Over time I’ve been reviewing more and more of my audio mixes using my home hi-fi set up. It makes a lot of sense after spending hours on detail work using nearfields and you get to sit on the comfy sofa!
I don’t have a PC in my lounge (and don’t want one!) but I do have an optical audio feed from my main audio recording set up, so the availability of DAW remote control software apps for the iPAD has been timely.
The Neyrinck V-Control is just such an application and I was really excited to see how it performed for my particular application. Virtual MIDI ports are provided over Wi-Fi by a free utility called Ney-Fi which you download to your host PC or Mac so that the iPAD can be used to emulate a hardware controller.
Neyrinck provides templates for all of the well known DAW systems including Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic, Pro Tools and pretty well all the rest.
In the case of my chosen DAW, Sonar, Neyrinck’s V-Control uses the Mackie Control protocol so it’s necessary to create an instance of this in the Control Surfaces set-up page in Sonar and allocate the V-Control virtual MIDI ports to that controller instance.
It takes only a few moments to do this and as if by magic, the Neyrinck app in the iPAD bursts into life.
In ‘start-up’ mode you get 8 faders displayed each with a associated level meter, record, mute and solo pushbuttons, an assignable rotary control and two lines of 6 characters display which shows the channel name and a number of channel status items.
There’s a full set of transport controls with track time indicator and of course the first thing you want to do is press play and see if anything happens!
First thing to comment is just how visually stunning and operationally responsive the control surface is. There’s no ‘press the button and wait for replay to start’. I could detect no difference in response speed between my PC mouse clicking on, let’s say a channel Solo, and the same control on the iPAD. It really is that responsive. Even the channel level meters on the iPAD stay pretty well in sync with those on the main DAW display.
Fader operation is very smooth (no moving parts after all!)
The rotary controls default to pan and can be flipped with the channel faders in the usual manner. The rotary controls can also be assigned to control aux send parameters (level, pan, pre/post, on/off), and other channel functions such as input source, phase reverse, mono/stereo, input monitor on/off and so on. It’s also possible to control EQ, Dynamics and Plug-ins, however I found the signal processing quite difficult to control by this method and there is a much better way which we’ll come to in a moment.
The rotary controls can be set for a common function (e.g. pan per channel)or in banks to that multiple rotary controls are available for a single channel.
You can swipe left and right to select which eight channels are visible on the iPAD or there are pop up Chan and Bank buttons to go left and right a channel at a time or in banks of eight. Swiping is great fun and becomes quite instinctive.
To extend the range of control functions Neyrinck have implemented a very flexible pop-up ‘MultiPanel’ which can be configured fora number of uses as follows
In the case of Sonar this recreates the master control pushbutton bank from the Mackie Control hardware controller. This has the advantage that a complete software control protocol already exists within Sonar so implementation is more straightforward.
As you’ll see from image above, this edit panel pops up on top of fader panel and allows access to functions such as;
and a whole lot more.
This is a novel and powerful way to extend functionality as it allows any control screen on your main DAW screen to be mimicked on the iPAD complete with touch sensitive control.
So as an example you can have Sonar’s Track (waveform) view available at the touch of a (virtual) button.
Or as another example, Logic’s Space Designer Reverb above.It’s important to realise that these are fully functional touch sensitive control surfaces. Anything that can be mouse selected on the main DAW can be controlled via the iPAD as well.
Note that the transport controls and the main time display are always visible and usable.
Logic and Pro-Tools get additional plug-in controller soft surfaces. These are really well implemented as you can see from the example below of Logic’s Compressor plug-in controller panel.
So how does it work out in practice?
The basic channel functions are really good to control using the Neyrinck and iPAD combination as are the transport controls and shuttle controls. So I’d be confident track laying and doing a level mix using this set up.
In the case of Sonar, the emulation of the Mackie Control, whilst providing good remote control of basic functions, is a lot less flexible when it comes to controlling secondary functions such as aux sends, channel EQ, automation status and plug-ins. By contrast those DAWs which have been given the full treatment with a custom native protocol move the whole app into a different league. Logic is particularly well done with a great channel strip, edit control panel and very well implemented plug-in control panels.
The ability to move around the studio, perhaps to a vocal booth, and still have full control of your DAW is a very liberating experience. Reviewing mixes in your own lounge complete with comfy sofa and slippers is not to be missed!
I would recommend you check out the following video which shows just how good the Logic implementation is, and for the rest, well I’m sure that Neyrinck will continue to develop what is an already fantastic app for the iPAD.
If you have an iPAD and use a DAW to any level of intensity then I would recommend you buy this very attractively priced app.