The Microsoft Surface Dial is one of those fabulously designed pieces of tech that struggles to find an interesting use for itself. Outside of turning the volume up and down on your laptop or Surface, or scrolling web pages it’s never found the ability to be musically created. And that’s a shame because in music production we love knobs and it would be great and obvious to use this knob for something musical. With a new App called Elephant this is now possible.
It’s a great piece of technology. Feels nice, works brilliantly with the basic set of utility tools that make use of it. Artists can get a bit more use in drawing and painting software where you can dial in colours – awesome. But the completely natural use as a control of knobs in music has been largely out of reach. Essentially the Dial can map to keyboard shortcuts, so you can get it to do some transport control and step parameters up and down. Using AutoHotKey you can create elaborate scripts to use the Dial with some music software to some degree, but it’s not been easy.
It’s been crying out for someone to unleash the power of the Dial for music making in some form. Well, that someone has arrived in the shape of Pablo Martin. Pablo was the guy behind SmithsonMartin Emulator software and the Kontrol Master before Touch Innovations took over a couple of years ago. He’s now doing his own thing and Elephant is his first release.
There are two available control modes in Elephant. The first mode captures a mouse input and lets you control whatever the mouse is held on. Click on any knob or parameter and have instant control. The second mode turns it into a MIDI controller. You get 6 MIDI slots so you can swap between different parameters and control up to 6 things. It’s a very neat and elegant solution that makes you wonder why no one did this years ago.
There are loads of different sensitivity settings so that you can adjust the speed with which is affects the value. Set it to “Slow” for long and precise rotations, or set it to “Fast” to whizz from minimum to maximum with the smallest of turns. Different bits of software react differently and so you can tailor the response to exactly how you want to use it.
This is a must-buy for anybody with a Surface Dial who is wondering what to do with it. Sure it’s not doing anything that you can’t already do with a mouse but it offers another way of approaching it, a different way of working, a nuance that’s found in the turning of a knob differently to the dragging of a mouse. My Surface Dial is finally off the shelf again after a year of gathering dust. I’ve made a video about Elephant below.
A lifetime perpetual license will cost just $6.50 but download the trial version to check it out before you buy.
- Hi! Computer website.
- Hi! Computer Elephant: Robin Vincent