Want to jump straight to the answer? Our choice for the Best DAW Control Surface is the PreSonus Faderport 16!
Flexibility is the trend among the best new digital audio workstation (DAW) control surfaces. While it was once necessary to design your studio around the needs of your DAW surface, you can now buy a control surface that molds itself to fit your needs. Our list of the best DAW control surfaces includes two new units that adapt to your needs in different ways. The Asparion D400 has a modular design that fits anywhere, and the Slate Raven MTi2 has a touch screen that automatically displays controls for all of the most popular DAW packages.
Quicklook: Best DAW Control Surfaces on the market
- BEHRINGER X-TOUCH MINI
- Korg nanoKONTROL2
- PreSonus ioStation
- Behringer XTouch
- Icon Pro Audio Platform M+
- Roland AIRA MX-1
- Mackie MCU Pro 8-channel Control Surface with USB
- Icon Pro QCon Pro X
- PreSonus Faderport 16
- Behringer Digital Mixer X32
- PreSonus StudioLive 32SX
Our Choices – DAWs on any budget
|DAW Control Surface||Price Point||Best for?||Short Description|
|Korg nanoKONTROL2||$74.99 on Amazon||Best surface controller for the price||The nanoKONTROL2 provides eight channels of the controllers you need to control your music software.|
|Icon Pro Audio Platform M+||$419.99 on Amazon||Best surface controller between $200-$450||Affordable eight-channel mixer with the option for expansion to optimize how many faders you work with.|
|Mackie MCU Pro 8-channel Control Surface with USB||$1,299 on Amazon||Best control surface between $1,000 -$1,500||The tool works like it is actually designed for your software – from Pro Tools to Logic, and more.|
- Best Budget DAW Surface Controllers
- Best Medium-Priced DAW Surface Controllers
- Best DAW Surface Controllers In Any Price Range
- Choosing The Right DAW Surface Controller
Best Budget DAW Surface Controllers
For its perfect combination of being affordable, transportable and powerful, the Behringer X-Touch Mini is the number one choice in this category. It is the smallest product in the company’s new X-Touch series. With two control layers and 16 illuminated buttons, there is everything you need for basic control surface functions. This gives you the benefit of having a powerful workstation that you can take anywhere without having to lug around heavy equipment. If you need drum pads, plan on purchasing them separately.
- USB port
- Universal remote for functions
- 60mm master fader with long wear
- Easy in-depth configuration
- Dual-layer mode for quick changes
- Solid construction in comparison with similar products
This controller is compatible with most professional audio production software programs and all of the most popular professional DAW programs.
Price – $78.99
The Korg nanoKONTROL2 surface controller has eight faders and is very small in size. It is simple enough to use that you may not even need to read the manual to know how to operate it. Since it lacks motorized faders, it is not an ideal choice if you want to record automation. However, it is easy to use for most purposes. Also, you can pair it with a nanopad percussion device and a nanokeys synthesizer to make a complete MIDI suite at home.
- USB connection
- Low-profile appearance
- Control surface with multiple functions
- Marker advance
- New track selection
This surface controller is compatible with most programs including the main DAW programs. It usually comes with Korg Kontrol Editor. Owners have also used it with the Logic Pro X and ProTools programs without any issues.
Price – $74.99
Presonus has made automation and recording into a perfect single interface. Like most standard desktop interfaces it has 2 inputs and 2 outputs but it excels above many other interfaces with its single fader as well as many DAW controls built right in.
- 2 XLR/ 1/4″ inputs
- 100mm longthrow motorized fader
- Easy assignment
- USB C connection
- Seemless integration with Studio One
The Presonus ioStation is supposed to have no driver install required and can easily work with popular DAWs like Pro Tools, Logic Pro, and Cubase. As long as your DAW is up to date on all of the updates it has, you should have no problem integrating the ioStation into your workflow.
Price – $269.95
Best Medium-Priced DAW Surface Controllers
The Behringer XTouch is one of the leaders in the fader panels for home studios. Between the great motorized faders and the general DAW controls, there is no limit to how the XTouch can help you improve your mix.
- USB, ethernet, and MIDI ports
- Sturdy construction
- Intuitive interface
- 9 100mm motorized faders
- Individual Channel Labels
- Assignable buttons with multiple functions
- Can be used with other Behringer boards
This fader controller is easy to connect to mac or pc. With the support for HUI* and Macki Control* you know that it can work perfectly with any compatible DAWs. The one factor you need to keep up with is what the latest firmware update is. You can find that readily available on Behringer’s own page.
Price – $449.00
If you are looking for a top of the line unit that can be built on in the future, the Platform M+ is the one for you. This is the master page with 8 channel faders and one Master Fader on the right side. You can expand with the other pieces such as the X+ which has additional faders or the B+ with additional DAW controls.
- USB, Platform D/D2, and 4 module ports
- 8+1 100mm motorized faders
- Control transport
- Easy automation
- LCD Displays and additional ports available separately
- Select/mute/solo/rec features
This device is compatible with almost any DAW out there. With Mackie HUI Protocol built in, it is ready for Pro Tools and many more. If your preferred DAW is not already integrated with its programs, you can easily map the controls to work with your DAW.
