DAW Controller Roundup

Get more from your Digital Recording Workstation software by pairing it with one of our best DAW Controller recommendations.


Whether you are a hobbyist or seriously into music production, having a good DAW controller will make a lot of difference - so we took our time to find the most sought after DAW control surfaces within a reasonable price range. Although you can control your DAW with just your mouse and keyboard, you'll be missing out on the tactile feel and ease of use that these DAW controllers can provide - a controller is really the best way to go.

Our selection includes controllers for those that prefer full analog control, with great mixer functionality, compatibility and integration. We have also thrown in a few compact and affordable DAW controllers for those that are starting out or are working within a budget.

We also suggest you take a loot at these multitrack recorders because many of them also work as DAW controllers and audio interfaces giving you three pieces of gear for the price of one.

Solid State Logic Nucleus

With a wide array of motorized control options, support for various DAW platforms and impressive multi-DAW networking, Solid State Logic Nucleus gets the top spot.

Basic interface with popular software like Pro Tools, Nuendo and Logic is a given, and it offers deep control customization that is praised by users and reviewers. The control layout is also very intuitive and convenient - with some practice, you can have all your work done within the SSL Nucleus - greatly increasing your productivity and efficiency. Aside from its excellent control performance, the SSL Nucleus also comes with built-in preamps and USB soundcard. It may not be as affordable as we want to but it is well worth the investment. Manufactured by: Solid State Logic | Usually Retails for $5,149.

Roland V-Studio 700

Roland and Cakewalk teamed up to create the V-Studio 700, a hardware unit that offers tight and seamless integration with Sonar.

The Roland V-Studio 700 or also called Cakewalk V-Studio 700 is simply the best choice if you are using the said software. Having tightly knit integration with Sonar means that this controller lacks the flexibility to control other DAWs, however it more than makes up for this lack by having deep and quick software integration - resulting in faster setups and quick access to parameters normally hidden by multiple menus. The physical aspect of the V-Studio 700 is also impressive, backed by Roland's years of experience with consoles, mixers and interfaces - the knobs, motorized faders, buttons and jog wheel are solid and built to last. Other features of this Sonar controller include Roland quality audio interface and Roland's Fantom VS synth. Manufactured by: Roland | Usually Retails for $2,999.

Euphonix Artist Control

Designed by the same company that makes Pro Tools, Euphonix Artist Control is a powerful DAW controller in a compact package.

It is especially compatible with Pro Tools, but it also works great with Eucon enabled software like Sonar, Logic, Nuendo and many others. It comes with quality motorized faders, programmable knobs and buttons for traditional physical control, and it has a touchscreen interface which you can customize to give you full control over your DAW and your workflow. The LED-backlit touchscreen interface provides quick access to functions and has simplified the work of many satisfied producers. Finally, all these features are housed in a light and compact package that can easily sit between your keyboard and computer monitor. For its price range, you will be hard pressed to find a better deal. Manufactured by: Avid | Usually Retails for $1,500.

Mackie Control Universal Pro-8

The Mackie Control Universal Pro-8 is currently among the best selling DAW control surfaces available and for a good reason, it has the right features and compatibility at just the right price.

Although its wide array of buttons, knobs and faders can be a bit intimidating, and setting up can be a bit tricky, you will find that the Universal Pro-8 provides impressive deep controls that you would not expect from a multi-DAW controller. Users of various DAWs from FL Studio, Cubase to Logic are almost unanimous in saying that they are satisfied with this controller's programmability and compatibility. It also doesn't hurt that the Mackie Control Universal Pro08 maintains a slick traditional mixer look, allowing for a straightforward interface that will simplify music production duties. Manufactured by: Mackie | Usually Retails for under $1,200

Steinberg CC121

Cubase and Nuendo users who are looking for a compact DAW control surface will find the Steinberg CC121 appealing.

