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AlphaTrack Controller not cool with Pro Tools Control Surfaces
Old 25th August 2007
Here for the gear

Exclamation AlphaTrack Controller not cool with Pro Tools

This is my first blog ever. Just mentioning to save someone the bother. I was really looking forward to this new tool. I'm working on an album and can't afford a Command 8 money-wise or deskspace-wise. But we have to wait for something better. My peeves are below as well as my PT & computer set up specs.

Deal Breaking issues with the Alphatrack in Pro Tools (LE):

Scrub bar is set by nudge value:
Their cute little scrubby ribbon strip is set as a percentage of your nudge value. If you are like most serious editors, you like your nudge to be about 10 ms. At that setting the ribbon strip control creeps along and is useless for horizontal scrolling. The jump-to-markers by tapping feature is nice though... but I can use my ".1., .2., .3., etc." key shortcut for that. (Thats decimal + Num + decimal on the numeric pad). The scrub bar also affects window view, controlling both your view and the timeline simultaneously which is related to my next peeve.

Track-Select scrolls your window view:
Let me clarify something. Selecting a track and selecting your window view are two completely separate user controls. But on the Alphatrack they appear to be married. Consequences... let's say for example you're mixing and you have limited window space. You have your mix window open with tracks aligned left to right (kik, snr, HH, Tom 1, Tom 2, ..... bass, gits, vox, etc.). When you select Kik with A.T. it appears in your window far left. Now when you select snare (if your horizontal scroll bar below is active, i.e. you have tracks to the right of your screen), your view shifts and Kik is bumped off screen to left. Now you can't view Kik and Snr together! This effect is 10 x more annoying in the edit window. Your looking at a track, then you click (ctrl + shft + click) up above to go to another track and all of your tracks realign themselves in the window and you have to glance around to find what you were just looking at. Unlivable, IMHO. There should be a separate window scrolling control on A.T. perhaps.

Want to adjust your plugin EQs with the little knobs? Forget it. Knobs are too finely adjusted.
I did a quick test. It took me 6 complete revolutions of the knob to move the gain setting in my Ren Eq from -18db to +18db. On a mouse this is one click and drag or click and swipe. Don't forget, each revolution took 3 separate twists of my wrist... about 18 physical movements to slide the eq point from top to bottom. Like pedaling downhill in 10th gear.

You have to take your hand of the Alpha track to select tracks that aren't adjacent!
How often do you really mix by going from one track to the next? You don't. You select a track here and there and adjust according to need. I thought I would just be able to click on a track and slide. Wrong. You have to ctr + shft + click to activate a track. So your A.T. hand has to move to the keyboard every time. I programmed my mouse for a shortcut combo click to solve the problem, but the A.T. was not responsive in real time and I experienced long delays before pro tools would hear the fader. This was pronounced during playback.

Can't see screen over your knuckles.
Last but not least is a design layout flaw. I have tiny hands for a guy. Yet I couldn't grab the knobs without obscuring the L.E.D. screen. I found myself leaning forward a lot when making adjustments and trying to read.

If I'm just dumb and all these things can be corrected through preferences and usage then I'd like to know and I apologize to Frontier Designs. But I'm don't think that's the case.


Set up:
Mac g5, 1.6Ghz single, 2G Ram, Tiger 10.4.9, P.T. LE 7.3.1, MBox, Kensington trackball (Expert Mouse).

Last edited by fishrivers; 5th September 2007 at 03:47 AM.. Reason: Set up = Mac 10.4.9, not 10.9
Old 25th August 2007
Lives for gear
goldenlotus's Avatar

I don't have the AlphaTrack so I don't know if this will work, but thought I'd throw it out there just incase.

To select a track with my bcf2000 you can just right click on the track. Might work with the AlphaTrack if you have a two button mouse( I use a mighty mouse), instead of using ctrl + shift + click. Might not work but it's worth a try.
Old 25th August 2007
Lives for gear
Geert van den Berg's Avatar

Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but seeing that this is your first post, are you on a sortof mission against the AlphaTrack born out of frustration with the product?

