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Best controllers of 2020

2020 was a difficult year, but it also blessed us with some outstanding new studio equipment releases. As we prepare for 2021, we take a look back at some of the best releases of the last 12 months, picking out our favourites.


Third place: Nektar Aura


Nektar are controller specialists, so we’re always interested when they release something new. The Aura is a beat composer with built-in step sequencer, designed to bring drum machine-style workflow to software. In use, it’s a clear step up from generic pad controllers. Simple, effective and keenly priced.

Read our full review of the Nektar Aura here.

Runner-up: PreSonus Atom SQ


PreSonus’s Atom SQ does things a little differently. Designed to work closely with Studio One or Ableton Live, it’s a combination of step sequencer, arpeggiator, clip launcher, keyboard, ribbon controller, rotary knobs and more. A smart twist on a well-worn formula.

Read our full review of the PreSonus Atom SQ here.

Winner: Arturia Keylab Essential 88


Sometimes controllers don’t have to be exciting. Dare we say it, some of the best around are actually the most… boring? The Arturia KeyLak Essential 88 isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel; it’s a full-size, semi-weighted keyboard with the ubiquitous pads, knobs and sliders above the keys. As familiar as that kind of setup might be, it’s exactly what a lot of us want from our controller. The KeyLab does it well, and at a very good price. Solid, effective and dependable.

Read our full review of the Arturia Keylab Essential 88 here.

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