We all look for that perfect combo between DAW and controller to up our mixing and editing efficiency. Going through the information provided below, we will be looking through some of the best options for the Cakewalk DAW. From Bluetooth connections to wired and motorized faders, these are the best choices for anyone looking to become more professional in their work environment.
If you already have your own controller but want to be involved with Cakewalk but are not sure if it will be compatible, this next part is for you. Any controller that supports the Mackie Control protocol will work with Cakewalk. But just like any other DAW and controller combination, there can be mismatches. Sometimes specific buttons, labels, and actual functions won’t match up (just to keep in mind). And any MIDI controller will work with Cakewalk as long as it is connected via USB.
Top MIDI Controllers For Cakewalk At a Glance
MIDI Controllers can span to both extremes of the spectrum. The Mackie MCU Pro is an amazing piece of equipment for anyone working from home and wanting to work with faders and have as many customization options as possible on the controller itself. While the Korg nanoKONTROL 2 is the opposite side for someone trying to be as mobile as possible and appreciate simplicity. Each one also has its own strong suits though.
- Mackie MCU Pro – Best For Home Studios
- Presonus Faderport V2 – Best For Versatility
- Korg nanoKONTROL 2 – Best For Mobility
- Korg nanoKONTROL Studio – Best For Mobility & Price
- Softube Console 1 – Home Studios
- Behringer X-Touch Series – Product Options
Brief Look at Cakewalk by Bandlab
Cakewalk is a DAW (digital audio workstation) that brings collaboration and mobility to a whole new level. To start off… the whole program is FREE. Not just a trial, not just a lite version, the whole thing. As a bit of background, Cakewalk was acquired by the BandLab Technologies company in 2018, joining their broader BandLab DAW ecosystem. Cakewalk is available on Windows through the BandLab Desktop Assistant, and works well with the sister cross-platform DAW, BandLab – which also includes a mobile version.
BandLab’s social platform has over ten million users, meaning there are countless ways to collaborate on the same project with hundreds of artists from around the globe. Cakewalk can also export to and from the BandLab platform easily. In short, Cakewalk’s tech with the collaborative engine of BandLab is the best new way to build your circle and skills. This also makes working on the go so much easier.
Just clarifying here that Cakewalk software itself isn’t available on mobile yet. However Cakewalk can export to and from the BandLab mobile app easily!
Best Midi Controllers
Best For – Home Studio
Why we like it
The MCU Pro is one of the more expensive options on this entire list but is worth the money. It has a designated fader for the master control that never changes (unless you do it yourself). All of the faders are motorized and jump to the position assigned to the fader within the DAW itself when in use. You also can scroll across fader banks to change which channels are available at that time. There are 8 customizable buttons for you to designate so that you have peak efficiency with your process, as well as all channel names being displayed at the top of each channel. This board is built to be less mobile more for a home or studio rig than most of the other boards on this list, but by no means let that turn you away from this great machine.
Note: The product team at CakeWalk by Bandlab is planning some significant enhancements to Mackie-compatible controllers in the next release! We’ll update this article as more details become clear but broadly, some of the changes will include Synth Rack instrument support and key shortcuts for faster plugin navigation.
Price (before shipping) – $1,299.99
|8 Faders1 Master Fader||7.5V DC||✓||USB|
Best For – Versatility
Why we like it
The Presonus FaderPort V2 is an amazing choice no matter what you are working with. But the mobility of this compared to a fully motorized board is incredible. You can scan through channels and choose which one you want to work with. Within that is the options to solo, record, mute, pan, and even edit plugins. All from the controller itself. This level of quality is not one you see with a lot of mobile units, especially since this has a motorized fader in this size of a unit.
Price (before shipping) – $219.95
|1 Fader||12V DC||✓||USB|
Best For – Mobility
Why we like it
The Korg nanoKONTROL Studio is one of the best mobile options for anyone looking to do edits anywhere and at any time. It has options for playing, stopping, recording solo, mute and more for each channel. The faders themselves are not motorized but they do control the volume. The main thing to keep an eye on is that you do you try to record any automation for a channel when the level that the fader is at is not the same as the real volume of the track. That is to make sure you don’t get any jumps in the automation that you would have to edit out after the fact. One thing I love about the Studio that makes it stand out is its Bluetooth connectivity. It can connect with the computer, tablet, or phone and control the tracks without needing any external chords and has a built-in battery.
Price (before shipping) – $154.99
|8 Faders||Mini USBInternal Battery||X||USB Bluetooth|
Best For – Mobility & Price
Why we like it
The nanoKONTROL 2 is perfectly described by its name. It is a smaller version of the Studio with more portability because of its smaller size. Although the details and small edits you can do are harder to carry out with it. The nanoKONTROL 2 does not, however, have a built-in battery but runs off of USB connection through its micro USB port.
Price (before shipping) – $64.99
|8 Faders||Mini USB||X||USB|
Best For – Home Studios
Why we like it
This is a great product that provides quite a few options, especially for customization. For me, the layout is not quite how I would work best with my workflow. I reach and look in different places for options such as pan, channel select, gain, and so on. But I still think this is a really cool product especially in combination with the Softube Console MK II.
The MK II is almost like working with the top half of a channel strip of an analog board. I like the combination of the 2 better than either on their own.
Remember: Softube is more than a control surface – it is a channel strip which comes with a suite of plugins that integrate directly with the hardware. Also Cakewalk has direct integration with the Console 1.
Price (before shipping) – $699.00
|10 Faders||8V DC||✓||USB|
Best For – Product Options
Why we like it
The Behringer X-Touch Family is a wide variety of options to fit any sort of job you need. If you need mobility, go with the Mini or the X-Touch One. The X-Touch and X-Touch Compact are similar in design and use as the Mackie MCU Pro. The X-Touch 1 is similar to the FaderPort V2 in that it is motorized as well as only one channel with all of the options. The Mini is a combination of the FaderPort V2 and the nanoKONTROL 2. It only has one fader but is compact and not motorized for the fader.
Price (before shipping) – $78.99 – $598.99
|8 Faders/ 1 Master1 Fader||IEC9V DCMini USB||✓ and X||USB|
Why Use a Control Surface?
Every time I have ever worked editing on my own, whether it was in a class, real studio, my home rig, or anywhere else, I always preferred having a real set of faders and knobs to work with over having to do everything with my mouse. It speeds up the process, especially of setting levels and mixing.
One thing to keep in mind whenever you are shopping is the pricing. Oddly enough, Europe has slightly different pricing, specifically when it comes to the Korg and Mackie items. Korgs are found cheaper over in Europe while Mackies is the opposite being cheaper in the USA.
Having an actual fader in front of you is to help with automation mapping which is so much easier to do with a fader than to click and drag with your mouse. All of these control surfaces are great with Cakewalk and even come recommended by their own professionals! Knowing that these devices can step up your experience with Cakewalk, I would highly recommend each and every one.