A few weeks ago, we introduced you to Palette, a controller for the media professional. The device is marketed toward being a control surface for musical engineers, photo editors and video editors, all in one package.

Not only that, but the device is also modular, with buttons, faders and dials able to be added to a user's workstation separately and in whatever combination the user wants. We've been road-testing the device in MIDI mode for musicians for a few weeks now, with some interesting results.

Setup and First Impressions

The first thing to notice about Palette is how beautifully it is packaged. The box is well-designed and simplistic, similar to what one would expect from an Apple product. Of course, that doesn't mean anything about the functionality of the device but as with Apple, it seems to Palette, first impressions are extremely important.

In the box, users will find the core module, which has a color screen and displays information about the mode that the user is in, among other things. Users will also find a USB cable and whatever combination of buttons, dials and faders they bought. We're testing a kit that comes with one fader, two dials and two buttons.

To set up their device, users simply need to download the Palette app for Windows or Mac computers, after which they will be instructed on how to set up their modules. It's all very easy to follow. Users can choose between a number of modes, including being able to control a plethora of Adobe Creative Cloud apps. The device can also be put in MIDI mode, designed to work with the DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, of the user's choice.

Well, almost. The Palette, unfortunately, doesn't really play very nice with Pro Tools, the industry standard. That, of course, isn't Palette's fault. Avid, the owner of Pro Tools, is notoriously stingy when it comes to Pro Tools compatibility and only allows a very select number of controllers to work with it, the majority being owned by Avid itself.

I tested the device out with success on the likes of Reason and Reaper, and while I did not test it with Logic, I hear that it works with Logic as well.

Once I chose to test out the device using Reaper, I had to make sure that the things that I want to control in Reaper and the MIDI messages being sent with the device lined up. This was pretty easy, as in Reaper, you can choose an action and then tell it to learn a shortcut for that action. If a control message is assigned twice, users can change the MIDI control note or message being sent through the Palette app.

A nice touch added by Palette is the ability to assign each module a color highlight, which, for some, could be very important in their workflow, especially for photo and video editors. I didn't incorporate colors into my workflow, however, I did use the colors to make it look pretty.

In Use

Setting up the device really is the hard part. Once everything is set up to the user's liking, it really should run as expected.

There are a few things that are important to note about the use of the Palette with a DAW. The first thing is that, while the device is in use, the Palette app must be open at all times, otherwise, it won't work. This is certainly not a big problem, but it is something to remember in case you're having a mini -heart attack about your shiny new controller suddenly not working.

In setting up my Palette, I had the fader, naturally, control the track volume. I had one button on either side of the fader, used to change to the next track or previous track. Then, I had one dial on either side of the fader, the right controlling the pan of a mono track and the left to jump in and help panning in stereo situations.

One small issue that I had was the fact that if I packed up the Palette in its box and then put it back together the next day, the modules could be mixed up. For example, if one day, I had one button on the left and the other on the right, and then the next day switched the two around, the buttons would act as if they were in the position of the previous day, rather than readjusting based on their new position.

It seems as though they should be able to readjust given the fact that users create a profile for their controller, which is loaded up when the app is opened. It makes sense that modules wouldn't readjust if they were different types; for example, if I switched a button and knob around, but when two buttons that look exactly the same are switched upon setup, it feels as though they should be able to adapt.

Perhaps the biggest issue I had in using the Palette was that, when I changed to each track, the knob and fader were in the same position as the previous track. For example, let's say I adjusted the volume of a track to -1 dB. If I then moved to the next track and adjusted the fader, it would start from -1 dB because the previous track was set as such, rather than starting from wherever the level was set on the new track. This is somewhat understandable with the fader, as there is a finite adjustment that can be made and the fader isn't motorized. The issue is the same with the knobs, however, and because of the fact that they are infinitely adjustable, it would be great to have them "reset" in position to the position of the new track.

Conclusions

Apart from those minor issues, Palette is a great concept. A modular controller for multiple types of media is a brilliant idea, and one that Palette has executed very well. The modules themselves look great and are very effective. Not only that, but the device continues to get software updates, and all of the issues mentioned above could be fixed through those updates.

In a perfect world, it might be nice to have motorized faders that can change based on track level, however, that would almost certainly raise the price of the fader by quite a bit. In a perfect world, the device would also work with Pro Tools, however, that would require Avid to relinquish precious control over Pro Tools standards, and it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon. Perhaps Palette can one day work in partnership with Avid? Only time will tell.

Pros:

• Beautiful design and well-built
• Modular to adapt to user's preferences
• Works across multiple forms of media

Cons:

• Modules don't "reset" upon controlling different tracks
• Some confusion about module order
• Doesn't work with Pro Tools
• No motorized faders
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