7 Best DAW Control Surfaces (That Don’t Suck)

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  • Take full control over your music with a specialized DAW control surface.
  • Here are the 7 best picks for all major DAWs!

A good control surface will allow you to produce, record, and mix in a much more intuitive manner.

It will literally put the control at your fingertips, recreating part of that feeling of working with a real studio console, but without sacrificing any of the advantages a modern DAW offers.

It may also help with physical issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, which can arise due to extended use of the computer mouse.

(For the ultimate roundup of portable MIDI controllers, look no further than our list of the 7 Best Portable MIDI Keyboards (For Traveling Musicians))

What Are The 7 Best DAW Control Surfaces?

The PreSonus FaderPort 8 is our pick for the best control surface, as it has that balance of features, portability, and comes at an affordable price.

For those that are very budget-conscious, the Behringer X-Touch Mini is our best value option. Pros that demand the best are going to love our premium option, the Mackie MCU Pro.

Also, we need to give an honorable mention to the Solid State Logic UF8, as it is one of the best choices available in the market today for control surfaces.

Overall, these are our candidates for the 7 best DAW controls surfaces:

  1. PreSonus Fader Port 8 (Our Pick)
  2. Behringer X-Touch Mini (Best Value)
  3. Mackie MCU Pro (Premium Option)
  4. Korg nanoKONTROL2
  5. Roland AIRA MX-1
  6. Solid State Logic UF8
  7. Avid S1 EUCON

1. PreSonus FaderPort 8 (Our Pick)

PreSonus designed the FaderPort 8 for saving time while mixing and controlling your DAW.

This 8-fader control surface features 100 mm motorized, touch-sensitive faders that handle nicely and follow automation accurately.

Channel controls include all the standards, such as level, pan, solo, mute, and record arm, and a full set of digital scribble strip displays also help to keep you on track.

The FaderPort 8 has native support for PreSonus Studio One, and support for HUI and Mackie Control Universal protocols so you can use it with virtually any DAW software.

OUR PICK
PreSonus FaderPort 8 8-Channel USB Control Surface
$599.95

This 8-fader control surface features 100mm motorized, touch-sensitive faders that handle effortlessly and follow automation precisely.

Why We Love It:
  • Allows you to work more efficiently
  • Especially good for beginners
  • Comes with useful software tools
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09/22/2021 02:44 am GMT

Features

  • Motorized control surface for Mac and PC
  • Mix with precision via 8 touch-sensitive, 100 mm motorized faders
  • Identify channels at a glance via 8 high-definition scribble strips
  • General session controls include Undo/Redo, Arm All, Solo/Mute Clear, and Click On/Off with tap tempo
  • Session Navigator controls include Track Scrolling, Channel Banking, Timeline Scrolling, and more

Review

The main transport section of the PreSonus FaderPort 8 allows you to work more efficiently.

Besides all the standard transport controls, you get general session controls such as undo/redo, solo/mute clear, track management, and more, plus you can switch automation modes instantly.

Another solid feature on the FaderPort 8 is Session Navigator. This handles crucial tasks such as track scrolling, channel banking, and other navigation needs.

Dedicated buttons make it easy to create tracks for recording, view buses, and VCAs. Four programmable User buttons enable you to put your most-needed DAW functions right where you need them.

Additionally, this PreSonus control surface allows you to use the faders to edit plug-in settings and bus sends.  If you are new to recording, then the FaderPort may be particularly attractive.

This is because your purchase of the FaderPort 8 includes PreSonus’ DAW Studio One Artist and several other software tools to help you start recording via a computer.

You also get the Studio Magic plug-in suite, an extensive collection of popular plug-ins that includes emulations of classic studio gear from legendary manufacturers. And since these plug-ins are available in AAX, VST, and AU formats, they’re compatible with any DAW.

2. Behringer X-Touch Mini (Best Value)

For years, Behringer has been known for providing affordable solutions to music makers. This German company is particularly known for its low-cost mixers that are an affordable alternative to more expensive solutions.

The X-Touch Mini brings the Behringer ethos to a DAW control surface and is our best value choice for those that need it.

