DAW Plugins and the Holy Grail of hardware controllers!

The holy grail for me in relation to managing plugins is to be able to change plugin parameters from my keyboard and/or control surface “automagically”, that is to say, I have to do the absolute minimum to be presented with options to tweak the parameters using hardware-based knobs and dials. Back in the ages, Mackie made a brilliant attempt to do this with its amazing C4 Control Surface. But, sadly, hardware and software vendors didn’t give it the same support that they lent to Mackies’ MCU protocol (still used to this day within every control surface including the latest offerings from ICON (QCON Range) and Solid State Logic with theUF8) and it still struggles to get the traction in the market that it so deserves.

Any Knob on your Plugin updated with lit rotary encoders and with an LCD automatically updating above it!

Fast forward and nowadays and most control surfaces will automatically give you pages and pages of parameters (it is not unusual to see upwards of 200 parameters within a modern plugin) – and that perhaps is the biggest problem (which, I guess we could refer to as “plugin parameter overload”). So what can we do if we can’t afford (or don’t need) a dedicated plugin controller?

In step the new Novation controllers that take an intelligent approach to the problem by selecting only those parameters that we are most likely to want to change (with a nod being given to the plugin UI, sitting on a nearby screen to allow adjustment of all the others should we wish to go deeper)!

Perfect! (almost)

And so to the issue of software manufacturer support – in helping us to identify which parameters (or linked group of parameters) within a particular plugin are the most useful!

BUT! In the meantime, a small army of dedicated users has stepped in to offer support for a growing series of third-party plugins for these two keyboard controllers.
Taking a leaf from Roland’s own Zenology controllers, which bubble up the 6 most useful parameters from their vast range of tones (there are literally thousands of instrument presets waiting to be manipulated!)

I wondered if the six “generic” parameters that Roland bubbles up could both be automated and also be used as a model for other third-party plugins?

The answer is yes! And it all happens “automagically” as far as the user is concerned!

Here is a selection of the supported instrument plugins at the time of writing this post (I will endeavor to update this post as more plugins become “available” (hint) and are connected)

Cherry Audio Plugins

This excellent set of instrument plugins (with free demo versions) can be found here

Juno 106

Dream Synth

Jupiter 4

Mini Moog



TAL Plugins

TAL offers an excellent set of plugin instruments (with free demo versions) that can be found here

(The majority of TAL instruments are already supported)

Roland Plugins


The top-level parameters (Cutoff, Resonance, Attack, Release, Vibrato and Level) are all supported:

Jupiter 8 (Plug in/out)




Analog Lab 5

All knobs (Brightness, Timbre etc) are supported.

Analog Lab 4

(Same support as 5)

V Collection 7:

ARP 2600 V3

Jupiter 8 (V3)

Moog Mini V3

Piano V2

Prophet 5 (V3)

Stage 73 Electric Piano

Where to next?

After chundering (is that a word?) through the thousand of potential parameters to find those most relevant to “bubble up” I would like to see plugin manufacturers adopt a similar strategy where they might combine multiple “under the hood” parameters and surface them under standardised CC numbers that allow easy mapping to a group of (say 8) top-level knobs. This hasn’t happened so far as manufacturers are understandably focused on their own products and not necessarily on what might be best for the wider market and the end-user (who will almost certainly have products from many different plugin manufacturers).

I hope to be able to offer more – if anyone from a plugin manufacturer wants to support me in this do please get in touch (your plugins – my time?)


Ian – rd3d2@hotmail.co.uk

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