As promised I give you an update about my efforts.

1. I installed Bome Midi Translator and tried to configure the middle rotary encoder in the automation pane.
Good news, you can gain full control over the Alphatrack with Bome Midi Translator.
Bad News, it does not work in parallel with the Cubase Plug-In DLL. So you have to program the whole Alphatrack functionality by hand. And I have not figured out how to receive track and plug-in text information from Cubase. But if you want to program your own surface for your DAW or for other programs like Office, Winamp and so on, Bome Midi Translator works and comes with a handy template for the Alphatrack. But for my efforts to have an AI knob this is a dead-end-street. For this reason I will not put any effort in reprogramming the Alphatrack. An interesting result was that I found out more about the way the Alphatrack works. Each button, even the shift and the pane buttons (PAN, SEND, EQ, PLUG-IN, AUTO) send out their own midi CC code. The code of the encoders does not change. Therefore the plug-in DLL has all the “intelligence” to translate the midi code and to maintain shift and pane states. I can now imagine one additional way how to come to an AI-knob. The midi code of an encoder, when a certain pane is selected, may be translated to an appropriate wm-message (e.g. mouse move or scroll) towards the host application.

2. On Saturday I received my Griffin Powermate, and it worked like a charm. Installation was easy, I assigned scroll-up/down to the turn of the knob, and additionally keystroke G and H to a pressed turn so I can zoom in and out in Cubase.
It works so well that I am thinking of returning my Alphatrack, because the Powermate is at least for me the more natural way to work. I hover with the mouse over an arbitrary parameter, say volume, pan or an EQ, and with my left hand I can immediately control the value with no clicks. This also worked for most plug-ins.

My conclusion after a weekend recording session:
The Alphatrack works so-so. There are too many clicks (and they sound like clicks due to the loud buttons) necessary for controlling a function. E.g. I want to change the Q value of the high band Eq of a given track. First I must change to the track by clicking several times on track > or track <, then click on EQ. Then I have to click three times on F2 until the encoders show the correct assignment. I will not talk about how to control a plug-in! With the Powermate and the mouse I click on “e” on the desired track on the mixer, hover the mouse over the desired parameter, and I can immediately control the Q-value. Only one click! And I can control Instrument plug-ins in the same way while there is no possibility for this with the Alphatrack. On the recording session I used the Alphatrack mostly for setting markers, for controlling the song position and to enable record on/off.  So I stayed on the PAN pane only. But the advantage over using the keyboard is not that huge to justify 220 Euros.

Cheers
Digi


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In this thread (http://frontierdesign.com/forums/topic/ … -promised/) I have posted several feature requests including an AI-Knob/Speed Dial (a dedicated encoder changes the parameter the mouse pointer is hovering over). According to the answer from Frontier it is quite unlikely that we see this feature in the Alphatrack.

Since I really want an AI Knob I tried to help myself. One solution may be

1. Buy a Novation Nocturn
pros:
- can also control instruments plug-ins (the alphatrack can not be used here!)
- complete freedom of configuration
- autolearn
- with automap it works with every plug-in
- has a Speed Dial

cons:
- wrapping your plug-ins with a specific DLL, may ruin your presets
- price (100 Euro), the sum of alphatrack and nocturn nearly equals the CC121

so after some searching I found the perfect match for the Alphatrack, the Griffin Powermate. It can be configured as a standalone AI-Knob by assigning a Mousewheel to the knob. Additionally you can configure a single press (mouseclick) Press-and-turn (e.g. scroll) and long klick. So I have ordered one and I will share my results here
pros:
- freely configurable
- AI-Knob for any type of plug-in
- can be used for all kinds of programs
cons:
- price (40 Euro)
- no Midi output, but I come to this later

Since I am an engineer I try now to find some costfree workarounds.

3. Use an old USB mouse, rip it apart and try to construct a vertical axis for the Mousewheel.

pros:
- cheap
cons:
- too much work, so I ordered a Powermate

4. Try to re-assign the encoders of the Alphatrack. Since there is no support to be expected by Frontier, I again searched the internet. My idea is to insert an intermediate Midi-Port from which I can extract and change the Midi Messages before they are routed to Cubase.