BEST VALUE
Behringer X-Touch Mini
$132.72

If you're looking for full-scale DAW and plug-in control, without the full-scale footprint, then the Behringer X-Touch Mini USB control surface was made for you.

Why We Love It:
  • User friendly
  • Versatile
  • Value for Money
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09/21/2021 02:13 pm GMT

Features

  • 8 rotary controls with LED collars for easy parameters adjustment
  • 16 dedicated illuminated buttons for transport and other functions
  • 2 completely independent layers with 25 control elements each
  • Control plug-ins and DAWs via MIDI or Mackie Control protocols
  • Ultra-compact design for seamless integration with other Behringer X-Touch models

Review

The Behringer X-Touch Mini Ultra-Compact Universal USB Control Surface allows the user to manipulate several aspects of their production software with their fingertips.

In typical Behringer fashion, this controls surface is user-friendly and versatile as well.

With the X-Touch Mini, you get hands-on control for all popular Digital Audio Workstations, instruments, effects, and even lighting applications.

The X-Touch Mini comes with built-in Mackie Control emulation that allows you to work with practically any professional audio production software. Best of all, it is ready to go as soon as you take it from the box.

This Behringer control surface features a 60 mm master fader and a Dual Layer Mode for fast changes between DAW and instrument control. The Dual Layer Mode also allows you to switch between any two applications.

For instance, a DJ can use one layer for virtual synths and the other to control lighting during a performance. You could also control lighting on one layer and playback from a DAW on the other.

This control surface comes pre-configured with control elements for instant operation out of the box. In case you wish, you are also able to customize the experience with a free, downloadable, and user-friendly editor app.

Now you can finally give up using just a mouse with this very budget-conscious control surface by Behringer.

3. Mackie MCU Pro

The Mackie MCU Pro was designed to bridge the gap between the unlimited possibilities in a DAW and the organic feel of faders and knobs at your fingertips.

It features a simple USB plug-and-play setup and will work with nearly any DAW.

This is our premium choice for the discerning individual that prefers real motorized touch-sensitive faders, buttons, and assignable V-pots for a complete and immersive music-making experience from a control surface.

PREMIUM OPTION
Mackie MCU Pro
$1,299.99

The Mackie MCU Pro control surface completes your music production software by giving you ultimate hands-on control of your mix.

Why We Love It:
  • Touch-sensitive control surface
  • Gives you hands-on control of your mix
  • Ultra-precise control
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09/22/2021 11:49 am GMT

Features

  • Expandable touch-sensitive control surface with 100 mm Alps motorized faders
  • Proprietary Mackie communication protocol for easy production software integration
  • V-Pot control over software, plug-in effects, and virtual instruments
  • More than 50 dedicated buttons for fine control of software parameters
  • Tape-style transport controls

Review

The Mackie MCU Pro is a touch-sensitive control surface that allows you to add a real console feel and analog vibe to your workflow.

It features Mackie’s Proprietary communication protocol for easy software integration and MIDI interface for direct connection to your computer and external MIDI gear.

This lets you get the most out of your software, giving you accurate control over setups and control surface assignments, with no mapping required.

The Mackie MCU Pro’s 100 mm touch-sensitive Alps motorized faders give you an accurate, smooth, real-console feel, and provides that unique organic feel to your DAW productions.

This control surface also features more than 50 dedicated buttons, accurate V-Pot rotary encoders, plug-in effects, and virtual instruments. With the detailed backlit LCD, you can easily monitor your mixes in real-time.

Overall, this is a premier yet still compact choice for having the control of your DAW at your fingertips, from one of the most respected names in the business.

4. Korg nanoKONTROL2

Korg needs no introduction among musicians and producers in general. This Japanese juggernaut has been in business for over half a century and continues to be a leader in the MIDI and audio world.

For control surfaces, Korg gives us the nanoKONTROL2, made primarily for laptop computers and with characteristics and versatility that will surely appeal to musicians on the go.

Korg nanoKONTROL2 MIDI Control Surface
$74.99

The Korg nanoKontrol 2 builds on the success of the original Korg nano-series with a new and improved design and even more powerful features.

