Another dive into controller madness

Yesterday i testet a new controller for my waves e-channel plugin. It is build by a one man company in the UK named Rocksolid audio. As far as i know he uses arduino boards for his products. The hardware is beautifully designed and small enough to fit even on a crowded Desktop. Supported for now are a few DAWs like Ableton, Studio one, Reaper, FL Studio and three more i cant remember right now.

The thing is it uses a software called RA Control which uses 2 ways to implement the hardware control into your daw called mouse mode and host mode. Mouse mode means the controller emulates the mouse function, so everytime you turn a knob the mouse hovers over the control you chose to turn. Which is clever, but the mapping is cumbersome and everytime you want to control a plugin in another channel strip you have to click the plugin window of said plugin. That means if you quickly want to jump between 16 instances you should have 16 plugin-ui windows open. The good thing: mouse mode works for almost any plugin and in every daw.

Than there is host mode. Which means that RA Control provides a vst3 which you can load and which creates a wrapper wherein you can load any plugin, map it once and you are done. So all you have to do if you have a mapped plugin on 16 channels is to select the channel and move the controls and there you are. In Reaper it looks like this:

The little window is a small virtual screen RA creates that shows the track name and the name of the plugin you have loaded into the host. If you move any encoder it shows the changed value (here you can choose between graphic and numeric). You can close the plugin gui completely and just have the small screen pop up if you change the values. So you can focus more on the hardware which is what i really like. Also you can map any plugin the host actually loads. The software is in beta and some plugins just dont at this point. But it is nice that you are not limited to control just one…

Ardour does load the vst3 but does not allow the mapping. If you activate the small virtual screen it just says “no host”.

I guess it has to do with the way this wrapper-thing works. Is there maybe a way to
“tell” Ardour only to use the RA-wrapper for vst3? Or does anyone have experience with the controllers from this company?

Greetings from Berlin

Edit - Forgot to mention the most important: RA Control creates its own bridge which runs in the background to make the hardware available in your daw. So to activate it under control surfaces does not help. It is interesting however that ardour offers RA Control (the host) and Micro 4k (the actual hardware) as connections in the surface menu as well as in the midi ports.

I am using a mac mini m1 desktop base model running sonoma and ardour 8.1 hooked up to a behringer xr18.

Not familiar with the controller wrapper, but I extract from your description:

  • the midi connections of the device are recognized.
  • the wrapper plug-in does not know Ardour as host.

It sounds to me as if the wrapper has some hardcoded behavior for different hosts ( usually DAWs). Did you already get in touch with the builder about behavior in Ardour?

Edit: I did some reading for you.
If RA Control host mode is not working, it seems that you are best advised to use their Control Hub in combination with Ardour generic midi control as described here:

My own experience with wrapping plugins is generally bad, as it does always create another layer of complexity with potential for system destabilization. By using generic midi, you might spare yourself some of those problems.

Thanks for your clear Input! I just got an answer from the developer. Ardour ist very low on their priority list right now. They want to make the Host mode available for as many DAW’s as possible but pro tools and the like are more important at the moment. Which i understand. So i just have to wait.

Generic Midi would include creating a preset for every Track on different Midi Channels and then changing presets in the Hub Window. After seeing how elegant Host Mode works in reaper i am reluctant to do that. I did this with a faderfox EC4 which worked but was not very joyful to use. Sold the EC4.


1 Like

I’ve watched the video.

To me this is a rather weird concept. Solving the problem of mapping a hardware controller to a plugin’s controls by writing a new plugin host to act as an intermediary just seems … odd.

It’s even more odd to then find out that the new plugin host has to be written “specially” for each DAW it is intended to be used in. That crosses from “odd” to “marginally insane” in my book.

You can get (more or less) all this control without anything that RA Control is doing. A device like a Faderfox EC4 can fairly easily be set up in Ardour to do almost precisely the same things. Of course, it isn’t physically designed to copy the EQ section from some specific traditional console. But you could view that as a plus or a minus. If you want to control a plugin that emulates that particular EQ section, fine I guess. But this seems like an incredibly niche use of a hardware controller.

I also note that of the 3 physical controllers he has on the website, the one that looks most like the plugin he uses for the videos is now discontinued.

1 Like

That wrapper idea is constantly resurfacing since at 15 years (or whenever Novation conceived automap). No one got it stable across all plugins, it always adds headache. But if you can make it work with a little set of tools, it can improve interaction across hosts.
I can also understand why they check the host for custom logic. An example would be the plugin for the Yamaha motif keyboards. If you change the track in the plugin, the daw track selection follows along. That way you were able to have a dedicated midi track per channel, without the need to leave the plugin view for track selection. If I researched correctly, this happened via some arcane VST plugin and host communication. Less sophisticated daws where not able to do this. So some checks are necessary. RA does most likely use that extension or some kind of remote device workaround…
I saw another wrapper based control surface at Superbooth, forgot the name, but it was essentially a touch screen surrounded by knobs.
In any case, not a route I would go down.

That i did. Stopped me me from whining about selling the EC4. I use this thing now to control the waves ssl, a compressor and reverb/delay. For everything else: the magic mouse.

Anywho… thanks to @paul and @GenGen for clarifying and putting things into context/perspective.


1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 91 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.