A few weeks ago I purchased the iPad app V-Control for my Pro-Tools recording systems. I have had some time now to use it and collect some of my thoughts to write a review.
First, let me get a somewhat philosophic. When the iPad first came out, I was a little skeptic as to how practical this device would be. I mean, wasn’t it really just a bigger iPod touch? And it couldn’t even make phone calls. My thinking at the time was “People will just play games on these things and not use them for anything productive.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyday it seems as though somebody has figured out a way to make our lives more productive with an app. V-Control is one such app. I’m going to have to join Steve Jobs in his resounding chorus, “the PC is dead.” The iPad and tablet devices are the future and they provide more than just software solutions to our lives. They are slowly becoming the emulators of our hardware devices that we use day in and day out.
Being able to move multiple faders while mixing was a luxury I left behind from my days mixing in Nashville. Since moving back to Central Illinois I have been plagued with the tedium of mouse mixing. For most of the work I do this isn’t a big problem, but,I do have a weekly mix that is usually 30+ tracks. Let’s just say that I have become quite adept with the art of mouse mixing. For a long time I have wanted to buy the Euphonics hardware controller for Pro-Tools. But the price has kept me from purchasing. Even knowing how much more efficient it would make me, I still couldn’t see myself shelling out the $1200 for eight faders and eight virtual pots. But $50 for V-Control is something I could handle.
When I first saw V-Control in the app store, I thought it was too good to be true. Could this really be what I have been wanting? For only $50? Short answer is “yes.”. …..but….. There is always a “but.”
Getting V-Control up and running was pretty painless. Once you purchase the app, you will need to go to the Neyrinck website and download the Ney-fi plugin and install it on your Pro-Tools machine. When you run Ney-fi it creates a server on your wifi network that the iPad can detect. When you launch V-Control you will be able to select your computer as a host. Then you will need to launch Pro-Tools and set it up to be controlled via HUI. That’s it. Your session will show up on your iPad.
Overall, my mixing experience using V-Contol was good. I used it on a session for a television broadcast that had a combination of live instruments, handheld and lav mics and choir mics totaling 31 tracks. It met most of my expectations. The interface is pretty intuitive and easy to navigate. As a seasoned Pro-Tools user, every button and point of contact made sense to me. On the right side of the interface is a strip of buttons that provide fly-out menus for a number keypad, edit window parameters, save, undo, escape and a few other bits of functionality. These are nice but I rarely accessed these features because the fact that I could sit at the back of my studio in the comfy couch or stand in the next room and control my Pro-Tools sessions made me grin from ear. That’s really the feature that sells this app for me.
Now, you may be having the same reaction as I to the fact that control is conducted over a wifi network. How can it be quick enough to match my fader moves in real time? This was not an issue for me. My studio is in the basement of my house, the wireless router is on the second floor. I found nothing to be lacking when moving automated faders. I wouldn’t depend on it for time accurate mutes, but even then, the muting that I did automate, reacted with acceptable latency.
There are some interface issues that need to be addressed though. First, every channel shows up stereo. To me, this is annoying. At the top of each channel is a pan pot that lets you easily place your audio in the stereo spectrum. You can access your plug-ins from the V-Control interface. But, if you have a full head of hair you will quickly find yourself bald from pulling. I found it easier to just work with plug-ins via the mouse. You can control your aux sends via a virtual rotating pot or by hitting a “flip” button and switching the pots to faders. I really like that feature.
The ability to move to banks of faders via a swipe gesture seemed a bit “clunky” to me. It often took me three or four swipes to get access to other faders. I think this could be better achieved by using a pair of “ahead” and “back” buttons. Also, there is the ability to swipe past the actual number of faders in your session. There seems to be an infinite (or default) number of faders that show up. So you could swipe to a bank of blank faders in V-Control that don’t exist on screen in your Pro-Tools session. This needs to be fixed.
• I can move multiple faders at the same time.
• Transport controls on the device.
• Channel names show up at the top. Lots of characters and very legible.
• Access the aux sends with faders.
• Trying to access other faders by the swipe gesture seemed a little clunky.
• Every channel shows up as a stereo channel.
• Controlling plug-ins is cumbersome.
• No bank selection buttons.
Even though there are equal amount of pros and cons, I cannot stress just how cool this app really is. With continued updates and revisions it will only get better. I can say that this app, while not perfect, has helped me become more efficient at what I do. And that is well worth the $50.