MIDI controllers with incremental knob encoders

I'd like to give you a short list with example products that support relative (incremental) MIDI CC messages.

The advantage: Drambo knobs follow exactly how you turn the knob. No jumps, no catch-up searching for the correct value, just turn the dial naturally.

Which one you choose is very much a matter of taste and budget.

  • The Arturia Beatstep has 16 pads and 16 encoders and price-wise it's most likely the best option. The encoders are not of the best durability but for the price it's acceptable.
  • Arturia MiniLab Mk2
  • Arturia KeyLab Essential 49
  • Faderfox UC4
  • Faderfox EC4 might be interesting if you want to control lots of parameters from hardware knobs.

Good, low-cost DJ-style controller with pads, pots, crossfader, 2 vertical faders and 2 touch-sensitive jog wheels supporting incremental MIDI messages: Hercules Starlight

Not tested by me but these should work too:

  • Icon Platform Nano
  • Icon Platform M+
  • M-Audio Code 25 Black
  • Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1
  • Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25
  • Midiplus SmartPad (I have seen mixed reviews about the quality so be aware! The price is very low.)

Some controllers that are not produced anymore but work well:

  • Got an old Behringer BCR2000? It has endless controllers too and they work with Drambo.
  • IBK 10-Control and 4-Control


  • Pad controllers that run off iPad power (and can be connected using the simple Camera Connection Kit):

    • Novation Launchpad Mini Mk2 (Pads can be illuminated by sending it MIDI notes from Drambo)
  • Novation circuit is a lot of fun with Drambo, not just (continuous) controllers but sequencing too.

  • edited June 2020

    Beatstep runs off iPad power fine. Works great for a lot of things, though crossfader control isn't amazing with the encoders. I'm going to try a knob with a handle for the large knob, maybe something like https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61Vip1sPmtL._AC_SL1000_.jpg

    Fwiw: the rubber coating on my beatstep's knobs started breaking down this year. I soaked them in alcohol to remove it.

  • I got this set up today. Controlling the following items in Drambo with the setup:

    Spent some time getting the following mapped:

    . Scene Selections + CrossFader

    . Audio Channels 1-8 Mixer Volume

    . Patterns 1-8 Selector

    . 2 octave Chromatic Keyboard

    . Play

    . Record

    . Undo

    . Steps Mode

    Used up 2 Custom Modes to make it work so we’ll see how it goes. So awesome to have up to 4 Custom Modes on the X and it should be the perfect Drambo midi controller. 

  • Here's a better image with call outs:

  • edited June 2020

    I'm having a good time with this one:

    Crossfader mapped to X-fader

    Vertical faders mapped to Flexi Samplers pitch

    Jog wheel touch mapped to track mute(s)

    Jog wheel encoder mapped to Flexi Scratch position (Offset)

    Left transport buttons mapped to 3 scene pads, right transport buttons mapped to transport

    Hot Cue buttons mapped to X-fader left and right buttons for A/B scene selection

    Knobs mapped to volume and 'kill style EQ' (cut low end, cut high end etc)

    Pads mapped to sample or chord triggers (mapping them to scenes is another cool option!)

    Lots of fun for a $70 MIDI controller!

    It has bright LEDs so it requires a powered CCK. Or a Bluetooth USB MIDI adapter like the Yamaha UD-BT01.

  • edited June 2020

    I tried the Novation LaunchKey 49 MKII, and it worked pretty well. I used the rotary knobs for panning, but they could just as well be used to control the filter cutoff, resonance, FX sends, etc. Perhaps I will add an old BCR2000 to get more knobs later...

  • The BCR works great!

    Make sure you're using the knobs in continuous-type "relative" mode to get a seamless response.

  • Righto! Will check it out once I get it out of the closet... 😀

  • edited June 2020

    Exciting stuff... Could be made to send relative encoder messages too, if you like the idea of hard drive platter control for Drambo (Make sure you save some great music on the hard drive before its slaughter) 😅



  • I guess I spoke too soon regarding the Novation LaunchKey 49 MKII, I only tried it in the standalone mode during the test, which worked fine. But now when I try to use Drambo as an AU under AUM, the 16 pads no longer work, while the knobs, sliders still work fine, could it be a bug?