Why We Love It:
  • Portable
  • New and improved design
  • Solid performance
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09/22/2021 09:39 am GMT

Features

  • USB powered for portability
  • New and improved design for solid performance and enhanced responsiveness
  • Korg Kontrol Editor to adjust min/max values for each encoder
  • Dedicated transport buttons for mobile musicians
  • Track select and marker controls for a fast workflow

Review

The Korg nanoKONTROL2 provides eight channels to control your music software. It features a dedicated transport control section with buttons that have been carefully selected to provide simple and intuitive control.

Major DAW programs like ProTools, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, and many more are supported, with no need to make complicated connection settings.

(Is Logic Pro a better DAW than Ableton Live? Find out how they stack up against each other in our head-to-head shootout!)

A knob, fader, and three switches are provided for each of the eight channels, respectively assigned to pan, volume, and solo/mute/record.

There’s also a marker button, making it easy to assign marks at critical points in your track for more effective recording and production. If you’re using a software synthesizer, you can assign parameters to the desired controllers for easy control.

For instance, you could use the faders to control the ADSR of an envelope generator, and use the knobs to control the filter’s cutoff frequency and resonance.

Each one of the three nanoSERIES2 models is available in either bold black or bright white, to make sure you produce and control in style!

It is important to mention that this control surface works with a single USB cable, making it a quite portable music production system.

The nanoSERIES2 controllers can also be used with an iPad, without an external power supply. However, Korg does not guarantee this compatibility, and problems may occur as Apple updates their OS and/or new models are launched.

The nanoKONTROL2 works with the KORG Kontrol Editor software. This software is available for free on the KORG website and installing it will allow you to make detailed customized settings.

5. Roland AIRA MIX-1

If you are looking for a comprehensive solution to integrate with your DAW and offer a real fader mix feel, then the Roland AIRA MX-1 might be what you need.

With this control surface, you’ll have control of your synths, drum machines, audio tracks, and more. Designed for live performance, the AIRA MIX-1 is also a fantastic tool for the studio.

Roland AIRA MIX-1
$649.99

Roland created the AIRA line to expand your performance beyond anything you've experienced before, and the new MX-1 Mix Performer performance mixer follows that same philosophy to the letter.

Why We Love It:
  • Offers a real fader mix feel
  • Extensive options
  • Limitless creative possibilities
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09/22/2021 07:10 am GMT

Features

  • 18-channel performance mixer with step-sequenced channel and master effects
  • Per-channel Beat FX including filter, sidechain, and slicer
  • 6 channel-assignable Master FX with a large performance control knob
  • AIRA Link support for automatic 2-way control with one cable
  • Acts as a MIDI control surface with transport controls to navigate your DAW easily

Review

The MX-1’s input section provides enough flexibility to make music any way you like. This control surface features six analog channels with digital I/O and a MIDI interface that are all mixed and managed through the MX-1’s intuitive workflow.

The Roland AIRA MX-1 lets you use elements from your analog synth collection alongside your DAW and other computer-based instruments, creating possibilities that are positively limitless.

On the I/O front, the MX-1 features 1/4″ inputs for connecting synths, drum machines, and more, an 1/8″ stereo input for audio from iPad, phones, or computer, digital inputs that include USB and digital coaxial, and MIDI in and out for using instruments and audio units with 5-pin MIDI connections.

Additionally, Roland added four dedicated AIRA Link USB ports to the input section, giving you automatically enabled 2-way control of any AIRA instrument.

Other features of the MX-1 include 6 variable fader curves on each channel for precise control of your mix, a Mix mode for standalone mixer control and effects for all inputs and outputs, and an External mode for up to 18 channels of DAW audio.

The MX-1 cab functions as a MIDI control surface with transport controls to navigate your DAW easily.

It also features a Tone/Filter knob on each channel with 10 types of EQs, filters, and isolators for detailed sound shaping.

Additionally, you also get Scene Memory for instant save and recall capabilities (including tempo and effects) for entire mixes. Overall, the Roland AIRA MX-1 is a fantastic choice for the music maker that needs extensive options for a control surface.

