Avid Artist Transport by Markrosoft
I do a lot of post-sound work for film but am fairly new to the game and decided my home studio needed a better control surface. I actually tried two different Artist *Controls* - thinking that was the control surface I needed. The first had a completely broken touch screen and the second had a semi-broken touch screen as well as a broken fader. As I returned the second one I saw a marked-down Artist *Transport* and figured I'd give it a try. I assumed it would be shoddy too and I'd end up returning it as well....
But I was wrong. The Artist Transport is amazing. For starters, the EuControl software is pretty easy to setup and configure and in hardly no time at all I was changing the soft buttons to what I wanted. It connects to your computer via ethernet and that makes it super responsive. The construction feels very solid (especially after having two Artist "Controls" that felt cheap and with unusable touch screens). The tiny screen on the Artist Transport is the only major hardware drawback - it's tiny and doesn't really convey much useful information. But the jog and shuttle wheels feel great. This will sound silly, but they're fun to turn.
I use the Transport with Pro Tools 10 and there are some really powerful features. For instance, I set one of the soft buttons to control "clip gain." That means I highlight a series of clips (formerly known as regions), hit the "clip gain" button, and then turn the jog wheel up or down to adjust the clip gain. This is SO useful. I save so much time. Let's say you already have volume automation set up but you've done something to the music and now the dialog sounds too quiet. Before you would have to mess with the volume automation to fix this and in some sections maybe you're already maxed out - pushing it as high as it will go. Now, you can just highlight a bunch of regions... excuse me... clips, hit a button, and spin the wheel a few turns and increase the gain by 3 db for a whole scene. It takes 1 sec.
There are a bunch of useful things like this. I can use the wheel to adjust the clip start and end, or to nudge the clip itself or just the contents. And then you can map powerful Eucon commands to the number pad. I've mapped my favorite 15 commands that don't have easy quickkeys and pro tools has never been so easy to navigate. Things like "Fit All Tracks in Edit Window" and "create new playlist" or "show previous playlist" have me flying through projects.
I use the transport with PreSonus Faderport - which is a fader for writing volume automation. The two work great together and between the two of them ($529 total) I feel like I can do almost everything the Artist Control ($1500) does. This is obviously a lot cheaper and you don't have to deal with a poorly made touchscreen. Sure, I can't write automation for multiple tracks simultaneously but most of the time I'm just writing one track at a time. Plus, the transport wheel on the Artist Transport is far superior to the little jog wheel on the Artist Control.
The one thing that doesn't work right now is the Assignable knob function. I think the way this is supposed to work is that you hover your mouse over any parameter, let's say it's the delay time in a delay plug in. If you hit the assignable knob button, the jog wheel should now control the delay time. Right now it just causes the EuControl software to force quit. I believe Avid is aware of the problem and trying to fix it, and if they ever do it'll make it even more handy. In the meantime, hold off on getting this if you're really looking for that feature.
I know what you're thinking - why the hell do I need a transport? I thought that too. But being able to program the 16 buttons on the number pad and the 6 additional "softkeys" with various Eucon Commands makes this an extremely useful piece of gear at this price.