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Amicus717

Icon Nano DAW controller

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Anyone familiar with the Icon Nano? Looks intriguing. I've heard of Icon's stuff before and have seen a few of their larger products reviewed, but was not aware they had a smaller unit like this...

https://iconproaudio.com/product/platform-nano/

I currently have an older MCU on its last legs (faders are getting sticky and starting to fail) and am looking to upgrade, but I don't really need much beyond the shuttle controls and one fader, and I'd like to reclaim some desk space. So the Faderport v2 and the XTouch One had been on my radar, although I'm not sure either of them will be what I'm looking for. The FaderPort v2 seems a bit too threadbare for me (I'd still like a rotary encoder and a digital readout), and the XTouch One is getting hard to find -- most Canadian stores seem to be removing it from their product lines and a few places even list it as "no longer available / EOL", so I wonder if Behringer is phasing out the XTouch products.

The Icon Nano looks like it has lots of nice features in a small footprint...

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FWIW, I inquired of Behringer support if they were discontinuing or phasing out the XTouch series (a whole bunch of online and brick-n-mortar stores in Canada are listing their stuff as “discontinued”), and the reply I got was:

“The Xtouch series is still in production. There are some retailers not carrying our products anymore because of our recent transition to superpartners like Sweetwater, thoman and andertons.”

 

 

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Only a few weeks ago I ordered an X-Touch One and an Icon Platform Nano for evaluation. I used both devices with Cakewalk by Bandlab as type "Mackie Control". Other DAWs behave differently (for sure).

Disclaimer: I'm a beginner, it's the first time I worked with control surfaces. As experienced MCU user you might focus on other aspects than I did.

At first sight, the Platform Nano has advantages over the X-Touch One. In common, they both have a fader and an encoder above it on the left side of the device. The Platform Nano has 4 more encoders at the top (above the display). They are layered (toggle with button "5-8"), so you virtually have the 8 encoders of the MCU. This helps with editing parameters, especially in single channel mode, because you can manipulate 4 different values at once. With the X-Touch One, you have to step through each single parameter.

On the other hand, the leftmost encoder behaves strange. At least in my tests, it always acted on the first of the 8 current tracks (first WAI track), no matter which track was selected. The fader always acts on the selected track. In other words, the encoder and fader most of the time act on different tracks. To me, this was very confusing and annoying. It also means, that the "fader encoder" duplicates the first "display encoder". There might be ways to change the behaviour of the encoder to follow the fader, but I didn't figure it out.

Let's talk about the buttons. The X-Touch One provides a subset of MCU buttons. Basically, it has the lower haft of the MCU (Marker, Nudge, ... and below) and 6 function buttons (F1..F6). All the other button groups (Vpot Assign, Global View, Modifiers, Automation, Utilites) are missing. But there is a user mode where you can re-map each button of the X-Touch One to behave as any desired MCU button. This mapping is done direcly at the device, no software is needed. As with the MCU, none of the buttons are layered (beside the arrow keys for Zoom).

The Platform Nano has a column of 6 buttons on the right which correspond to the Vpot Assign buttons of the MCU. In addition there are 8 big buttons (2x4) layered with 5 round, coloured buttons. This results in 40 virtual buttons (the MCU has 41). The Sonar overlay looks very crammed and the grouping to each layer is not always plausible.

In fact, the layering has issues: Modifiers M1..M4 are on the purple layer (together with Aux, Main, Undo, Redo), while e.g., Marker, Loop, Punch are on the blue layer. This makes it impossible to press M2-Loop (Set Loop to Selection) or M2-Punch (Set Punch to Selection).

The Platform Nano comes with a mapping software that allows you to redefine the buttons. So it is possible to define a reasonable button set on the various layers. Anyway, the out-of-the-box experience did not convince me.

Touch and feel (Platform Nano was a B-Stock device):
X-Touch One: fader moves gently, encoder is a bit plasticky
Platform Nano: initial resistance when starting to move the fader, encoders very stiff (requires some force to move them)
Buttons similar on both devices with solid and decent feel.

I decided to go with the X-Touch One because it sticks to the principles of the MCU and because of the encoder/fader mismatch. In addition, the X-Touch One is cheaper.

Hope this helps,
Jürgen

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What I missed to mention:

Using the Mackie Control surface type, every single-fader controller faces an issue with Cakewalk by BandLab when working with busses: the channel Select button does not work for busses! You cannot select which bus to control with the fader and encoder.

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The Mackie Control support was developed by Cakewalk in association with Mackie, at around the time the original MCU came out (I think it was around 2004/2005).

With the exception of the faders and transport controls, most of the MCU's buttons were "up for grabs" and Mackie worked with the major DAW developers at the time (Cakewalk included) to come up with overlays that better reflected the functionality provided by each DAW.  The result was that each button had a different function on each daw, and common functions such as looping were controlled by different buttons between DAWs on the MCU.

Since then, the majority of control surface manufacturers have decided to provide emulations of the Mackie Control, rather then opt for their own protocol - however most of them lack the all buttons provided on the original MCU.

Up until the demise of Cakewalk Inc., most of these control surfaces provided a SONAR mode which sent the correct button combinations to achieve the desired function in SONAR and Cakewalk.

Some control surfaces such as the PreSonus FaderPort series, and the Korg nanoKONTROL series still provide a Cakewalk/SONAR mode, so users should have no issues using those surfaces using that mode.  The Behringer X-Touch (the largest one), seems to fully emulate an MCU - it has all the buttons, and you can buy Cakewalk/SONAR overlays for it. This should also work fine with Cakewalk.

But unless a control surface specifically says it supports Cakewalk, do not assume that it will work.  This is especially true for the single fader controllers, where one button press on the controller actually sends out a combination of button presses to the DAW.  Unless they're sending the button presses Cakewalk expects, it's not going to work.

 

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Hello Mark,

Thanks for your reply. I see that my statement above was too generic ("every single-fader controller") and that I jumped to conclusions based on incorrect assumptions.

Beside DAW-specific "Mackie Control" modes (but not for Cakewalk/Sonar), X-Touch One offers a "Standard" and a "User" Mackie Control mode. The device documentation implies that Standard and User mode are initially equal while the button assignment can be customised in User mode.

I did some investigation with MIDI-OX between Cakewalk and the controller. In fact, in Standard mode the device sends different MIDI events depending on the current track. It looks like the device internally keeps track which of the 8 faders it currently represents.
In this mode, switching between busses works fine (although there is no visual indication in Cakewalk, which bus is currently selected).

In contrast, with user defined MCU button assignments, the device does not do any internal magic but always sends the same events. Setting "Select highlights track" in the Mackie Control plugin makes Cakewalk move the correct fader - in tracks. It does not work in busses, though.

In summary (and with reservations), in Standard mode I can work with volume fader and pan encoder in tracks and busses.
In User mode I can assign Track, Send, Flip, Edit, ... buttons to allow more parameters to be controlled by encoder and fader - but limited to tracks only.

Greetings,
Jürgen

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Thanks a lot, folks. Great information. 

Jürgen - great review of both devices, really appreciated the input. 

 

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