Fast FactsApplications: Project studio, studio
Key Features: Fully functioning faders; shuttle wheel; USB and MIDI versions; compatible with many major DAW platforms
Contact: JL Cooper at 310-322-9990, www.jlcooper.com.
+ Convenient size
+ Includes shuttle wheel
+ Both USB and MIDI models
- Difficult to make minute adjustments with the small faders
There isn't a more feature-packed portable controller than the CS-32 MiniDesk and its price can't be touched.The new CS-32 MiniDesk is a miniature control surface that provides fast access to the commonly used functions in most audio programs. It is amazing to look at because it resembles a scale model of a full-size console that was built for the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids movie set. The compact yet powerful CS-32 adds tactile controls to most digital audio editing systems, MIDI sequencers and animation software.
The $499 JL Cooper MiniDesk packs 32 20mm faders, seven knobs, a shuttle wheel, and a multitude of buttons and LEDs into a box with a footprint smaller than a sheet of paper (just 8 inches x 9 inches x 2 inches). In addition to providing transport controls, cursor keys and an optically encoded and weighted jog/scrub wheel, the controller allows for the real-time control of volume levels and mute, as well as solo and track arming functions. There are six rotary knobs that provide easy adjustment and automation of panning, auxiliary sends and plug-in parameters. The two-digit alphanumeric LED display provides the current status of the MiniDesk. The Activity In and Activity Out LED indicators illuminate when data is received by or sent from the CS-32. These LEDs are extremely helpful for setup troubleshooting. The CS-32 is also equipped with a footswitch jack that allows a footswitch to be used for punching in and out. Any normally open switch contact with a 1/4-inch mono plug will work with the jack.
JL Cooper makes both a MIDI and a USB version of the CS-32 MiniDesk. The MIDI model's MIDI In and MIDI Out ports follow the MIDI specification. Simply plug the CS-32 into the MIDI interface and plug in the 9V DC power supply and the control surface is ready to roll.
The USB version conforms to the USB v1.1 specification and is powered by the USB bus. Since its power consumption is approximately 150 milliamps, it must be powered directly from the computer, or from a self-powered hub. A bus-powered hub will not work reliably. The USB version requires the appropriate driver to be loaded.
The MiniDesk is directly supported by Digidesign Pro Tools HD, TDM, LE and Free; Steinberg Cubase and Nuendo and MOTU Digital Performer. If there is not a template for the software you are attempting to use with the CS-32, it is easy — though a bit time consuming — to modify the generic MIDI template using the MIDI learn capabilities.
I tested the USB version of the CS-32 and had great results. The control surface is so small that it can be used virtually anywhere. It is the perfect accessory to the portable recording studio; simply connect it to your laptop computer, and you are ready to rock. I did not have the opportunity to test the MIDI version, but since it requires external power, it may not be as attractive to the user who is concerned about total portability.
I was happy to find that the pan and auxiliary send knobs are normal size. These knobs can be easily configured to adjust the parameters of a virtual synth or plug-in effect. In comparison to controllers with only eight or 16 faders, having 32 dedicated faders and channel buttons eliminates the typical confusion associated with fader bank switching.
I do have one complaint with the CS-32. Since there are so many features packed into such a small space, the buttons and faders have to be extremely small. I found that after several hours of use, the small sliders became annoying and often difficult to use to makefor minute adjustments. The buttons could have been problematic as well, but they are, —thankfully, — each accompanied by a small LED that lets the user know the status of the channel. I wish JL Cooper had made the surface to include a single full-throw fader that could be used for detailed fader adjustments.
I did have to make a couple of calls to JL Cooper's technical support team during my tests (that's what I get for trying to do something rather simple without first reading the manual). I actually enjoy calling tech support and not revealing that I'm reviewing a product for a publication just to see how well I'm treated. I'm happy to report that I received quick, knowledgeable and friendly advice that quickly got me on-line.
Although it is extremely small, the CS-32's size does not reduce its capabilities as a powerful controller. The CS-32 allows the functions of audio and sequencing software applications to be controlled intuitively through the use of a tangible interface with actual faders, buttons and knobs.
Fast FactsApplications: Project studio, studio