Help me! Or “How to Choose a MIDI Controller.”
We offer a lot of different MIDI controllers. That’s great because we can make pretty much anything to fit your situation, connected devices, playing style. It’s also bad because you end up trying to decide between a ton of options and have no idea what to get. We’re here to help.
Consideration 1: Size.
The first thing to think about is how much board space you’re willing to devote to a MIDI controller. We have controllers that range in size from Twinkie (DMC-2) to meat loaf (DMC-7.) The bigger the controller, the more buttons it can accommodate, and the more control possibilities it allows.
Here’s a size reference. There’s a 1 inch ruler at the bottom of the pic, so you can get an idea of overall size.
Consideration 2: Functionality
Even our smallest controllers can control your devices, but they’ll be more limited in functionality. The DMC-2 is super compact and can handle scrolling banks, scrolling presets, or looper control, but the downside is that it can only do one of those things at a time. Upgrading to one of our larger controllers gets you a mode switch, which lets you change the functions of the controller on the fly. The DMC-3, 3XL, and 4 can do bank or preset scrolling, bypass, and full looper control of the Timeline. If you’re using a different MIDI device we can control its functions, too – check the pages on the Shop for available firmware.
What happens if you have a MIDI device that isn’t listed? Contact us. We have written custom firmware for lots of different types of devices and device combinations, and we can probably come up with something that will work for your application.
If you want to scroll presets or banks, the DMC-2 will do it.
If you want to scroll presets AND use the looper on the Timeline or the additional functions on the BigSky / Mobius / Timefactor / Space / H9, then the DMC-3 is a god choice.
The DMC-3XL adds an expression wheel that sends MIDI or a 1/4″ jack that can connect to an expression pedal or tap tempo switch.
The DMC-4 can handle all of that stuff, but we take all the “hold” functions off the mode switch and move them over to the fourth button. We can also make that fourth button a tap tempo switch instead.
When you move up to the DMC-6 and DMC-7, everything changes. Instead of being primarily for scrolling presets on your devices, the DMC-6 and DMC-7 allow you to save and recall combined presets on three devices. One tap gets you 01A on your Timeline, 17B on your Mobius, and 68C on your BigSky. We also send an extra program change that can control an Eventide or Line 6 pedal, plus it can interface with our SMARTLoop to engage a couple of analog pedals at the same time. They do have a scrolling mode, and they have a full looper mode for the Timeline.
The DMC-6 and DMC-7 are the same except for the size of the enclosure and the tap tempo switch on the DMC-7. They’re designed more for quick preset recall than for scrolling around from preset to preset.
We also offer the DMC-6D, which is a DMC-6 with a bright blue LED display. It’s easier to use than the standard DMC-6, and also includes a second expression pedal input plus a dual switch input for tap tempo and a “favorite” switch.
Consideration 3: Number of controlled devices
The DMC-2 can control one device. That’s it – if you need to control more stuff, then the larger controllers are the way to go.
The DMC-3, 3XL, and 4 can control two or three devices. If they are set up for two devices, then the second device gets an extra mode added to the controller. Tap on over to it and then you can scroll presets and engage / bypass the effect. If we set them up for three devices, we disable the looper controls to reduce the amount of tap-dancing to switch between the device modes.
The DMC-6D, DMC-6, and DMC-7 have three “mappable” MIDI channels. This means that you can scroll three devices from the scrolling mode, and save a preset that has different settings for each device. These controllers also send messages on a fourth channel that isn’t mappable. Every time you press red 1 (for example,) we send MIDI program change 1. This channel may be used for our SMARTLoop, or it may be mapped on a device that can “learn” MIDI presets like the Eventide pedals. These controllers have up to 20 presets, in 4 banks of 5 each.
Here’s a chart showing all of the specs in mind-numbing detail.
What we recommend is the biggest controller you can fit. If that’s the DMC-2, then great – it will still make your life on stage or in church easier. If you have more complicated requirements, like two or more devices, or you need an expression input or side roller, then the DMC-3XL is very popular. The DMC-6 / DMC-7 are a great choice for the multi-device setups that are becoming more common these days. Finally, the DMC-6D can also integrate with a DAW or Ableton Live for controlling loops in live performance.
We hope this post will help you make a decision about the MIDI controller that’s right for you. If you’ve got any questions, please contact us! We’re always happy to help you get the right gear for your situation.