By Jack Elias
I recently had the opportunity to demo the PreSonus FaderPort® 8, an 8 channel production controller, designed for use with virtually any Digital Audio Workstation, especially the tightly-integrated Studio One® software. (Studio One Artist is included.) I’ve recorded voiceovers and produced audio using Logic Pro X for several years, and the FaderPort integrates and works flawlessly with Logic. Compared to my previous mouse-keyboard-trackpad navigation (and even automation tweaking), my workflow time has literally been cut in half. I also tested Studio One Professional, and with the control offered by FaderPort within that, I may just switch before long as new projects come up.
Setup is simple. Plug in to power, connect to your Mac with the included USB 2.0 cable, and power on. You’re encouraged to first update your firmware to the latest version, and Universal Control software is provided free from presonus.com to get updates for all your compatible products (my AudioBox iTwo immediately appeared in it as well). When you launch Logic, FaderPort 8 auto-configures as a Mackie Control Universal device.
The FaderPort 8 is pre-configured for and defaults to the Studio One setup. To change to other built-in DAW support, hold the first 2 channel select buttons when powering on. For me, I then choose MCU control, then Logic, then Exit via the channel select buttons (Your selections are visible on the Digital Scribble Strip screens above the buttons.) The FaderPort 8 remembers your setup until you change it again.
I have to say, FaderPort 8 works flawlessly in Logic Pro X. My default project template is 8 tracks, and when I launch a project, the FaderPort 8 snaps to attention, the faders go to zero (or to where you left off in an existing project). It’s satisfying to hear that swish as it wakes up. Each channel strip displays my Channel Name, metering, pan position value and a visual pan display in its scribble strip. I have immediate tactile control of channel select, mutes, solos, volume, and pan (via a universal Pan/Parameter pot which works on the selected track. I actually prefer this to 8 tinier pan-pots. Less clutter and, at least in my work, I don’t fiddle with the stereo position that much. Pan can also be controlled by pushing the Pan button in the adjacent Fader Mode section, and using the faders to control pan on all 8 tracks at once.) There’s also a Select Button Modifier section on the left, allowing you to arm tracks for recording, all or individually, and solo and out clears for one-button convenience.
A favorite feature of the Fader Mode section is Edit Plugins. There are 2 modes for Logic, Mix Focus or Channel Focus. By using the Pan/Parameter knob, and the corresponding faders, you have fine control over all your channel plug-ins, so much better and faster for tweaking EQ, compressor settings, and whatever else you’ve selected for a channel. Do that with a mouse on the onscreen dials!
Where the FaderPort 8 really shines is in writing automation. Those long (100mm throw) motorized and ergonomically designed faders transport me right back to my glory days on the radio. I can monitor a project, easily switch between Latch, Touch, Read and Write in the Automation Control section above the Session Navigator. I can easily adjust volume, pan and even tweak plug-ins and sends, all with a tap of a button and a slide of a fader, with feedback in the scribble strips, and everything’s reflected onscreen in real time. The motorized faders then follow my commands when I play the mix back. It’s awesome.
The transport controls are another timesaver. Nice, big, substantial feeling colored & illuminated buttons for play, pause, rewind, fast forward, record and stop, and a handy Loop button (great for listening to that one section for tweaking.) In fact, all buttons illuminate, and when you use Studio One, even your track color selections are reflected on each channel, a subtle but welcome touch. Another simple but appreciated feature: The user manual has separate sections detailing use with Studio One, Logic, ProTools and many other DAWs, making setup and usage a breeze without having to hunt for answers.
Above the transport controls is the Session Navigator. I have to say, I live in there a lot (once I resolved to stop touching the mouse.) Eight buttons select what the large push-button Encoder knob and the previous/next buttons control, Channel, Master, Zoom, Click, Scroll, Section, Bank, and Marker. Holding the shift-key gives me my F1-F8 Screensets, so handy and w/o using the keyboard. Zoom and Scroll work great as I spin and click to points in the project, and zoom in and out, or jump from region to region, again without touching the mouse or keyboard. This alone has sped up my workflow enormously, and it feels so good to be hands-on the mixing board.
All in all, with FaderPort 8 project time is halved, which gives me time for more projects. Fine, familiar, weighted and motorized fader control for almost any DAW is welcome from “click and hope”, as it was for me before. Studio One does have a steep learning curve, but the control you have with FaderPort, you can just about hide the keyboard and mouse away in a drawer. My mighty 27” iMac with this tool and my big condenser voiceover mic connected, now feels like a traditional production studio, which is what I was after, and at a price that can’t be bested, even at more than twice as much money. Plus, it looks great on the desk and fits in with my existing tools. I can absolutely recommend a PreSonus FaderPort 8 for anyone who wants to outfit a home studio, or even a professional one, without breaking their budget.
Thanks to PreSonus for the demo, I believe I’ll just keep this FaderPort 8 right here on my desk.