Top positive review
A Basic MIDI Foot Controller that has the potential to be great.
Reviewed in Australia on 20 November 2019
I purchased the MIDI Commander to control my live guitar rigs - one is a Marshall JMP-1 and TC Electronic G Major 2 running into a valve power amp, and the other is a Hughes And Kettner Tuemeister 18 with A TC G Major.
How I use the MIDI Commander:
* The JMP-1 is a MIDI guitar pre-amp, which I run into the TC G Major 2 for all of my effects, like reverb, chorus etc. I change patches on both units via MIDI Program Change messages, and use an expression pedal to vary my overall volume levels.
* The Tubemeister 18 is controlled by the TC G Major, which can change the channels on the Tubemeister via the footswitch input. The G Major accept the MIDI Program Changes and changes the channels on the Tubemeister as needed, and provides the reverb, chorus and volume control via an MIDI expression pedal.
I wanted a foot controller that could send Program Change messages to switch patches in both systems, and the MIDI Commander is doing that very well, with the aim of having one pedal board that could control either rig.
The good bits:
1) Once I set it to “Custom 1” mode, I was 95% of the way to controlling my systems the way I wanted to. I was using a Roland FC-100 before this, which is also a pretty simple MIDI foot controller, similar in capabilities to this MIDI Commander when you put it either of the custom modes (ie, it basically sends program changes, and controller changes from the external controllers). The MIDI Commander sends out a Program Change message per foot switch, which is NOT user definable, but just goes in incremental order up the banks, of which there are eight, so you can send Program Changes from 1 to 72. I doubt I would have that many patches programmed, but it would be nice to be able to use all 128 Program Changes.
2) It seems well built, but time will tell, once I have gigged it a few times, to see how reliable it will be.
3) The LCD screen is adequate, but could have been bigger, but the patch numbers are displayed big enough, and there’s an LED next to every foot switch to show me which patch/switches are active.
4) The unit seems to be pretty configurable, once you decipher the manual! You can change the CC numbers of the external expression pedals, you can assign CC numbers to the individual foot switches, but you cannot assign a value to the CC messages sent, it only toggles between 1 and 127 when you assign a CC to a foot switch, meaning you can only toggle functions on and off in your amp/processor/DAW etc.
Once you get into the menu system to configure the unit, it’s not that hard to do.
5) MIDI data is transmitted by USB and a standard 5 pin DIN MIDI socket, which is great for controlling standard MIDI-equiped gear, which is how I use it.
The bad bits:
1) The user manual is terrible. Melo Audio needs to address this. The manual has been (badly) translated from another language, but seems a little brief also. Some more detail about how to edit the parameters and the overall capabilities would have been nice, but I was able to figure it out. (I’ve dealt with enough badly translated manuals to get the idea!).
2) The unit is powered by USB - the same kind of USB cable that you would use to connect your printer to your computer. This is fine if you intend to use it with a PC or Mac, as the USB also handles the MIDI data. But when you want to use it on a pedal board, you have to sort out a USB charger. It can also be powered by batteries, but I don’t like to rely on batteries for too many things.
**** Beware - try as many different USB chargers as you can find. Some work better than others! When testing the MIDI Commander, I found that some chargers introduced a lot of noise into the audio circuit of my amps. So far, the best charger I have found is a Samsung phone charger, but your experiences may vary. ****
(I intend to make a little gadget to take a standard 9 volts from my pedal power supply and step it down to 5 volts for the USB input on the MIDI Commander. Maybe the manufacturers should supply a converter as standard? It would make this a much better product from the outset.)
3) This is the smallest foot controller I have seen, and I’m a little worried that the foot switches are a little close together, because I don’t have the smallest feet on the planet!
4) There’s no way to calibrate the expression pedals when you plug them in to the MIDI Commander. I only use one of the two available pedal inputs, but it does not let the pedal go to a full value of 127. You can see this because the unit displays the values of the CC messages on the LCD. (It shows the CC# and the value being sent.) Not a deal breaker for me, but might be an issue for someone else.
I can’t comment on the compatibility with systems like the Axe FX or Kemper, etc, as I don’t have them.
The MIDI Commander has definitely helped me reduce the size of my pedal board without losing any functionality that I had with my previous controller, which was my main aim in buying this unit.
I’d recommend this unit to someone who wants a basic foot controller, that can be set up to send basic Program Changes and Controller Changes, like I need it to do. This unit won’t send out complex message to change the settings in other gear, for example, I have a TC Nova Drive and while I can use the MIDI Commander to change patches, it’s not smart enough to edit the parameters in the Nova Drive itself, not like a G System can.
Maybe a firmware update can add some more functionality, or improve on some of the issues. I hope that happens in the future, but for now, I'm pretty happy with the MIDI Commander.
I'll be using it at a few gigs over the next couple of months, and that will be the real test! If it fails, I shall update this review if I can.