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The second constraint in the article is key: given that there is a computer, how can the computer help?

I can't believe we have these ridiculous music/sound editor UIs, full of awkward, knob-looking controls that are almost impossible to operate with the mouse. Clearly the standard computer interaction controls such as a menu or slider or even a text field would be easier for computer-based settings.




Most people want their DAW or plugin to resemble the real thing if it's an emulation or at least to offer a familiar look if it's not, so that the user is subject to sometimes frustrating usability compromises. The problem IMO is not the look but how we manipulate its elements: every solution out there takes for granted the use of a keyboard and a mouse, which is wrong because neither was intended to control such interfaces. If I had to design an alternative controller, that would be a digital joystick with an incremental encoder plus a push button on the lever top: you use the lever to navigate the controls and once you reach the intended one, you activate its edit mode on through the button and use the encoder to change analog values or the lever (which would be in edit mode so the focus would not change) for digital ones).


The problem is the look. To someone new to audio editing world, there is no need to mimic the look of the old hardware interfaces. Knobs in particular were used in hardware because potentiometers were the method of controlling signals, but there is no longer the need to replicate such an archane control for UI. The look of a pot has little to do with its function. But with software we can make the look of the control express its function.


I have to disagree. Rotary encoders and faders are the way to make smooth, gradual changes to various parameters by gut feel, which is more or less what a mixer is actually doing.

When money is no object, music is both mixed live and produced in the studio on enormous digital consoles which replicate their DSP parameters onto hundreds or thousands of tactile faders and rotary encoders.

The keyboard and mouse are a terrible way to mix. Fortunately small physical control surfaces can be had for not too much, though then you have the problem of matching your limited controls to the thousands of parameters in the DAW.


There seems to be such a strong consensus in slow to operate radial knobs. The most frustrating parts are when the knob goes from say 1-100 but the range of say 1-5 is the one of interest.

Instead of allowing me to set my own range and instead of making an interface where choosing a value works with common input interfaces we get tricked out, 32-bit radial controls that fail with regard to any operative goal on their use.




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