We go hands-on with the PreSonus FaderPort USB DAW Controller.
Written By Barry Rudolph
FaderPort is the latest addition to the PreSonus line of low-cost, "must-have" accessories for any studio—be it project, home, or pro. FaderPort is a standalone control surface for any DAW-based studio that communicates to the host program over a standard USB port. FaderPort lets you mix "inside the box" using familiar and ergonomic "outside the box" controls—real knobs, buttons and a single 100mm motorized fader. FaderPort is host software and platform agnostic—it'll work perfectly with Cubase, Nuendo, Logic Sonar, Digital Performer, Pro Tools (via HUI protocol), and many more on either PCs or Macs.
Work faster and better
In my Pro Tools studio, FaderPort resides just to the right of my trackball and has elevated my mixing quality, speed, and precision to new heights. Quality is increased because with a real fader I can do proper fades and level rides that are not possible or as smooth as those done with a mouse. Speed is increased because I spend less time doing breakpoint or graphical automation cleanups for tricky moments—especially momentary lead vocal bump and grinds. And the precision is better because the high-quality, touch-sensitive Alps fader feels and works just like the faders on high-end studio consoles. The fader has 1,024 steps of resolution (10-bit—the same as pro fader automation systems use) and uses a dual-servo belt-drive motor design that is fast and smooth.
Wait, there's more!
If the motorized fader was all there was to FaderPort, most would be happy but PreSonus adds complete automation controls using rugged, positive-feeling military-grade lighted push buttons.
There are buttons for quickly scrolling through and selecting banks of tracks. This is a big timesaver when mixing songs with large track counts. Once you're in a bank you want to work on, a right and left arrow button switches back and forth from track to track—such as when mixing a lead vocal and its accompanying (usually placed adjacently) double-tracked vocal. You can also just click on another track in the group of eight and FaderPort's fader jumps to that track. This common-sense approach will help you organize your sessions into logical banks of instruments and vocals. FaderPort makes it easier to achieve good internal balance of drum kits, background vocal stacks, or elaborate, multi-keyboard productions.
In addition to complete automated fader mode buttons such as Read, Write, Touch, and Off (where the motorized fader is powered down), you can solo any track and automate any mute button. I especially love the continuous Pan control. If you have ever tried to make a smooth panning move by click-dragging a small onscreen knob using a mouse, you'll love this great feature! Another handy control is the Output button that immediately switches the motor fader to the master output fader of your mix. I wish this worked in Pro Tools as my habit is to put the master at the far right of the onscreen mixer. Instead of having to scroll down there, I could just push the Output button. Cool beans! PreSonus advises to watch for firmware updates so perhaps this feature will be available in a later version.
Transport yourself to audio heaven
FaderPort also has extensive transport controls with facilities to loop sections of your song, punch in and out, return-to-zero, and fast-forward/rewind. I occasionally work with producers who prefer to do their own punches and these buttons keep them away from the front of my computer monitor and away from any quick keys that, if accidentally pushed, might send my session to the moon!
Lastly, FaderPort has quick keys for changing window views in your DAW program. The Trns button calls up the transport window while a Shift key brings up another layer of controls for setting and recalling markers. The very handy Undo/Redo button lets you rethink and reverse your moves easily.
With a rugged metal top plate and a footswitch jack for handsfree punch in/out, FaderPort is rugged and ideal for producer-performers. It works perfectly and greatly improves the world of computer DAW mixing with tool set a of essential, hardware controls.
Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer.