Top 11 Best DAW Control Surface Brands In The World 2021


A DAW controller (aka control surface) can really improve workflow and add intuitive tactile convenience to a studio set up. Having physical faders, knobs, buttons and other controls laid out in front of you can really enhance your overall enjoyment and performance over keyboard hotkeys and mouse clicks.

Of course they aren’t for everyone but enough people love them that the market has grown to include all sorts of controllers for various setups. Choosing a control surface for your studio can be a tricky task to get just right. Though the name brand of a DAW controller isn’t the most critical factor to consider, knowing the best companies out there can help you in your search.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top DAW control surface brands.

Note that I tried to not add any DAW-specific controllers, keeping the focus on more universal systems. That being said, options from Steinberg, Cakewalk and Both Novation and Ableton (for Ableton Live) have great controllers for their respective digital audio workstations. I’ve added links to check out their official websites above.

The top 11 best DAW control surface brands in the world are:

  1. Avid
  2. Slate Media Technology
  3. Yamaha
  4. Mackie
  5. PreSonus
  6. iCon
  7. Behringer
  8. Focusrite
  9. Solid State Logic
  10. Smart AV
  11. Softube

Of course, any “best of” list is subjective by nature. I’ve done my best to make this as objective as possible. I’ve included not only my own bias but also the opinions of others (in real life; in online forums, and by which brands professionals use).

We’ll get into each of these brands in greater detail to explain why they made this list. I’ll also include an example of a control surface from each of the brands along with a link to their official websites and info on the companies’ histories.

Related article: Top Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) On The Market


Click here to return to My New Microphone’s articles on musical equipment brands/manufacturers.


Avid

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Avid is best known as the producer of the industry-standard DAW Pro Tools (link to check it out at Avid). Its high-end control surfaces work to vastly improve the workflow of this powerful digital audio workstation.

Pro Tools is featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) On The Market.

That being said, these excellent control surfaces are designed with EUCON software for integration with other software and digital audio workstations beyond those of Avid. This high-speed Ethernet control protocol allows even the most involved control surface (the S6) to be used with other DAWs. Of course, there may be some hiccups with complete compatibility but it goes to show how strong these controllers are.

Avid offers several superb control surfaces with an option for practically any situation. Easily combine these hardware devices together to build your customizable control surface that perfect for your studio needs. Some surface even allow users to control video software along with audio.

With so much experience and feedback from professionals, Avid has been able to produce some of the world’s best DAW controllers. Whether you love Pro Tools or not, these surfaces are among the finest!

Notable Control Surface: S6 (link to check it out at Avid)

Avid S6

Avid Technology was founded in 1987 by Bill Warner in Burlington, Massachusetts, USA, where the company is still headquartered today.

Official Website: avid.com

Avid is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Live Sound Mixing Board/Console Brands
Top Best Audio Interface Brands In The World


Slate Media Technology

Slate Media Technology is just one of many successful endeavours of Steven Slate (others include Slate Digital and Steven Slate Audio).

I’m not trying to throw you off within the first two brands but these control surfaces are a bit different than the typical DAW controller. They’re touchscreen and do not actually have physical sliders. In a way, they are glorified iPads but they’ve been adopted by professionals around the world who swear by their superb functionality and ease-of-use.

When I stop to think about it, Slate MT’s decision to put a control surface into a touchscreen interface is just another step toward putting the entire recording studio into a computer. Since the Raven MTX was released in 2012, Slate has been producing excellent control surfaces in highly responsive and compatible world-class touchscreens.

So no, these DAW controllers are not your typical tactile surfaces but they are among the best, in a different way!

Notable Control Surface: Raven MTI2 (link to check the price at KMR Audio)

Slate Media Technology Raven MTI2

Slate Media Technology was founded in 2012 by Steven Slate. The company, along with all other Slate companies, is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Official Website: slatemt.com

Slate Digital is featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.


Yamaha

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Yamaha is a Japanese multinational corporation and conglomerate with an incredibly wide range of products and services. The company has been involved with audio for a long time and although it doesn’t have a huge selection of digital audio control surfaces, its surfaces are among the best in the world.

Yamaha actually only got into DAW controller design after its acquisition of Steinberg Media Technologies (creators of Nuendo and Cubase) in 2005. Since then, Yamaha has been developing integrated products for the DAW market (as well as DAW software itself). The big product to come of this development is the Nuage Advanced Production System.

Yamaha’s Nuage is designed for full integration with Steinberg’s Nuendo digital audio workstation but will work well with other DAWs as well including Avid’s Pro Tools and Steinberg’s Cubase.

The Nuage offers unprecedented productivity and flexibility as well as premium audio quality, giving engineers around the world the best tools to get their jobs done effectively and creatively.

Notable Control Surface: Nuage Master (link to check the price at RSPE Audio)

Yamaha Nuage Master

Yamaha Corporation was founded in 1887 as Nippon Gakki Co by Torakusu Yamaha. Today, Yamaha’s headquarters is located in Nakazawacho, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan.

Official Website: yamaha.com

Yamaha is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Synthesizer Brands In The World

Top Best Live Sound Mixing Board/Console Brands
Top Best Mixing Console Brands For “Budget” Home Studios
Top Best AV Receiver Brands In The World
Top Best Studio Monitor Brands You Should Know And Use
Top Best Subwoofer Brands (Car, PA, Home & Studio)
Top Best PA Loudspeaker Brands You Should Know And Use

Top Best Acoustic Guitar Brands In The World
Top Best Bass Guitar Brands In The World


Mackie

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Mackie takes us out of the stratospherically high price points of the first 3 brands into a more affordable class. This brand is well-known for its affordable products that perform well above their price points. This is as true of Mackie’s control surfaces as it is for anything else.

The DAW control surfaces from Mackie use the Proprietary Mackie communication protocol for seamless music production software integration. This allows the Mackie surfaces to connect to nearly any DAW and offer the organic feel of faders and knobs in addition to your choice of workstation software.

Not only do the Mackie products play nicely with a great variety of DAWs but they also work incredibly well together. Extend your Mackie surface to the size you need and have yourself an awesome (and affordable) control surface for your studio!

Notable Control Surface: MCU Pro (link to check the price on Amazon)

Mackie MCU Pro

Mackie was founded in 1988 by Greg Mackie in Seattle, Washington, USA. In 2003, Mackie developed into and became a subsidiary brand of LOUD Technologies (new LOUD Audio). The company is headquartered in Woodinville, Washington, USA.

Official Website: mackie.com

Parent Company: LOUD Audio

Mackie is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Mixing Console Brands For “Budget” Home Studios
Top Best PA Loudspeaker Brands You Should Know And Use


PreSonus

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Presonus is a well-respected brand in the audio world. They produce software (including the Studio One DAW), loudspeakers, mixers, audio interfaces and, of course, control surfaces.

The FaderPort series features the excellent control surfaces of PreSonus. These controllers are compatible with Windows and Mac OS. They’re also universal, using Native Mode to interact with PreSonus Studio One; HUI emulation to control Avid Pro Tools, and the aforementioned Mackie Control emulation for compatibility with Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Sonar and Live. That’s just what PreSonus can guarantee. These surfaces will likely work with most other DAWs as well.

Studio One, Logic Pro and Ableton Live are featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) On The Market.

PreSonus’s control surfaces are designed to be intuitive and efficient. The company created the FaderPort surfaces to help musicians and engineers get their work done in a more satisfying way without taking anything away from the tried-and-true mouse + keyboard combination of controls.

Notable Control Surface: FaderPort 16 (link to check the price on Amazon)

PreSonus FaderPort 16

PreSonus was founded in 1995 by Jim Odom and Brian Smith in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, where the company is still headquartered today.

Official Website: presonus.com

PreSonus is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Mixing Console Brands For “Budget” Home Studios
Top Best Audio Interface Brands In The World


iCon

iCon Pro Audio is another multifaceted audio company, producing keyboard, interfaces, headphones, microphones, monitors, processors and, most notably, control surfaces.

These sleek controllers are both powerful and simple to use. They integrate with the majority of popular Digital Audio Workstations and digital mixers with iCon’s universal DAW mode.

On top of all that, they’re affordable, making them an excellent choice for amateurs and professionals alike.

Notable Control Surface: QCon Pro X (link to check the price on Amazon)

iCon Pro Audio QCon Pro X

iCon was founded in 1995 by Joe Wong in Hong Kong. The company is headquartered in Hong Kong.

Official Website: iconproaudio.com


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Behringer

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Behringer gets a spot on this list with its impressive DAW control surfaces. Like iCon Pro Audio, Behringer’s surfaces are affordable and impressively compatible, being equipped with HUI and Mackie Control for seamless integration with the majority of digital audio workstations.

These colourful models are super user-friendly and allow users to easily control parameters within the DAW of their choice for a more intuitive and enjoyable mixing/production experience.

Notable Control Surface: X-Touch (link to check the price on Amazon)

Behringer X-Touch

Behringer was founded in 1989 by Uli Behringer in Willich, Germany. The company is owned by Music Tribe (also founded and chaired by Uli Behringer), which is based in the British Virgin Islands.

Official Website: behringer.com

Parent Company: Music Tribe

Behringer is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Eurorack Module Synth Brands In The World
Top Best Synthesizer Brands In The World
Top Best Mixing Console Brands For “Budget” Home Studios
Top Best MIDI Controller Brands In The World


Focusrite

This one’s a bit strange in the fact that Focusrite no longer produces control surfaces. That being said, they’re discontinued Control 2802 is one of the best to have even been produced. Check one out for yourself if you can find it on the used market.

This DAW controller doubled as a 32‑input analogue console with a bus compressor. It worked well with multiple DAWs and was surprisingly affordable for the functionality.

Notable Control Surface: Control 2802 (discontinued)

Focusrite Control 2802

Focusrite was founded in 1985 by none other than Rupert Neve in England. In 1989, the company was purchased by Phil Dudderidge (co-founder of Soundcraft Electronics Ltd). Today, the Focusite Group owns 6 distinct brands: Focusrite, Focusrite Pro, Martin Audio, ADAM Audio, Novation, and Ampify Music. The company is headquartered in Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom.

Official Website: focusrite.com

Focusrite is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Interface Brands In The World


Solid State Logic

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Solid State Logic is perhaps best known for its ultra-high-end studio mixing consoles. It would make sense that a company so dedicated to producing the best consoles could put together the best control surfaces as well. That’s exactly the case with SSL.

Solid State Logic’s control surface is largely inspired by the classic designs of the best consoles in the world. Using an SSL control surface is kind of like getting your hands on an SSL board. Of course, nothing could be the same, but the feeling is reminiscent.

On top of the excellent feel of an SSL control surface (which is a big selling point of any control surface), the product works tremendously well.

The Nucleus2 featured advanced DAW control; transparent SuperAnalogueTM monitoring with talkback; SSL console grade mic pres; pro-quality Dante audio interface, and bundled SSL Native plug-ins. This helps professionals (or others that can afford it) to streamline their workflow and helps them to focus on the sound and not the screen.

Notable Control Surface: Nucleus2 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)

Solid State Logic Nucleus2

Solid State Logic was founded in 1969 by Colin Sanders in Stonesfiled, Oxfordshire. The company was sold to Audiotonix Group in 2017. It is headquartered in Begbroke, Oxfordshire, England.

Official Website: solidstatelogic.com

Solid State Logic is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top Best Live Sound Mixing Board/Console Brands
Top Best Studio Mixing Console Brands In The World
Top Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Interface Brands In The World

Top Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World
Top Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment


Smart AV

Smart AV has unfortunately gone out of business but their Tango DAW surface controller was (and is if you can get one used) one of the best to have ever been produced.

It combines a large colour touchscreen with a generous selection of tactile controls to offer users full flexible control over their favourite DAW.

Notable Control Surface: Tango (discontinued)

Smart AV Tango

Smart AV was founded in by Roger Savage in Sydney, Australia. The company is no longer in business.

Official Website: N/A


Softube

Softube is primarily an audio software development company focused on creating the most accurate digital software recreations of vintage, tube, and otherwise analog sound.

In addition to a wide variety of superb software instruments and processors are equally, if not more, impressive hardware controllers.

These control surfaces offer a unique hybrid between hardware and software with emulation software of the legendary SL 4000 E-Series console from the aforementioned Solid State Logic.

With a Softube control surface (or surfaces), we don’t only improve workflow but also enhance sound quality at the same time.

Notable Control Surface: Console 1 (link to check the price on Amazon)

Softube Console 1

Softube was founded in 2007 by Oscar Öberg in Linköping, Sweden, where the company is still headquartered today.

Official Website: softube.com

Softube is featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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