Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL Initial Impressions...
We got our Remote Zero SLs today, and I thought I'd throw up some random thoughts about the installation and usage. To wit:
INSTALLATION: One thing I've noticed in my years is that high-end gear Just Works. The cheaper a unit is, the more hoops you have to jump through to get it to do what it is supposed to do. For instance, my Lynx AES16/Apogee Rosetta combo just worked out of the box. I installed the driver, and that was that. The combination was over $2500. This RemoteSL was, what, $299? Inversely proportional indeed. It took me about three hours, a download, two installs, and two reboots to get the transport buttons to do anything in Nuendo. The high end Nuendo controllers (like the ID and the Euphonix) just plug in and go, but this was a real dog-n-pony show. In its defense, Adam told me that it worked fine with Live without installing anything, but I didn't try that, so I can't vouch for it.
QUALITY: It's a big hunk of plastic. The endless encoder knobs and buttons feel firm, can't complain about that. The 60mm faders are essentially useless, except maybe in a live situation. There's these stupid little plastic leaning things that you have to screw on the bottom to get it to lean at a viewable angle. My unit came with neither the screws nor a USB cable, so I had to use my imagination. No external power supply is included. If you just want to control a piece of hardware, you're gonna have to either buy a wall wart or fill it with batteries. In use with a computer, it is buss-powered. The transport buttons are pretty whack; no tactile features whatsoever, so you have to look at them. I'm so used to my keyboard setup for Nuendo that I don't think I'll get much use out of the transport buttons, anyways.
IN USE: Since none of the buttons are labeled, you kind of have to figure out what goes where. However, once I read through the manual and puzzled around, I got the hang of it. The Automap feature is pretty spiffy. You just start up Nuendo, and presto, it's a Nuendo controller. It does all the normal hardware control shit you'd expect. The one thing it _doesn't_ do in Nuendo (and I assume Cubase) is allow you to control insert and send effects. You can control the sends per channel, but that's it. To do anything deep in the channel controls requires such a ludicrous amount of button pressing it's not worth the effort. So, in short, for high level control, it's pretty slick. For deep mixing, it is so much more complicated to use this than to just mouse around that it is literally not worth the effort.
Controlling VSTi parameters is really nice, in a weird sort of way, especially if the box knows about the VSTi (like V-Station, for instance.) You can get some pretty hefty control going there. That's where this unit really shines, I think. For a simple mixing surface, you're better off spending the money for Mackie Control or one of the more sophisticated offerings.
I can see this unit being really quite good for controlling, say, Live, in a live setting. But for home studio use as a mixing surface, I'd say skip it. It's a jack of all trades, master of none kind of affair.
EDIT: Okay, I just set up a Nuendo project for old-school house music group mute arranging, and had a fucking blast. That's what this unit is for. If you play live, using some variation on group mute arranging, you're gonna be in heaven with this box. It makes me want to book a Micronaut show. For this alone, it is well worth the money. But as I said, as a mixing surface, it leaves a _lot_ to be desired.