6. Solid State Logic UF8

The Solid State Logic UF8 is an advanced DAW control surface with eight motorized, touch-sensitive faders; nine push/push rotary encoders and eight high-resolution LCD TFT displays.

For decades, the name SSL has been synonymous with world-class recording consoles and now they bring their know-how to the design of the UF8.

Solid State Logic UF8 Advanced DAW Controller

The Solid State Logic UF8 is an advanced DAW control surface with eight motorized, touch-sensitive faders; nine push/push rotary encoders and eight high-resolution LCD TFT displays.

Why We Love It:
  • Offers superb hands-on control of your DAW
  • Touch-sensitive faders
  • Superior control surface
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Features

  • Robust all-metal enclosure with brushed, anodized top plate
  • Expandable: connect up to 4 UF8s to create a 32-channel DAW controller
  • Works with major DAWs: Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Cubase, Nuendo, Studio One, and Ableton Live
  • Up to 3 different DAWs may be connected simultaneously
  • Compatible with SSL Origin modular center section

Review

The SSL UF8 offers you superb hands-on control of your DAW to facilitate your workflow and let you delve into your creativity.

This control surface is highly customizable and allows you to configure essential shortcuts and custom macros and save them as profiles.

Basically, the SSL UF8 can be set up any way that fits you, allowing you to have a seamless workflow from tracking, to editing, and mixing.

While the UF8 gives you abundant control over large sessions by navigating between channel banks, you can choose to augment it if you wish.

SSL makes it easy to integrate up to four UF8 control surfaces for an impressive 32 channels of hands-on DAW control. The units are daisy-chained via the UF8’s USB-A port, and the SSL 360° app takes care of the integration.

Operationally, the UF8 works seamlessly with major DAWs (Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Cubase, Nuendo, Studio One, and Ableton Live ) three of which can be connected concurrently.

SSL’s dedicated 360° software for macOS and Windows takes care of the configuration with your DAW(s) and you can drag and drop to reorder UF8s in a multi-surface configuration and customize the user keys on the control surface with your choice of DAW commands or keyboard shortcuts.

Additionally, SSL 360° automatically saves any changes you make in the background (you can always undo them as well). It also manages software and firmware updates automatically.

Simply said, this is a superior control surface from one of the top names in the audio industry.

7. Avid S1 EUCON

With the Avid S1, you can enhance your workflow with the fantastic speed, visual feedback, and software integration of Avid’s high-end consoles in a compact control surface that’s big on features but easy on your budget.

Avid incorporated advanced features from its impressive full-sized consoles into S1, including responsive, motorized, touch-sensitive faders, touch-sensitive knobs, and touchscreen-integrated keys.

Avid S1 EUCON Desktop Control Surface

Whether you're involved in music, video, or audio post-production, now you can get the most out of Pro Tools with the compact, versatile Avid S1.

Why We Love It:
  • Speedy workflow
  • Powered by EuCon
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Features

  • 8-fader unit with touch-sensitive motorized faders, touch-sensitive knobs, and touchscreen-integrated keys
  • Automation LEDs, track color switches
  • Compatible with the free Avid Control app for iOS and Android
  • High-speed EuCon Ethernet protocol
  • Also compatible with other DAWs and software, including Cubase, Logic Pro, Premiere Pro, and more

Review

The S1 control surface is powered by EuCon. This is perhaps the most impressive feature of this DAW control surface.

EuCon is a high-speed control protocol developed by Avid that enables deep hardware/software integration and simultaneous full-touch control of multiple Avid and 3rd-party software functions over Ethernet. EuCon is capable of performing 250 times faster and eight times the resolution of MIDI.

It automatically detects whatever application is in the foreground and instantly sets the high-resolution touchscreen and displays, motorized faders, and arsenal of controls to match.

The S1 also features a high-resolution OLED display and ships with free Avid Control app, deep integration with Pro Tools and Media Composer, plus native support for 3rd-party audio and video applications.

Additionally, this Avid control surface comes with high-res metering, including gain reduction, 9.1 surround support, automation status, EQ, dynamics, and panning graphs.