November 20, 2006

Novation ReMOTE ZeRO SL Initial Impressions...

by Chris Randall

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.



Page 2 of 3

Nov.20.2006 @ 11:24 PM
On the subject of control surfaces, how many people realize the importance of their computer keyboard? I noticed CR said how much he is used to his keyboard setup for nuendo. I wanted to improve my typing skills so I picked up an all blank Das Keyboard II . It definitely improved my typing, but it also made me focus on my keyboard as a control surface. The das is easily the most satisfying to use keyboard I've owned. Money well spent.

Nov.21.2006 @ 12:45 AM
Chris Randall
I've been thinking about getting one of those, for exactly that. I type pretty fast (~60wpm) but my accuracy sucks.



Nov.21.2006 @ 8:04 AM
my keyboard has no knobs or sliders at all...

Nov.21.2006 @ 10:15 AM
That is in fact how Underworld describe their basic live setup: link []">link []

though I have the impression they've developed it a bit beyond just basic mutes.


Nov.21.2006 @ 12:41 PM
I've had the SL25 since it came out, then traded up for the SL37. I use it strictly for live performance, and occasionally playing a bassline or chords or something into tracks that I'm working on.

Downpressor - installation worked fine for me on OSX - hit up Novation's site for the latest software and ReMOTE OS. It is slightly non-intuitive to update it, but installation itself is not too taxing.

If you're using Ableton Live, you can pretty much control whatever VST/AU parameter you want. You'll probably want to set up your own custom template for your performance set, as the Automap feature (I find) is a little strange for live performances. I understand that it also works quite well with Reason, and probably on par with CR's experience in other environments. If you know how your software handles MIDI control input, you should be fine.

aKido - I also had one of the first runs of the 25SL. The drum pads didn't work, so I contacted the place I bought it from. Turned out the first delivery units to the US were a bit messed up, and they replaced mine for free (this is NovaMusik).


Nov.21.2006 @ 5:54 PM
yeah, seems a lot of that first run of SL25's had the piezos wired in backwards. strangely it wasn't all of them, usually 2-4 per unit. they weren't doing direct replacements in australia, and when mine was repaired the guy told me he'd already fixed 83 of the original shipment of 100 to hit the country.

Nov.21.2006 @ 5:57 PM
Chris Randall
Jesus. I imagine someone in China got sent to reeducation camp for that.

In any case, after spending a couple more hours today with the unit (again, all in Nuendo; I've yet to try it with Live) I can say that it is an excellent live tool, but definitely useless for mixing.



Nov.21.2006 @ 6:12 PM
Is it just me, or is the only controller with halfway decent faders, that can be had for less than six or seven hundred, from [gasp, choke] Behringer? Why is it that no-one can put out a cheap controller with 100mm+ faders.

Nov.21.2006 @ 6:12 PM
For another $100 there is always this ....looks the part for ableton live ..housebeats...
link []">link []

Nov.21.2006 @ 6:26 PM
I've actually been waiting on that Bitstream 3x unit for LIVE use. Bitstream announced it last winter then promptly got bought by CME who halted distribution through bitstream's site immediately to 'take over' distribution. Then CME signed a deal with Yamaha (I believe) for distribution and THAT took ages to get going. By May of this past year I broke down and bought one of the BCF2000, my first piece of behringer (gayringer?). I intend to stick it next to my Peavey 1600x for general use when I 'upgrade' to the bitstream for live use.

For studio "mixing" I'd rather have a mackie/radikal/etc but for live use the behringer has been 'ok' for Live use since I haven't got time atm to go down the path of ucaaps/midibox development. Hanging around the midibox crowd has shown me that it would be 4-5 units before I had anything I was somewhat satisfied with (including the mic pre and/or sidstation 'starter' units I'd probably build first to get my feet wet with their tech).

Anyway the Bitstream 3x is now apparently shipping, and while I still intend to pick one up I must say I'm curious to see reports on the current units. The Bitstream produced ones were extremely solid from the people I spoke with, so I mostly want to confirm they didnt' change manufacturing to china and cheapen all the internals.


Page 2 of 3



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.