This elegant but rugged single channel controller will give your desktop and music production work flow a stylish make over. Although it only comes with controls for a single channel, you can switch from channel to channel at will, this gives you deep mixing controls without the extra bulk - letting you save on both desktop space and cash. Since Steinberg specifically designed the CC121 for their DAW software, it does not have the flexibility of universal controllers, however it makes up with advanced integration options that give you control over parameters, effects and VST settings. Manufactured by: Steinberg | Usually Retails for under $500 |

Novation ZeRO SL MkII

If you are looking for a compact DAW control surface that gives you great visual feedback, then the ZeRO SL Mk II controller is for you.

This controller comes with well placed back-lit buttons and encoder LED rings that lets you easily see your parameter settings, making it ideal for live use. Aside from being compact and portable, this controller also upholds Novation's reputation for building quality hardware - with robust knobs, faders and buttons as well as ergonomically spaced controls. Its automap software is surprisingly good for a universal DAW controller, users are happy with its quick start up integration with popular DAWs like Ableton, Cubase, Logic, Reason etc. It also doesn't hurt that the Novation ZeRO SL MkII looks sleek and elegant. Manufactured by: Novation | Usually Retails for under $300

Akai Professional APC40

The Ableton sanctioned Akai Professional APC40 continues to be the most commonly used Ableton Live controller, even with Ableton's own hardware controller "Push" on the horizon.

The APC40 is designed to integrate tightly with the software giving it a low latency performance. Being designed for Ableton Live, the APC40 is meant for live performance use, sporting responsive controls and good visual monitoring. Its clip matrix of 40 triggers gives you an instant view of clip status, while the LED rings surrounding each knob indicate the parameters set values. It is designed to give you immediate feedback and let you see your track in dark venues. Finally all these features are packed inside a rugged, metal chassis with solid feeling controls. Manufactured by: Akai Professional | Usually Retails for under $500

Behringer BCF2000 B-Control Fader

Behringer loves to challenge the accepted balance of quality and affordability, and the BCF2000 B-Control Fader is an example of that.

This is an affordable DAW mixer surface that is not too small and does not feel cheap. Although some say that this controller merely emulates its more expensive competitors, it does so in a way that does not disappoint even experienced users. It is hard not to like its "price to feature" ratio - the BCF2000 is packed with features including full MIDI In/Out/Thru capability, USB support, 8 endless rotary encoders with 15-element LED indicators and a push-to-set function that lets you control a myriad of DAW parameters. As long as take extra care with its plastic parts, it will serve you and your music production well without emptying your wallet. Manufactured by: Behringer | Usually Retails for about $300

PreSonus FaderPort

Musicians and producers that are always on the go and produce music on their laptops will appreciate the PreSonus FaderPort.

This handy gadget is a small DAW controller that gives you the feel and vibe of analog controls without being too bulky. The PreSonus FaderPort is a single-fader USB controller that can control single and group channel volume, pan and mute automation. Its motorized fader is touch sensitive, while the knobs and buttons are surprisingly robust for its size. Its most sought after feature is volume automation, and it is also known for being very easy to setup and use. The PreSonus FaderPort is truly a small and road worthy DAW companion, and comes at a very affordable price. Manufactured by: Presonus | Usually Retails for under $150

Korg nanoKONTROL2

Korg's nanoKONTROL2 is a compact DAW control surface packed with impressive features. Korg was able to fit eight channel controls into its small frame, with each channel having its own knob, fader, and three switches.

This small sized controller can control you're DAW's pan, volume, and solo/mute/record which are essential when recording automation for multiple channels. To set up your portable music production system, all you need is a single USB cable will let the Korg nanoKONTROL2 communicate with your DAW and at the same time power up the controller. Power and USB-MIDI data travels down the same wire for a clean, efficient workspace. Aside from working with your laptops, nanoKONTROL2 also works with iPads making it an essential and versatile and compact tool for musicians and producers that are always on the move. Manufactured by: Korg | Usually Retails for under $70.

Related Article:
The Best DAW Software
Cheap USB Microphones

Share This Article        

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

DAW Remote

Personally I like the Avid C24 even though it's kinda big. Avid Artist Control is a great alternative if you want something smaller. Has anyone ever heard of the DAW Remote iPhone app yet? it's amazing. check it out.

Novation Nocturn

Do not miss this little wonder !!