Ten to fifteen ago control surfaces used to cost a fair amount of money and there really wasn't that many low-cost solutions to choose from either. Of course, there were some affordable offering available back then such as the Digi 003, a couple of 8 fader devices from Mackie and Avid but these all cost upwards of $1,000, not exactly what we would consider these days to be low-cost or budget friendly. Luckily, times have changed. "Low-cost" small form factor control surfaces have come down in price quite substantially and we're now rather spoilt for choice these days when it comes to choosing budget control surfaces for Pro Tools.
In this article we list a selection of control surfaces compatible with Pro Tools that are all available to buy today for under $500. We listed these below in ascending price order.
Presonus Faderport: $129
The Faderport has been around for a number of years and in the time it has become extremely popular in home recording studios worldwide. It features a single motorized fader, pan pot, track functions (solo, mute, record arm), transport, automation, window selector view section and channel select for banking between tracks in Pro Tools.
It's by far one of the most affordable control surfaces that is fully compatible with Pro Tools on the market today, for the money it's an absolute steal.
The Faderport can draw its power via USB but this limits the devices somewhat. The included power supply needs to be used in order for the motorised fader to work.
Behringer X-Touch ONE: $149
The Behringer X-Touch ONE is a recent release, although we've yet to try it, it does look rather tasty even though it does look very similar in design to Presonus's Faderport. All the functions you find on the Faderport are present on the X-Touch ONE but look a little closer and you'll notice some extra features present on the Behringer such as a jog wheel, main counter display, a channel meter and more.
The X-Touch ONE can be fully bus-powered via USB, however, two USB slots are required to fully power this device along with the motorized fader. A PSU can be used to fully power this device if you only have one available USB slot in your computer.
The Behringer X-Touch ONE is due to ship towards the end of June 2018. Many dealers are accepting pre-orders.
Icon Platform M: $349
Icon produces a variety of control surfaces, the Platform M is their entry level control surface. It is a very simple affair that offers basic fader, pan and channel controls. What makes this an interesting control surface solution is that it can be paired with multiple Icon devices and Icon control surfaces making this a modular system. The Platform doesn't have a scribble strip display builtin to the unit but Icon do offer a sperate display for $159.
Presonus Faderport 8: $425
Presonus did a brilliant job designing the Faderport 8. It features 8 motorised faders, transport, digital scribble strips, automation... it pretty much includes everything we expect in a small form factor 8 fader board at a bargain "no brainer" price. If the single fader control surfaces in this list come across as being a bit limited then for roughly three times the cost of the single fader Faderport you can get this, the 8 fader version. We've tested extensively and know that it is fully compatible with Pro Tools.
Behringer X-TOUCH: $449
Like the other Behringer control surfaces featured in this list, we've also yet to test this, the X-Touch. On the face of it this looks to be a well-sorted device and for the money, it appears to be an absolute steal, however, I've done a bit of research into this that you can do as well by typing "Behringer X-Touch Pro Tools" into Google or YouTube. My research suggests that this device isn't fully compatible with Pro Tools. Many of the function buttons will not work in Pro Tools. Behringer nor Avid appear to be running around trying to fix these issues... Until we hear otherwise, we believe the X-Touch has limited compatibility with Pro Tools.
Softube Console 1 MKII: $499
Softube Console 1 MKII isn't a control surface that enables users to control functions within Pro Tools such as mix window faders and pan pots. Instead, it is a control surface that enables users to control the Softube Console 1 channel strip plug-in within the Pro Tools Application. Console 1 can control functions within other DAWs such as Studio One, just not Pro Tools. Do not let that put you off this device if you are a Pro Tools user. Console 1 is a seriously powerful mixing system that feels and sound like your mixing on an analog console.
Have we missed any control surfaces that work with Pro Tools that cost under $500? Do you use any of these in your Pro Tools studios?