4.a) I found the following Programm which seems to be able to do this: Bome Midi Translator (http://www.bome.com/midi/translator/). With the Pro version you can translate Midi-Messages to Mouse Movements and it inserts itself between a Midi-Output and an application. There is a trial available, and on the weekend I will give it a try. Also it can be used together with the Powermate for a do-it-yourself midi controller!

pros:
- flexible configuration
cons:
- price (59 Euro), Powermate is cheaper
- additional software needed, in between midi processing

4.b) There seems to be a free-of charge solution with glovepie (http://carl.kenner.googlepages.com/) and MidiYoke (http://www.midiox.com). Glovepie can take multiple controllers ranging from keyboards over joysticks to wiimote including Midi and convert them to each other. With Midiyoke you can configure a virtual Midi port. So you can direct alphatrack Midi-out to glovepie, extract a mousemove out of an encoder turn and forward the remaining midi to the Midiyoke port. In cubase use midiyoke as the input for alphatrack. I have not tested this, but it is an idea. Again it may also work with the Powermate.

pros:
- free of charge
cons:
- complex
- lack of documentation

5. There seems to be a way to work on the Cubase xml files to change the assignment of the encoders of the Alphatrack. Unfortunately I did not find any documentaton on this. In a german homerecording forum a member posted that he has changed the encoder functionality in Cubase by xml editing. Perhaps Frontier is so  kind to provide more information about this? But you can not get the AI-Knob/Speed Dial by this, but at least you gain the flexibility Frontier is not willing to support.

A final word to Frontier. You should get your things together and provide your customers with a more intelligent and flexible solution. Being able to configure a handful of buttons and the whole rest is fixed is a joke! The competition is not sleeping.
When I look at the automation pane of Alphatrack I see that you are wasting three turn encoders just for On/Off purposes (R/W automation global/track). Imagine what you can do if you provide here a user configuration/autolearn option for the three encoders including AI knob/speed dial and a mapping to keystrokes/mouse moves! You may use the knobs for zooming, horizontal/vertical scroll, asiign any plug-in function, and so on.
But when I reconsider your answer to the feature requests I am not that confident that you listen to us.

So please everyone who wants to have more flexibility with Alphatrack should raise his hand in this thread.

Cheers
Digi


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Hi CS,
sorry for blaming Frontier Design while the problem was sitting in front of the computer ;-)

Central Scrutinizer wrote:

Hello digi,

I'll try to answer your questions in order to keep it simple.

- Punch button not working.

The Command for Shift-LOOP should indeed default to Auto-Punch-In. I just re-downloaded the v1.07 plug-in and it appears correct on my machine so I'm not sure why yours didn't appear that way. No problem though, you can simply click in the command box next to it and select the Auto-Punch-In command to set yours the same.

When I click on reset in the settings window of the alphatrack, the command for shift-loop is cleared. No clue why. Perhaps a Cubase bug in the german version?

Central Scrutinizer wrote:

- Flip switch

I think the problem is with the order in that you are pressing/touching the encoders/buttons. To select an encoder to flip you must press and hold the FLIP button first, and then touch the encoder you want to flip.  The fader should then control whatever parameter was displayed on the selected encoder before you FLIP. All FLIP functions should work according to the documented instructions.

As I said, the problem was me and not your system, sorry for that. Flip works perfect. I think you should explain the order of button presses more precisely in the guide: "Touch an encoder while holding the FLIP button to change the assignment." should better read: "While pressing the FLIP button touch an encoder  to change the assignment." At least I was confused.

Central Scrutinizer wrote:

- LED's for F1 thru F4 

True, Steinberg's external control code does not support returning an LED status message for most of the user-definable commands options, therefore we leave them blank. Pre-programming certain LEDs, like the track LEDs to specific status mode such as Punch In/Out might be possible but the fear is that it could also be confusing as the labeling wouldn't match. I will enter it into the customer request list for further review though.

So it is Steinberg to blame, not you. Any chance to get such a feature from them?

Central Scrutinizer wrote:

- SOLO and REC

This is actually a user-setting in your Cubase Preferences. Go to Cubase/Preferences/Project and Mixer. There you will find options for Solo and Rec behavior when selecting tracks.

This was a good hint. Solo and REC now works as expected. The only missing function (I believe this is up to you?) is to enable a shift-REC function to delete all active REC settings like you do with Solo and Mute. Currently shift-REC has no effect.


Central Scrutinizer wrote:

I will log your remaining feature requests into our list as well. Some of them are limited by Steinberg's own external control SDK, and some are based on feedback from users. But we try to stay abreast of changes in both areas. Yes the AI knob emulation would require a major driver overhaul to appear as 2 different devices. I'm not sure that is something we will do any time soon for Alphatrack but a good request.

We hope you enjoy your AlphaTrack and find it helpful in your workflow.

CS

Thank you for your quick answer

Cheers
digi

I received my brand new Alphatrack two days ago, configured it with cubase (5.01, PC, XP SP3, 32 bit, Driver 1.2.0, Cubase Plug-In 1.0.7) and immediately found some things that do not work as promised

- Punch Button
Quote from the Cubase/Nuendo Guide:
"LOOP - Toggle Loop mode; (shift) Defaults to Toggle Punch (User definable)". The default configuration for the Punch button is Category:Transport, but no Command is set. The command should be "Auto-Punch-In". With the default settings the Punch button does not work.

