We explore the many options for controlling Pro Tools using hardware.
The options for hardware control of audio plug‑ins in Pro Tools are different from those available in other DAWs, particularly when it comes to using MIDI. Considering the ubiquity of MIDI controllers and the well established convention of assigning on‑screen controls in a DAW, it often comes as a surprise to new users of Pro Tools that you can’t just right‑click an audio plug‑in’s controls and select ‘MIDI Learn’.
It’s important to draw a distinction between plug‑in parameters and DAW controls. There have been proprietary solutions available for many years to control things like faders, pans and sends. The Pro Control surface, released in 1999, introduced dedicated, deep control of Pro Tools from hardware via an Ethernet cable and the DigiNet control protocol. That technology reached its final and most capable iteration in the ICON series of worksurfaces. The D Control and the smaller D Command were excellent too, and popular in the market they were designed for.
After Avid announced their acquisition of Euphonix in 2010, the EuCon protocol became the primary connection format for deep control of Pro Tools, and it remains so to this day. The current generation of EuCon controllers are powerful and scalable, ranging from the free Avid Control app, through the extremely popular S1 and Avid Dock, to the big‑ticket S6.
Pro Tools does still offer mix control over MIDI. The venerable HUI protocol, which is based on standard MIDI messages, is an option, though it is showing its age, launched as it was in 1997. That said, Neyrinck’s V‑Control system still makes good use of it.
If you look in the MIDI Controllers tab of the Peripherals window in Pro Tools, you’ll see the almost‑as‑old Command 8 listed, though the Reference Guide warns that the driver is only installed with Pro Tools 10. Likewise, M‑Audio Keyboard is an option; this dates back to the days when Avid owned M‑Audio, and I remember feeling very pleased setting up my M‑Audio Axiom controller to control the Pro Tools transport. The age of the products referenced in this list would suggest that MIDI control of Pro Tools has been abandoned in favour of the much more capable EuCon if it weren’t for the inclusion of Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol, another MIDI‑based option, which was added in 2021. Komplete Kontrol gives hands‑on access to Pro Tools features like fader levels, transport and more, but the focus is firmly (and understandably) on control of software instruments within Pro Tools.