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100 mm Long Faders for LPX: JL Cooper FaderMaster Pro vs ICON Platform M+ vs Avid Artist Mix

scentline

Heart to Heart
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Hi, I just got both ICON Platform M+ and JL Cooper FaderMaster Pro (old new stock version with white diamond on the left side of the first lane instead of blue diamond of the recent version) recently for comparison.

These seem to be the best 100mm long faders after months of my research (except the most deeply integrated and affordable Nektar Panorama P1, but it has 45mm long faders). It’s crazy to know there are only two decent 100mm long analog feeling compact fader devices for MIDI CC control in this current niche market (Well, there’s the Behringer’s X-Touch Compact, but I heard it’s initially designed for PC users and it seems Avid’s new S1 will be little more expensive than the Artist Mix)

M+ works pretty well like the Dr. Mix's review video below, both as a non-motorized MIDI CC controller in user defined mode and a motorized DAW controller on Logic Pro X after fader calibration and upgrading to new firmware which was released two days ago. It’s not super stable from other MIDI devices’ interception or hijacking, but finally it works as a dual function control surface as it’s been advertised for the Mac users.


If you just want to get a MIDI CC controller with eight smooth 100mm long faders, the M+'s extension, X+ will be enough. It is cheaper than M+ and it works as a stand-alone device without D2 display.

I have an Artist Mix and MC Transport as a DAW controller and I know M+ can’t beat the superior EuCon system, but the EuCon system doesn’t work for MIDI CC control as many of you know. I really like M+’s build quality, high quality 100mm long smooth faders and small footprint as a MIDI CC controller.

In the case of FaderMaster Pro, maybe I expected too much from the reputation in the composers' community. FMP's faders seem rather fragile and its fader knobs have more light plastic feeling than M+ or Artist Mix (In fact, they are all plastic, but M+ and Artist Mix’s fader knobs have a more stable and metallic feeling). I think it's because the FMP has completely non-motorized faders, there's no sprockets connected to motors to hold them like M+ or Artist Mix on the lanes. It might depend on what kind of smooth feeling you are looking for in your CC control (i.e., easy-breezy control with slightly faster feeling faders (FMP) vs more realistic control for the large orchestra sound with slightly slower feeling faders (M+)).

However, it’s nice to have the divided gage lines beside the fader lanes and you can see the amount of precise parameter change on the display on FMP, while M+ doesn’t have any of them when it's used as a user-defined mode MIDI CC controller.

Most of all, JL Cooper company doesn’t seem to care for this 20 to 30-year-old product as much as their current super expensive controllers (Last software update of FMP Remote for Mac was 2016), while the ICON engineering team currently takes care of M+ with fast response. They are trying hard to improve the notorious custom mapping issue of the major DAWs on Mac. Especially M+'s mapping SW, iMap is easier to use and more adjustable than FMP's mapping SW, FMP Remote, IMHO.

BTW, I am having a hard time getting the MIDI signal from FMP. The MIDI Learn function doesn’t respond to the faders' movement. I am using a budget USB-MIDI interface cable and it seems I need a better cable than this.

Some Vi-control members seem to use Roland's UM-One cable with newer version of FMP with no problem, but I don't have one. I saw a seller on Reverb.com seemed he sent this old version of FMP to the JL Cooper company to refurbish it for using on the current computer systems.

Do any of you among Mac users have experience with the FaderMaster Pro?

I’d appreciate any of your advice in advance.
 
Last edited:

charlieclouser

Senior Member
I sold my last FaderMaster Pro around 15 years ago or so, but I used it for a few years as a CC controller in Logic with zero problems. Of course, this was in the era of Logic v5/6/7 or thereabouts, but I was using it alongside a Doepfer Drehbank and a 24-fader brown Mackie Control rig with a C4 and never had MIDI communication issues. This was probably because I was using Emagic Unitor8mk2 USB>MIDI interfaces and not any of the modern-era 1x1 "cable-style" interfaces.

The Mackie Controls and FMPro can spray a LOT of MIDI data which is perhaps overwhelming the minuscule buffer on the 1x1 interface you've got. Since the Unitor (and the FMpro for that matter) was designed in the era when SysEx dumps, real-time SysEx control, and other multi-port full-bandwidth MIDI use was an everyday occurrence, it doesn't surprise me that more recent 1x1 interfaces - which seem to be oriented at more basic keyboard controller > laptop use - get swamped by the Niagra Falls of data that a fader box can pump out.

While the issue may lie elsewhere in the hardware chain, like a USB hub that's having trouble up-converting the USB v2 (or v1?) output of the 1x1 into a USBv3 stream and into the computer, Logic's codebase can certainly deal with a torrent of incoming MIDI data - so I doubt that it's strictly a software problem - although if the FMpro works smoothly EXCEPT when Logic's in "learn mode" then I'm not so sure. If that's the case then it's a bit puzzling.