- Flip switch
Quote from the Cubase/Nuendo Plugin Guide:
"The FLIP button allows the user to switch the level control of the Fader with one of the encoders. In this mode the high-resolution fader can be used to adjust a parameter otherwise assigned to an encoder. At the same time, channel level will be temporarily assigned to the encoder while this mode is enabled. To make this feature even more flexible, in EQ and Plug-In mode the user can choose which encoder is flipped. Touch an encoder while holding the FLIP button to change the assignment. That encoder will update to indicate it controls ‘Volume’ and the fader will then control the parameter."

In fact, Flip only works with the left encoder, and only with the first parameter. E.g. I press the  flip button being in Plug-In mode on the 6th page using the Dynamics Plugin. Normally the compressor threshold value should be flipped to the fader, but instead Gate On/Off is put on the fader?

Also flipping the middle or right encoder does not work when I touch the knob and press Flip. Everytime only the left encoder is flipped.
E.g. in EQ mode I want to flip Freq (middle encoder) to the Fader. So I touch the middle encoder and press flip. But Gain (left encoder) is flipped with audition volume and not Freq.

- LEDs of User definable buttons F1 - F4
the status of the LEDs can not be configured. So the LEDs are completely useless. The same applies to the LEDs of the two track buttons. They could be used to display punch in/out status. E.g. LED on left button shows punch-in status, LED on right button shows punch-out.

- Solo
Solo always follows the track buttons. It is not possible to solo one track, move to another track and keep the first track on solo.
E.g. if I want to "solo" all backing vocals I would expect that I can step to all vocal tracks, press the solo button, and the status is kept when I change the track.  But when I need to "solo" more than one track I have to use the mouse. I do not know if this was designed by intention. Or do I miss something?
Mute is working as I would expect it. You can Mute a track, move to another track, and the first track is still muted.

- REC
REC behaves as strange as the solo function. You can not set up a multi track record by pressing REC and moving to the next track.  REC is automatically deselected. But more annoying is that REC is automatically enabled when you change to the next track even if you have disabled it.

Feature requests:
- Switching through the pages when using a complex plug-in is a pain in the a...
I would like to have an "AI" Style encoder (see Steinberg CC121) or a mouse emulation (see Novation Speed Dial).  The parameter where your mouse is pointing to is automatically selected and can be changed e.g. using the middle or right encoder in Automation mode.
Automation Read and Write is already also controlled with shift+PLAY/RECORD so the encoders can be used for other purposes.
Here I envy the CC121 or Novation users. But perhaps you can copy the functionality?
I think it should be possible by including a mouse driver into the Alphatrack driver. The encoder should simply simulate a mouse-scroll-wheel when selected.


- Zooming with your fingers and zooming support for Cubase
Since the strip is multi-touch capable, it would be great if you can use your two fingers not only for scrubbing but also for zooming. Moving the two fingers apart -> zooming in. Moving two fingers together  -> zooming out. (iPod/iPhone style) This would be a big advantage. So you cold use one finger for jog, two fingers for scrub and zoom.

- User defined configuration of the LEDs
E.g. Show if Click, Pre-Roll, Post-Roll, Punch-In/Out etc. is On/Off

- Send Mode
When I open the Channel Settings Window (shift + Flip) it seems not to be possible to edit the Send-Effects in Send-Mode. But I can edit the Insert effects with Plug-In mode (F1 - F2). It would be nice to use also F1 - F2 for this in send-mode.

- EQ Mode
It seems not to be possible to change the EQ type (Parametric I II, Low Shelf I II III IV, High Pass I II III IV). E.g. pressing the middle encoder to step through the settings could be used for this.


Some things that annoy me,
- the buttons are way too LOUD, they are sounding and feeling like the buttons of a cheap pocket calculator from the 80s.

- the fader control is working strange.
It seems to be a simple 2 speed control. High speed if the difference between setpoint and actual value is big, low speed if the difference is small. A analogue style  PID control would be more appropriate.

- scrubbing with two fingers on the strip is too sensitive. For my feeling a slower speed in the middle would be more appropriate.

- Marker
One small complaint. You can set markers with the middle encoder push.  But you can not delete them. The encoder push should be a toggle. One push sets a marker and when you you select a marker with the encoder turn, a push should delete the marker.


Final words:
I am still not sure if I keep my Alphatrack or if I return it. Too often I am forced to use the mouse. See my solo, AI knob, Flip, Zoom etc.  complaints. Also the non working features are annoying.

Having a AI knob/Mouse wheel emulation with automatic parameter selection by the mouse pointer would be my biggest whish. So I am still looking at the CC121 or the new Novation SL Mk II ZeRO.
Having this feature in the Alphatrack would blow away the competition.

Cheers
Digi

(Sorry for my english, I am not a native speaker)