Price – $419.99
The Roland AIRA MX-1 has great sound effects that are designed to be easily manipulated and are sensibly rhythmic with the device’s tempo awareness and advanced interface. If you already use a different type of controller, the MX-1 integrates beautifully with most other devices. You can use it to create polyrhythms, smoothly fade any sound in or out and much more.
- Performance mixer with eight channels
- Step-sequenced tempo control, transport and FX
- Filter, slicer and side chain
- Beat and master FX are both applicable to all inputs
- Four USB ports with MIDI, bus and sync
- Mix mode includes 13 channels
- External mode has 18 channels
- Instant save and recall of setups
- Easy monitoring and changing
This device usually comes with Ableton Live Lite. It works with several other DAW and professional audio recording software programs and with Windows and Mac operating systems.
Price – $649.99
Best DAW Surface Controllers In Any Price Range
Wouldn’t love for you setup to be as simple as plug and play? That is the case with many DAW surface controllers over $1,000.00 and it is true with the Mackie MCU. This product aims to make your daily tasks more simple. For example, writing automation for many tracks in humongous music projects is as simple as pushing a button – and the same goes for mixing for film and television as well.
- You don’t get the “cheap plastic feel”
- Works great with most music production software
- No MIDI mapping required
- Streamline mixing in your project studio or scale up with multiple MCU XTs to mix major projects
- Seamless software integration
- Proproetary Mackie communication protocol
- V-Pot control over software, plug-in effects and virtual instruments
- Over fifty dedicated buttons for fine control of software parameters
- Works great with both Windows & Mac
- Mackie support seems to be one of the only defects
- Cost is higher than some of the other surfaces listed here
- Some users complained about needing a better manual
Price – $1,299.99
If you are not concerned about your unit being portable, the sturdy Icon QCon Pro is an excellent choice. For a studio setup it has pretty much anything you could need. It also has extender options that you can add up to 3 of for a larger setup.
- USB, MIDI and pedal ports
- Nine 100mm motorized faders
- Control transport
- Easy automation
- Track assignment
- Mute/solo/rec features
- Control 32 channels with QConEX extenders
This device is compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems. Since it is a class-compliant controller, there is no need to download additional drivers. It is designed to support Cubase, Logic Pro, ProTools, Nuendo, Ableton Live, Samplitude, Reaper, Reason and Studio One programs. If you use a different program, the QCon Pro has a MIDI learning mode to help it learn programs that are not already supported.
Price – $1.099.99
Outside of the StudioLive, I’ve never seen a board this large from Presonus and it delivers! It is a great studio tool and integrates with your current setup super easy. The only issue I could see with this controller is having enough space for it on your desk.
- 16 100mm long-throw motorized faders
- Session Navigator
- Intuitive operation
- USB and foot switch
- DAW integration
- Responsive handling
- Workflow acceleration
This device is compatible with most operating systems, and its HUI and Mackie control technology gives it the ability to easily mix with Logic Pro, Cubase, ProTools and most other major DAW programs.
Price – $999.95
The Behringer X32 is a great choice for easy use with all of the bells and whistles. With a seamless interface, you can concentrate more on the music instead of on complex mixing tasks. It eliminates the hassle of using countless menus and encoders. If you are looking for a high-end controller that will make your job easier, this is an ideal choice.
- Midas-designed mic preamps
- Digital console with 40 input channels
- Generous 25 automated motorized 100mm faders
- USB, MIDI, XLR, phone and additional line ports
- Scribble strips on all buses and channels
- Onboard FX
- Comprehensive controls
- Impressive I/O
- X-USB card allows recording onto DAW
This device is compatible with most operating systems and is compatible with Studio One, Logic Pro, ProTools, Cubase and most other Core or ASIO DAW systems.
Price – $1,999.00
If you want the best studio-quality tools in an easy-to-use interface, this is a good DAW controller for you. The PreSonus StudioLive 32SX has 32 channels and onboard DSP with Active Integration as well as Bluetooth 4.1. You also have a locking ethernet connection along the back for system integration.
- Class A XMAX mic preamps
- Adds dimension with four onboard digital effects processors
- USB for computers
- Fat-channel processors for optimal quality
- SMT for fast tuning in any new setting
- Optional Dante, AVB and Thunderbolt cards for advanced setups
This PreSonus device is compatible with most operating systems and major DAW software programs.
Price – $2,799.95
Choosing The Right DAW Surface Controller
First, decide how much you are willing to spend. If you only require basic capabilities, you can get by with spending less than $200. You have to spend more if you want the ability to accomplish advanced effects. For professional use, you should plan on spending at least $1,000. You will need advanced interfaces, high-quality mic preamps, and other professional features for top-notch productions. Keep in mind that the features listed on this guide for each product highlight the main features. To understand what the features mean or what other detailed capabilities they provide, you should research the desired product and its features before making a purchase.
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