I also have an AlphaTrack and don't share your opinion on most points. Also I think it's not a complete mixing solution, just an addition to do faderrides for people mixing with a mouse.

Offcourse there's always something that can be improved...
Old 1st September 2007
Here for the gear

Hey fishrivers,

most of that stuff is either things you can set yourself in PT Prefs, or long standing rules of Digidesign/HUI emulation. Sounds like you need to brush up on your ProTools manual.

I use Alphatrack with both PT and Sonar and find it very useful for many functions. Hey Geert is right, its $200, not $1,200. You don't get a Command8 for $200.

No deal breakers there for me.

Old 1st September 2007
Lives for gear
s.d.finley's Avatar
That alpha track looks pretty interesting.....can one use a USB hub with this?

What are you guys doing?
Old 1st September 2007
Here for the gear

Hello S.D.,
Yes, it will work with a hub, but it should be a powered hub. It runs on USB power so an unpowered hub might be a problem. I have a 4-port hub with my PT key, a keyboard, my TranzPort connection with no problem. USB drive and stuff are connected on another port.

Old 1st September 2007
Lives for gear
s.d.finley's Avatar
Originally Posted by skymaster View Post
Hello S.D.,
Yes, it will work with a hub, but it should be a powered hub. It runs on USB power so an unpowered hub might be a problem. I have a 4-port hub with my PT key, a keyboard, my TranzPort connection with no problem. USB drive and stuff are connected on another port.


thats good to know. I have no more USB inputs available on my G5, but I do have a powered USB hub that connected to my LCD screen. I guess I could plug the AT into that.

Old 5th September 2007
Here for the gear

Hey Geert

I'm not on any mission here. It's just that I read a lot about this piece and found it very disappointing. So I'm letting others know. I can't comment on other DAWs but with Pro Tools and Alphatrack, everything I have written appears to be true. I'm up for hearing work-arounds or other things to try. I chatted with a tech guy from Frontier Designs. Below are his replies. As mentioned by skymaster, a lot is determined by the digi HUI. None of my preference settings fixed anything however. I'll be keeping the unit, but only for the the fader, panning and a couple of the btns which are actually nice to have around.

Re: Scrub bar is set by nudge value:
F.D. "The reason for its relationship to the nudge value is that this is the only HUI accessible value that lets the user customize scrub resolution."
Okay not F.D. fault. Still makes scrubbing worthless if you are editing a session and want to use small nudge values.

Re: Track-Select scrolls your window view
F.D. "This is actually determined by your own user settings in Pro Tools Preferences and not AlphaTrack. See Pro Tools Preferences/Display/Edit Window Follows Bank Selection, and, Mix Window Follows Bank Selection."
I tried this, and when these preferences were changed to prevent scrolling, Ctrl + Shift + click no longer worked for selecting tracks. Try it. So you still have live with window scrolling issue. My work around = make your mix window super wide to include all tracks and in edit view, get used to your selected track becoming the top one on screen.

Re: Adjusting plugin settings with knobs
F.D. "encoder resolution is determined by the HUI protocol"
So. Okay again... not F.D. fault. Still, it happens to be worthless with my set up (Ren EQ, PT and Alphatrack) for reasons originally mentioned.

Re: You have to take your hand of the Alpha track to select tracks that aren't adjacent.
F.D. "The shift + ctr + click function is another HUI setting".
I could not find a work-around. I'm resigned to lifting the left hand every time to select a new track. I don't like using the knob method for this. Arrows are very cool for selecting adjacent tracks.

Re: Can't see screen over your knuckles.
F.D. "AlphaTrack is meant to be a compact and affordable device. The size and placement of the encoders and display was a conscious decision that was made to fit the intended goal. It may not be right for everyone."
Ok. Great answer. However, something to be aware of for people interested in buying.

