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Elephant Surface Dial

Elephant Surface Dial  ·  Source: Robin Vincent

We first saw the innovative Elephant software about a year ago but this latest version has evolved it and enhanced it into a sublime software synth controlling experience.

Elephant 1.92

This is really version 2 but developer Pablo Martin felt the need to hold back to allow for some additional tweaking if it was necessary. But really, this thing nails it. The original version offered MIDI control over 6 parameters and some instant mouse control where you had to hold the mouse click on a parameter in order for you to be able to control it. It made it a bit cumbersome to use and required a lot of clicks and selections to swap between MIDI controls. It was definitely innovative and exciting but left room for the improvements we can see in the new version.

But why would you need it, surely the Surface Dial is capable of turning controls and stuff? You would think so but the Surface Dial is remarkably useless unless an application has deliberately been developed for it. So in some drawing software it can be used for selecting colours and shades and works beautifully but in any other piece of software you can allocate it a couple of keyboard shortcuts and that’s it. Many people bought into the Dial assuming it could do all sorts of obvious things when in fact all it really does is turn up and down the brightness of your screen. Elephant sorts this out.

In the new version, there have been some fabulous improvements. Firstly, there’s mouse-over control where you place the mouse arrow on any knob, slider or parameter in any software synth and you have instant control. No clicking or selecting required. And then you move on to another knob and control that. It’s simple, elegant and instantly useable. If you have a touch screen you can simply tap the knob you want Surface Dial to hook into and it does. The next improvement is with MIDI mode. Elephant can control up to 12 parameters via MIDI. These can be allocated keyboard or mouse button shortcuts so that you can quickly change what you’re controlling at the touch of your keyboard. Just map each one to your software synth or plug-in or DAW control and you’re good to go. Finally, he’s added in Mackie Control for DAWs so you can use it as a jog wheel.

The Surface Dial is a well-made device that’s been in search of a decent application and Elephant 1.92 is it.

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