Nektar Technology has launched the Pacer DAW and MIDI Footswitch Controller. This is their first foray away from the familiar keyboard-based controller. Nektar has a lot of interesting controller integration technology so this could be great not only for giving guitarist foot control over software effects but for DAW control as well.
Comprehensive MIDI control via your feet is one of those neglected areas in controller land. The Behringer FCB1010 has been with us for decades, it’s built like a tank but requires quite a bit of messing around to map controls to make it useful. The more recent Keith McMillen SoftStep is perhaps a little bit too light and portable and has an editor that brings its own headaches. While several others exist they tend to be designed for certain bits of gear so there’s room for someone to knock this idea out of the park. Is Pacer up to the task?
Pacer comes as a sturdy metal case, heavy enough to stay put but small enough to be portable. It has 10 programmable footswitches and a dedicated switch for preset and parameter selection. You can add a further 4 external foot switches and 2 expression pedals to easily and more portably match up to the FCB1010. It’s not just MIDI though, there are also 4 output relay jacks for switching non-MIDI amps and effects. This is not something you usually find on a MIDI pedalboard.
Nektar Chief Niels Larsen commented that:
“Originally, PACER was intended to be a DAW controller providing musicians with hands-free control of their computer music setup. Then enthusiasm got the better of us and we couldn’t help adding a host of useful additional control functionality. Now you can also control MIDI preamps or effects as well as switching channels and reverb on non-MIDI amps with the on-board relays. PACER’s switching power will boost your creativity whether you are recording or playing live.”
One stomp on one footswitch can recall a preset and send out 16 MIDI messages or relay switch states simultaneously. Each control can have 6 programmed steps, each one sending out a message or triggering an action. This includes any attached external switches or expression pedals. You can store 24 user presets on Pacer.
But where Nektar products excel is in their integration with software. They are able to offer a deeper level than simple MIDI mapping. This makes controlling a DAW or plug-in an absolute doddle. There are already presets for Line 6 Pod and Helix, Fractal Audio AxeFX, Avid Eleven Rack, Kemper Profiler, Elektron Octatrack Pickup Machine, Electro Harmonix 45000 Looper, MIDI Machine Control, a Relay Preset for non-MIDI amps and more.
With DAW control Pacer has presets for Apple Logic and Garageband, Bitwig 8-Track and Studio, Cockos Reaper, Propellerhead Reason, Steinberg Cubase and Nuendo. For everything else there’s MCU support for compatibility with Ableton Live, Cakewalk Sonar, MOTU Digital Performer, Image-Line FL Studio and Presonus Studio One. So what can you actually do in a DAW with Pacer? Well, the footswitches are mapped and labelled with transport controls, which will always be there and always be the same. In addition you can footswitch up and down to select tracks and enable them for recording. That’s as far as it goes at the moment. But with a stomp you can load up another preset that’s mapped to whatever controls you need.
What we need now is some video of it in action to demonstrate the potential of this device in both live and studio situations. In my experience these sorts of controllers live and die on their ease of use. The Nektor integration has the potential to nail that.
- Nektar website.