control. But in the meantime, Novation has done a pretty intelligent job of mapping lots of functions in popular software so that they can feel fairly transparent to control.

The whole “automatic mapping” area is getting juicier, too, with new entries like the Akai APC40 for Ableton Live, and a set of keyboards from Avid/M-Audio focused on smart tangible mappings for software (including, naturally, Avid’s Pro Tools). As it happens, M-Audio just started shipping its own Axiom Pro this week. I want to give the Axiom ample coverage, so look for that starting next week – the short version is, the two keyboards take a different approach to layout and integration, and as a result there are some good arguments for each.

The SL does have a very nice keybed from Fatar, though, and a layout to which a lot of us are accustomed. So I talked to Novation about what was new in the Mk II that wasn’t already in the new Automap Pro 3 software. The software is already available for existing SL owners. But what’s new to the hardware?

Simon Halstead from Novation has a thoughtful set of answers for CDM. Have a look, and judge for yourself how this stacks up against the previous SL – I’m curious to hear from current and prospective owners what you think.

The SLMkII has the top feature requests from our users:

1) Led feedback in Buttons

2) Led feedback or Encoders

3) Touch sense on all moving controls

This allows a user to see the status/feedback of the entire unit without having to press row select buttons like you used to.

Apart from the obvious hardware changes, the main differences are in ‘architecture’. It has a more intuitive menu structure which is much quicker and easier to navigate.

– The Mk II has a dedicated Automap button – easier to switch between Advanced mode and back into Automap mode. (Advanced mode includes e.g. Live and Reason templates, and standard MIDI templates for hardware control).

– New ‘Quick Menu’ – gives access to parameters that need to be changed quickly / temporarily:  e.g. transposing keyboard / drum pads / MIDI channel / Tempo

– Dedicated (hardware labelled) Automap buttons on MKII, rather than soft-labelled Automap buttons on original SL.

– Transport buttons can be switched in or out – use the second row of buttons for controlling a plug-in or transport. 

Automap Experience

Automap has come a long way since the first version. The user now experiences a much simplified way to get to the Automap functions

USB Power

All this and the until can STILL be powered by USB…that’s no simple challenge

Speed dial

this can be used to take over mouse control, or when pushed and rotated, plug-in presets.

Improved drumpads

New soft feel improved design drumpads give a much nicer feel when playing drums

Automap Pro

New functions include keystroke commands (assigning QWERTY/ASCII key commands/key combination commands to controllers), multiple devices, Autoview, drag and drop etc. The decision to charge for Automap3 PRO was a difficult one, taken reluctantly to recoup some of the unexpectedly large development costs. Happily AM3 PRO is shipping with all SL Mk II’s so users can have all the extra functions out of the box.



Long throw faders AND the long awaited crossfader.

Plus it no fits into a 19" rack!

Did that make sense? If you have follow up questions, I’ll make sure to pass them along.

All in all, it looks like a subtle but significant set of improvements for the SL.

None of these keyboards fulfills my deep, personal wish, which is for a high-end, durable-but-light controller keyboard you can beat up on the road and want to keep forever. These keyboards are fine values, but I know quite a few people wish for a real “Pro” keyboard, not only in name but in the extreme durability you’d want in an instrument – and would pay the necessary price premium for it. But that’s a discussion for another day.

In the meantime, for the practical, plug-and-play computer keyboard solution that still feels reasonably nice to play and use as a controller, I think both the M-Audio and Novation are in the running. I’ve already gotten a number of queries via Twitter from readers, and hope to report back on both new keyboards soon. I know this is a major area of interest.

Right now, the only keyboard that fits comfortably in my bag is the Korg nanoKEY, which is coming along for my coach flight back from Lisbon, Portugal to Newark, USA. Can a keyboard work on a six-hour transatlantic flight? Guess I’ll find out. (My initial impression is that I’m more fond of the faders on the nanoKONTROL, so we’ll see if I can fit both for a nano-off.)

More on all these keys soon.