Many seasoned music engineers and producers will tell you that one of the biggest losses from analog music production to the era of digital music is not having physical knobs, faders and buttons to engage with in the recording / mixing process.
With modern DAWs offering the ability to do just about everything that professional recording studios with costly gear and invaluable boards could do, the interface of recording has gone from tweaking knobs and faders to clicking a mouse.
As a nod to the physical interfaces of old and respect for their part in the music making process, many manufacturers have continued to develop standalone physical products to drive their digital technology. Just this year, Roland re-released an updated version of its infamous TR-808 drum machine from the ‘80’s despite the fact that samples of it can be had for free online.
One of the best, and most affordable, devices to have come out to blend the analog interfaces of the past with today’s digital audio workstations is the $130 PreSonus FaderPort. The FaderPort is a small USB device that gives you one high-quality physical fader, along with multiple buttons, a playback transport and a panning knob for controlling your DAW.
The FaderPort fits easily on your desktop and allows you to do several of the functions you need to run your DAW, including recording and toggling between windows. However, the real benefit of the device is the fader itself, which you can use to lay down realtime automation on your tracks.
By riding each track in real time with the fader, with some practice you can start to make each of your tracks sound more expressive and musical. Also, the physical fader provides just enough control over the nuance and detail of your automation that you can really perform your mixing rather than just clicking point with your mouse.
Finally the FaderPort is simple enough that you can learn its interface and configuration fairly quickly. Once you get it down, you’ll likely be able to boost the speed of your mixing workflow significantly by having less clickable functions and more buttons to use.
Digital production makes music creation more and more possible with a keyboard and a mouse. Products like the FaderPort will continue to be relevant and important tools for maintaining the human expression, control, detail and fun of the original analog interfaces.