Maybe that user on Reverb who sent his FMpro back to JL Cooper for an "update" had them install firmware that reduces the data rate that the FMpro sprays - but this would mean that the FMpro "skips over" data when it's being sent very rapidly, meaning that a quick fader move from bottom to top would NOT result in all 127 values showing up in the event list. This is obviously not ideal, since it would result in bumpy or jagged controller curves in some circumstances. In practice it might not create an audible difference but technically it's not ideal to reduce the data rate at its source just because the receiver can't handle it. And to be fair, the receiver can handle it, it's probably just the interface between transmitter and receiver that's getting bogged down.

I still use Unitor8mk2 interfaces with no drivers installed, and on a Mac Pro cylinder with Logic X they can still soak up all the knob and fader wiggling I can pump over a 5-pin MIDI connection - and the Unitor is going on 20 years old. MIDI itself is quite fast enough to handle two-handed knobbing, and I still use a Virus TI connected via 5-pin to the Unitor as a knobs-only controller for synth plugins and it's all good. I also use a Haken Continuum to play two-handed MPE-style parts, where each finger is sending two MIDI CC's as well as note-on AND 14-bit pitch bend, all over a single 5-pin cable to the Unitor, and all is well, and I still do large SysEx dumps to 1980's hardware synths with no issues, but I do see occasional posts from people having trouble when trying to do SysEx dumps with recent 1x1 "cable style" MIDI interfaces. SysEx is one situation that can and will saturate a 5-pin MIDI connection all the way to the max data rate, so that's a worst-case scenario for a less-than-burly MIDI interface.

So my money's on the 1x1 being an issue.
 
OP
scentline

scentline

Heart to Heart
I sold my last FaderMaster Pro around 15 years ago or so, but I used it for a few years as a CC controller in Logic with zero problems. Of course, this was in the era of Logic v5/6/7 or thereabouts, but I was using it alongside a Doepfer Drehbank and a 24-fader brown Mackie Control rig with a C4 and never had MIDI communication issues. This was probably because I was using Emagic Unitor8mk2 USB>MIDI interfaces and not any of the modern-era 1x1 "cable-style" interfaces.

The Mackie Controls and FMPro can spray a LOT of MIDI data which is perhaps overwhelming the minuscule buffer on the 1x1 interface you've got. Since the Unitor (and the FMpro for that matter) was designed in the era when SysEx dumps, real-time SysEx control, and other multi-port full-bandwidth MIDI use was an everyday occurrence, it doesn't surprise me that more recent 1x1 interfaces - which seem to be oriented at more basic keyboard controller > laptop use - get swamped by the Niagra Falls of data that a fader box can pump out.

While the issue may lie elsewhere in the hardware chain, like a USB hub that's having trouble up-converting the USB v2 (or v1?) output of the 1x1 into a USBv3 stream and into the computer, Logic's codebase can certainly deal with a torrent of incoming MIDI data - so I doubt that it's strictly a software problem - although if the FMpro works smoothly EXCEPT when Logic's in "learn mode" then I'm not so sure. If that's the case then it's a bit puzzling.

Maybe that user on Reverb who sent his FMpro back to JL Cooper for an "update" had them install firmware that reduces the data rate that the FMpro sprays - but this would mean that the FMpro "skips over" data when it's being sent very rapidly, meaning that a quick fader move from bottom to top would NOT result in all 127 values showing up in the event list. This is obviously not ideal, since it would result in bumpy or jagged controller curves in some circumstances. In practice it might not create an audible difference but technically it's not ideal to reduce the data rate at its source just because the receiver can't handle it. And to be fair, the receiver can handle it, it's probably just the interface between transmitter and receiver that's getting bogged down.

I still use Unitor8mk2 interfaces with no drivers installed, and on a Mac Pro cylinder with Logic X they can still soak up all the knob and fader wiggling I can pump over a 5-pin MIDI connection - and the Unitor is going on 20 years old. MIDI itself is quite fast enough to handle two-handed knobbing, and I still use a Virus TI connected via 5-pin to the Unitor as a knobs-only controller for synth plugins and it's all good. I also use a Haken Continuum to play two-handed MPE-style parts, where each finger is sending two MIDI CC's as well as note-on AND 14-bit pitch bend, all over a single 5-pin cable to the Unitor, and all is well, and I still do large SysEx dumps to 1980's hardware synths with no issues, but I do see occasional posts from people having trouble when trying to do SysEx dumps with recent 1x1 "cable style" MIDI interfaces. SysEx is one situation that can and will saturate a 5-pin MIDI connection all the way to the max data rate, so that's a worst-case scenario for a less-than-burly MIDI interface.

So my money's on the 1x1 being an issue.
Thank you so much for this incredible amount of detailed info, charlieclouser! I’ll call to JL Cooper and ask them about this issue : )
 
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