Last edited by fishrivers; 5th September 2007 at 03:43 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 7th April 2008
Gear Head
jpoprock's Avatar

So.. is this still the way it is w/ the Alphatrack then? I noticed this posted back in Sept of 2007. The issues at hand seem to be pretty important ones. At least to me. And if HUI is such a pain, regarding scrubbing and making simple turns of a knob, than why would anyone choose to use the MCU? Yet it seems to be very popular no?

I'm thinking of buying the Alphatrack over the Faderport simply because it seems to offer more control over things. But if those controls are just as big of a pain as using a mouse, then I'll save my money for a used C8!

Old 7th April 2008
Lives for gear
s.d.finley's Avatar
I got an AT in late dec. I use it via USB 2.0 hooked directly to my G5. The AT works great. I really like it for the price. Lots of control; faders, pan plug ins, markers, zoom, scroll, etc.....

The onlt issue is that HUI reads faders as +6db, while in PT 7+, the faders read +12db.

Besides that, I dig it!

Old 8th April 2008
Gear Head
jpoprock's Avatar

I hammered CS about this very post, and referenced much of what the original poster had said, including his responses to CS's message back to him. This is what CS said back to me:

First, yes, all controllers that are not manufactured by Digidesignmust use HUI protocol to control ProTools. Its a shame but that's theDigi-law. HUI protocol is limited, but manufacturers can use it howeverbest suites there hardware design or needs. So just because one productor another supports HUI protocol certainly doesn't mean theynecessarily use it in the same way.

Feel free to download and read the complete ProTools Guide for AlphaTrack from our website

Now I'll try to address a few of these issues specifically.

"Scrubbar is set by nudge value:". Yup, the scroll strip resolution at thebottom is linked to the nudge value. That isn't going to be perfect foreveryone, maybe particularly film editors, that want to jog bysub-frame and still be able to shuttle quickly around in a coarsefashion as your poster seems to be. But at least the user can choosethe 1 best resolution for their needs. Thats what we have on this tool(maybe if we had 2 scroll strips?). Jumping to markers with the stripis very quick. And I dare say its fewer moves than typing ' . , # , . 'every time on the keyboard. But that's just me.

"Track-Selectscrolls your window view:". This can be set individually for the Editand Mixer windows in PT Preferences. But the poster's statement is abit misleading. Even with scrolling enabled in PT, AlphaTrack does NOTalways force the selected track to be on the left side of the screen.It will only scroll if the track you are going to is off the displayentirely. If your entire mixer fits on your screen it will neverscroll. I'm not sure what is meant by the "track and window select aremarried" comment but maybe the poster wasn't all together familiar withthe options that were available. Maybe just having a bad day.

Andthe Shift+CTRL+Click to select track function works fine on my machineeven with scrolling turned off. So I'm not sure what was happening onthe poster's system there either. And a related note!!! - TheAlphaTrack also lets your quickly scroll through tracks with an encoderas well. You don't have to click a button many times to get around.

"Knobsare too finely adjusted.". This depends on the plug-in that you areusing. Using EQ mode on AlphaTrack with Digi's EQIII's for example, ittakes less than 1 complete revolution to go from one Gain extreme tothe other. We added a press+turn feature for fine control. I am notfamiliar with the Ren EQ mentioned so I can't comment on thatspecifically, but all plug-ins are not created equal. But many usersare making fine adjustments rather then extreme value sweeps, so Ithink it works well.

"You have to take your hand of the Alphatrack to select tracks that aren't adjacent!". Huh? AlphaTrack provides2 ways of selecting tracks from its surface. There are dedicated trackup/down buttons for reaching adjacent tracks. Or, as mentioned above,you can also use an encoder to quickly navigate.

As youmentioned, AlphaTrack isn't meant to compete with a Control24 but itdoes do a good job of helping out with common tasks. I hope this helpsexplain some of these issues. Please read the linked document as well,or post again if you have specific questions.

I also encourage any other AlphaTrack/PT users out there to toss in their own 2-cents worth, good or bad.

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