Frontier Design Group’s AlphaTrack combines a high-resolution fader, multiple knobs, buttons and a ribbon controller for hands on operation of your digital audio workstations (DAW).

These days music can be recorded, mixed and mastered completely in the box, meaning the entire process no longer requires a large mixing console and racks of outboard gear. Instead everything can be done using a DAW to capture, manipulate and master the audio. Whether it’s Pro Tools, SAWStudio, Sonar, Nuendo or some other flavor of your favorite DAW the user experience can always be improved with actual physical controls versus a mouse and keyboard.

The AlphaTrack is an entry level control surface, basically a 1 channel unit that can be toggled between a multitrack project. Perhaps the most important task is simply riding the fader while working on the mix one track at a time. Any decent DAW package will allow complete automation of the most important features. Using a keyboard or mouse for these subtle changes is tedious and impractical to do in real time.

The AlphaTrack does not require an external power supply and gets all its juice from the USB port. The Fader, knobs and other controls (22 buttons and 21 LEDs combined) have a quality consistent with what you would expect to find in a $200 piece of gear. However, we would like to see a more ergonomic feel to the buttons. It’s not a deal breaker but there’s certainly room for improvement here.

We tested the AlphaTrack with one of our favorite DAW packages, SAWStudio. The Alphatrack was easy to setup, literally less than a minute and we were live with a fader in SAWStudio. The SAWStudio template for the Alphatrack provides direct access to the most common tasks. This makes it more convenient to listen to a mix from a remote location or start and stop the recording process from behind the drums…etc., but we primarily used it as a fader. If Frontier Designs improved the feel of the buttons and knobs on the Alphatrack we would be more inclined to use other features and probably the maximum experience out of the device but as it stands the other knobs and buttons are a bit fatiguing to use because of the poor ergonomic feel.

The fader portion of the AlphaTrack combined with a few knobs does make for a handy accessory we just hope that have Rev 2 in the works that improves the feel. Still worth considering if you’re looking for a basic control surface in the $200 price range.

Visit Frontier Design Group for more information on the AlphaTrack and to see if it’s compatible with your software.