Using the PreSonus FaderPort 8 for MIDI CCs (I'm in love w/100mm faders)

PaulieDC

1967 Bizzarini GT 5300 Strada
The PreSonus FaderPort 8 is a mix console that wasn't designed for MIDI CC control at all. I got one for mixing special music from church services initially. As I got into MIDI Orchestration, I kept looking at those 100mm faders thinking "what a waste they can't be used for Expression etc". Long story short a bunch of us started posting requests on the PreSonus forums (the company does take product requests), and PreSonus DID IT in a firmware update last year sometime! BOOM, instant 100mm smooth faders for MIDI CC control. Awesome.

There are pros and cons, here's what I've discovered so far. BTW, these units do go on sale from time to time, got mine for $469 I think (half the cost of JL Cooper) and you have a decent mix console for writing automaton, mixdown of your piece, etc etc

BTW, if you own one, Firmware 3.3.2 is out, you'll want to be on the latest of course.

PROS:
  • 100mm decent faders. Yay. I had no idea what a difference it makes when writing string and brass parts, WOW. Those 40mm cheap faders on my M-Audio keyboard are feeling pretty horrible now. I probably don't need to elaborate on that, most know how nice 100mm is. BTW, these are motorized faders, but that's turned off when in MIDI mode which is fine of course.
  • Decent build, top deck is metal.
  • PreSonus listens and customer service is usually good. I'm still amazed they did the firmware to allow MIDI CCs on the faders.

CONS:
  • This was never designed to be a MIDI CC controller initially, so it isn't ergonomically great, it's fairly big. I have mine set to the left of my keyboard controller, at a 45 degree angle since I don't have a big desk. It was weird at first pushing the faders up and down at an angle but I got used to it. One day I'll get a real desk with the keyboard in a tray, then it won't matter.
  • The fader CC's aren't changeable, they are preset as you see in the picture (I use a strip of tape to mark the preset CC numbers of the faders). However, I was able to tell Spitfire Chamber Strings to remove CC 21 from the Vibrato slider in the UI and I did MIDI Learn and assigned the FaderPort's #7 Fader to it as CC #2. I don't use a breath controller so that works for now.
  • MIDI Mode disables the Transport controls (more on that next)

STUFF TO KNOW:
  • You start up this unit in the mode you want: Mix control for Studio One, Cubase MCU, Mackie for other DAWs, etc, OR the new simple MIDI Mode. It's the MIDI Mode that turns the unit into what's basically a dumb box with a bunch of faders and buttons with preassigned MIDI CC values, most of which are useless (more on that in a sec). The faders are preassigned with MIDI CC's 1, 11, 7, 10, 5, 84, 2 and 16 on Faders 1-8. The picture shows how these line up using Spitfire Chamber Strings, Violin patch. Spitfire chose to use CC16 for Legato speed so that works nicely. Like I said above, if your library allows MIDI CC changes via Learn, you can reassign the UI controls in the software to fit the hardware since the hardware can't be changed. Since 5 and 84 don't seem to do anything in SCS I was able to assign one of the faders to the "Close/Far" mic position control on the UI.
  • The markings on the FaderPort are totally useless once in MIDI mode. For instance, forget the U for unity gain on the faders, it means nothing. Just control the UI where you need it with the fader. For example, Fader #4 does CC 10 for pan. If you want center, just put the fader at the 50mm area as close as you can (that seems to be about -10db on the markers). For Expression and Dynamics, I had to get over my weirdness as a mix engineer of pushing a fader up past U to the very top, lol. That's where I need to ignore the paint! If I need a value of 127, that fader needs to be all the way up.
  • Note the fader positions in the photo: those are the positions that line up with the starting default values in the SCS UI in Kontakt. Again, that's just an example with one library; YMMV when you try other libraries. I just chose SCS to have something to show in this overly-long post.
  • As for all the other buttons, they are all assigned to Unassigned MIDI CC numbers such as 23-30, and multiple buttons have the same CC value in that unassigned range. Weird. The latest FaderPort Manual shows the CC numbers for every control around page 70, but other than faders most buttons seem useless. Maybe someone with more experience on using CCs can elaborate, I'll still in training mode on all that.
  • I think the Transport controls send sysex messages when this thing is in MIDI mode. Right now that's beyond my knowledge on how to make that control Transport, IF it even can. If the transport section were to function in MIDI Mode that'd be great. Naturally in DAW mode the Transport controls work fine but obviously the faders are in audio mixer mode, not MIDI CC.
Hope this helps understand this unit. If you have desk space and want that 100mm feel for Expression, etc for hopefully under $500 on the right sale, whoomp, there it is... with an added benefit of a mix console for track control of levels or automation after the input is done as a bonus. For all I know there could be a unit out there already with great faders for less money, but I already use the FaderPort for mixing so I wanted to share this new feature that PreSonus added and hardly told anyone about. The firmware was almost released as a bug fix in response to a forum request, lol... for all of us, the currently holy grail is that 100mm fader controller, so PreSonus did a nifty thing, basically hand us a free JL Cooper to those who already own this unit!

Speaking of, if you have been using the FaderPort for the last several months for this purpose, you probably know more than me so feel free to pipe in if I explained anything incorrectly. Thanks!

FaderPort 8 MIDI_1.jpg
 
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