Does A Dedicated MIDI Controller For A Software Synth Make Sense?

In his latest loopop video, host Ziv Eliraz takes an in-depth look at the SoundForce SFC-60 – a dedicated hardware MIDI controller for TAL-U-NO-LX, a software emulation of the classic Roland Juno-60 synthesizer.

“In this video, I explore the integration, as well as how it works with other Juno plug-ins (the new JUN-6 from Arturia), as well as iOS app,” he notes.

“Does it make sense to buy a MIDI controller dedicated to a plugin synth?” asks Eliraz. Check out the video, and share your thoughts on this in the comments!

Topics covered:

0:00 Intro
1:05 Disclosure
1:25 Overview
1:45 TAL integration
3:10 Shift control
3:55 Panel mode
4:15 Hardware
4:55 Editor
5:50 Other plugins
7:25 Testing iOS
9:00 Pros & cons
12:45 Outro…

25 thoughts on “Does A Dedicated MIDI Controller For A Software Synth Make Sense?

  1. Timing on this was rough. They released the hardware for the 60 right before tal came out with the J-8…would be nice to have a hardware controller that could have worked with both…

  2. TAL and SoundForce should offer a bundle. Buy the controller and get the software included. Having to pay full price for both will cost them a lot of sales. This is a great product, but it’s expensive.

  3. I use my Minilogue to control a bunch of vsts and have been able to keep the most important controls mapped to the corresponding knobs. I use Bitwig, so that helps as their set up makes this sort of thing fairly easy.

    1. I do the same with my Pro 2. Mapped to Repro-5, OB-Xa V, and Hive 2. Plug-ins that save their MIDI assignments within, independent of the DAW, are nice. Makes me want to ditch my NI Komplete with M32, as I use the Pro 2 solution much more now.

  4. The lack of a USB or 5-pin MIDI DIN input for a keyboard is a disappointment. It means that your keyboard will require its own separate USB port or MIDI interface.

    Loopop’s point about forgetting your knob assignments might be true for many, but if a person is serious about using an external controller, labelling is already a way of life. Many of them create overlays of control labels. In short, control freaks are sometimes organized.

    I think rotary encoders with LED rings makes quite a bit of sense for this type of application. First, you get total recall without motorized faders. But more importantly, you might have access to high-resolution (14-bit) control, if you happen to use one of the 2 or 3 soft synths in existence that actually support it.

    Tight integration between the plug-in developer and the controller developer would be required to get the best dynamic two-way feedback & performance.

    1. BCR2000 with a printed out overlay would be a muuuch cheaper alternative to it. I do like the idea, but at the current price point it doesn’t make much sense. Wish the dude just launched a kickstarter or presented the idea to a company that can afford to produce them for less money than everything being done by hand.

  5. I find it very expensive for what it offers. At least for my usage. I dont have “this one” synth that i would like to see “reincarnated” into hardware-ish like one almost achieves when using this controller. There are too many cool soft synths. I see this controller good for the user that always dreamed of having the U-no lx as hardware as in “do yourseelf a little treat”. but if i imagine wanting 2-3 synths like this it gets very expensive very fast , at least for some people , like me . I like the idea but in my imagination this costs around 150 euros. I wish that they make money out of it but i highly doubt it will sell well.

  6. YES!
    YES! YES! YES!

    It most certainly DOES make sense, depending on the software synthesizer it controls. If the synthesizer is just another garden variety East Coast (VCO-VCF-VCA voice path, with a couple of envelope generators and an LFO or two) it makes some sense. But as the capability of the synthesizer grows so too does the sensibility of having a hardware controller in order to make it more playable, espeically in a live performance context.

    SOME DAY: A fully modular hardware system that operates just like an actual, modular synthesizer but is really just a front end to a software system will arise. And the tribes of the synthesizer planet will flock to it.

    Just THINK of the advantages such a system would bring to us all. We are already seeing some fledgling efforts to attain such perfection.

  7. At $360 you are over halfway to the soon to be released MP Midi Controller which is supposed to have automapping for most vst instruments, and the labeling of parameters changes to suit each instrument. This seems too focused and not flexible enough. That being said, I think KORG’s physical controllers for it’s MS-20’s were successful, so perhaps this will be as well. I like the concept. I would just like one controller that could be used for any vst.

  8. IMHO it makes so much sense, I’ve been waiting for years for manufacturers making a flexible controller pre-mapped to some plugins and able load files to control others easily and with some visual consistency between them and the software they intend to control (but done right!). I love VCAs, VCOs, and VCFs. But that’s not the whole story, and for a lot of people they tend to be to expensive, in some cases even motivating unhealthy consumerism and creating status symbols in a field where they should never exist. So I think celebrating software and MIDI controllers -more- instead of the ever chase for the holy grail of vintage or whatever could be a great thing.

  9. I would prefer a deluxe generic controller with encoders and a generous screen to see the mapings. I can’t see buying any more MIDi controllers with regular pots and sliders and dealing with the pot pickup all the time.

    1. after using that type of setup with the Ableton Push and a little less successfully with the old Novation Remotes, I gotta say, thumbs up. Gimme more of that. Sorry for going a bit off topic.

  10. For the price, it should have a USB MIDI and/or DIN MIDI input to host a keyboard, then merge with the controller as a single feed into the PC.

  11. Got it and love it. If you love the Juno and value totall recall, I highly recommend it. The build quality is top-notch (heavy metal case, real walnut cheeks, solid faders and buttons) and it’s a one-man company building a niche product. I doubt there’s a big profit margin.

  12. I would trade most, maybe all, of my hardware for a dedicated zebraHZ controller than can address all of the modules in real time (would of course require some selection method due to the number of modules) at high resolution (at least 256 steps per param on less res-dependent controls, 1024 on filters/comb params/pitch etc).
    Encoders like those on the Hydrasynth, and good motorized faders.
    And an attached poly aftertouch keyboard that works for playing with subtle dynamics as well.
    Holy grail.

  13. There is about 10 controls on a juno and your only going to automate about three of them, take about 30 secs to midi map to a controller, bit overkill for such a simple vst

  14. Yes, it absolutely makes sense!

    Alas, the next step will be to put an actual DSP chip with TAL Uno running *inside* a dedicated controller box, to form a dedicated standalone unit – kinda like Roland’s JU-06 did it or the old Creamware ASB series (remember them?) with Minimoog, ARP or Prophet engines.

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