    The only difference between the pads vs. the knobs seems to be "Nxx" instead of "CCxx" as shown on the MIDI mapping screen, even though LaunchKey is sending "CC's" according to its user manual.

  • So when you load the same preset including mappings from the standalone app insid the AUv3, when you enable MIDI learn, do the pads show the same mapped MIDI types as in the standalone?

  • Yes, the mapping stayed the same for both standalone and AU. Same file used as well, I will try rebooting the iPad and try again, maybe that will fix it...

  • I rebooted the iPad, started from scratch and got the same result - it worked in standalone mode but not AU under AUM, however, I also tried Drambo with AB3, and it worked fine, so I think there is a glitch in AUM+Drambo that's preventing LaunchKey to work properly in case anyone is interested.

  • edited June 2020

    The Novation Zero SL Mk II should be a good candidate, plenty of knobs (8 of which are endless) and buttons, pretty compact too. And it’s even got a crossfader!

  • @cozido Nice! I totally forgot about this one and the crossfader 😮👍🏼

  • This looks like a good one also..

  • edited June 2020

    The more I look at it, the more I like it... I think my friend has one, I am going to borrow it and try it out first. The BCR2000 as you said, works nicely too - just missing the crossfader.

  • edited June 2020

    Hi, I have been trying out Novation circuit as a controller. It has 8 "knobs" with 51 variations across midi channels as well as lot of nice features for sequencer programming Drambo.

    My instinct is to set up a preset with 8 knob modules in some kind of rack , midi map the circuit to those and then use the rack as modulators for different presets.

    Effectively I could then insert the premapped 8knob rack in front of any synth.

    However the containers I have tried don't allow individual signals within a rack from each knob to pass to discrete controls further down the chain.

    Is there a container that allows this or do I have the wrong approach? Thanks in advance.


    Maybe a track preset is the right approach, but it would still be nice to have a lyers container that still passed out the "51 knobs" indeipendentlyand a way to "fold" the knobs.

    Maybe I am asking for http://forum.beepstreet.com/discussion/366/performance-knobs-module#latest

  • Great info here!!

    Cant wait to hook up my Akai APC40 mk1

    Could be a great controller for Drambo with the latest update.

    With APC track selection you already have 8 very smooth relative knobs for midi channel 1-9. And it has a crossfader too.

  • edited June 2020

    @tpj I thought about getting one but it's biiiig... Good if you have the space 😊

    Edit: Here's some useful info about the APC40 modes:


  • I too have an APC 40 but started with the Circuit as it is a bit less ambitious.

    I used Mozaic to remap outputs from the Circuit. This gives you up to 51 knobs and 5 pages of 32 buttons as well as notes, chords and scales. Here is the Mozaic Patch. I am not a programmer so it is a bit hacky but is working fine for me.

  • edited June 2020

    While checking out great news for MIDI mapping in the beta, I found that the Hercules Starlight DJ controller has a number of on-board mode switches that increase the amount of virtually accessible pads from 8 to 64!

    What's nice is that they just spit out different note numbers depending on the mode, no further programming required.

    These are, both for the left and right half of pads:

    HotCue illuminated

    Loop illuminated

    HotCue flashing

    Loop flashing

    Plus, hitting SHIFT will temporarily switch to another bank of pads.

    The same principle applies to the Bass/Filter knobs: They send different CCs when the Bass/Filter button on the top is enabled and illuminated.

    All LEDs can be controlled by sending the respective MIDI note numbers on different channels.

    The LED "floor light" can be changed in color by changing the note-on velocity of the respective note.

  • edited June 2020


    Does anyone have experience using a Novation nocturn with an iPad?

    As far as I can see it says its class compliant and bus powered, but I have a recollection of people saying it wasn’t compatible with iOS in the past for some reason.... Or maybe that it isn’t supported on desktop anymore.

  • I was going to ask you all about this controller and using midi cc’s to light it up as you’ve described... then I saw the Digitakt class compliant update.... This changes things 😀

  • That's indeed an interesting update, especially for sequencing Drambo.

    Looking forward to try step sequencing in my Digitakt.

  • i ordered myself a Faderfox EC-4, could not resist :P

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