BY Markkus Roviti (Remix Mag.)


One look at the Novation ReMote 25SL should cause at least a twinge of longing in any electronic musician. Sure, MIDI keyboards are a dime a dozen these days, but no matter how many hit the market, most of them leave something, if not a whole lot, to be desired. The ReMote immediately gives its observer that spark of hope that this could finally be the one. But this initial excitement is nothing compared with the joy of really experiencing what this controller can do for your workflow. And like a true keeper, what's on the inside means even more than what's on the outside.

The ReMote has 35 preset templates for popular software instruments such as M-Audio Imposcar, Oddity and Minimonsta; Native Instruments FM-7, Pro 53, B4 and Kontakt; Korg MS-20 and Polysix; and Steinberg HALion. Those are all fully customizable from the hardware or from the PC/Mac editor/librarian software, and Novation has already added many new templates to its Website, including Cakewalk Sonar SL, Digidesign Pro Tools and FXpansion Guru. But Novation's true genius is the ReMote SL series' Automapping, a new technology that automatically recognizes when compatible software is launched and maps the ReMote's controls to a preset layout. As this review went to press, Ableton Live 5, Apple Logic Pro 7, Propellerhead Reason 3 and Steinberg Cubase SL/SX 3 and Nuendo 3 supported Automapping.

CLASSY CHASSIS Without a doubt, the ReMote 25SL is a pro-quality, roadworthy instrument, and it's priced accordingly. Solid and sturdy at 5.5 pounds, its 18.4-by-10.9-by-2.7-inch frame tucks away into a backpack or carry-on for travel. It runs off of USB bus power, four C batteries or an optional power adapter. The USB port acts like two MIDI ins and outs, so it can control 32 soft synths at a time assigned to two sets of 16 MIDI channels. In addition, it has two hardware MIDI Outs, a MIDI In and a MIDI Thru for hooking up two MIDI instruments discretely or daisy-chaining an even larger setup. A 2-octave keyboard (25 keys) features Velocity sensitivity and Aftertouch. The action of the semiweighted keys is smooth and substantial; it's a player's keyboard, rather than the sticky, cheap keys found on many MIDI controllers.

The ReMote's control panel is a small marvel in that it seems to pack most of the tools of more expensive control surfaces onto a compact keyboard. It's split down the middle; the left side has two rows of eight buttons, two rows of eight knobs (one row of endless encoders) and a row of eight Velocity-sensitive drum pads, while the right side contains eight faders, two rows of eight buttons and the transport controls. The coup de grâce, however, resides in the LCDs. Taking a cue from desktop controllers like the Digidesign 002 or the M-Audio ProjectMix I/O, the ReMote's dual two-line LCDs show detailed information on the parameters being controlled beneath them.

The displays show the name and value for the parameters of the active row of controls. To activate a row, simply operate one of the controllers or press one of the row-select buttons on the far sides. Those buttons also cycle through extra banks of parameters for that row. For instance, if a row is manipulating the first oscillator of a synth, pressing the row-select button cycles the row to control the second oscillator.

Novation has standardized the layout as best as possible. Most software synthesizers have some similar controls, so the ReMote always uses the three left-most columns of controls for the oscillator section, the next two columns for the LFOs, the next three columns for the filters and the fader section for the envelopes. That makes it easy to fire up an instrument and get to work.

CLOSER TO THE EDIT A single column of six buttons and the Data encoder down the center of the panel comprise the ReMote editing section. The editing section is where you can make changes to the global settings (routing the MIDI ins and outs, setting the MIDI Clock source, protecting the memory, etc.), create or customize templates or edit single controls. Some of those settings will be changed by the controls under the display headings, and others will be changed with the Data encoder, which can also set the tempo. In the editing modes and occasionally in Play mode, scroll up and down buttons for each LCD cycle through the various settings available. That all adds up to a straightforward and digestible operation system.

Any control on the ReMote can be assigned to a MIDI continuous controller (CC), SysEx message or other, more esoteric controls. Buttons, pads and footswitches can also be assigned to launch templates, note on/off, program changes, bank changes or MIDI Machine Control (MMC) messages such as transport controls.

The response of knobs and sliders can be set to jump to a value immediately when changed, pick up the change only when the control passes over the original value or obey the response set overall for the template or global setting. Button and pad responses include Normal, Toggle, Step and Velocity (press/release for buttons).

In Template mode, you can select settings for the entire template, such as Aftertouch on/off, controller response, MIDI channel and others. Each template can have as many as four keyboard zones, each with its own MIDI channel, Velocity curve, Aftertouch and other settings. Four may be more zones than anyone needs on a 2-octave keyboard, but it's a nice option for live performances, especially if you're using one of the larger, functionally identical ReMote boards: the ReMote 37SL ($749) and the ReMote 61SL ($899).

Whether editing a global setting, an individual control or a template, press the Write button to save changes and name templates. For editing, reading the PDF manual is key to pick up nonobvious functions — for example, when buttons need to be pushed simultaneously to accomplish a task. This is dry reading but is worth the hour or so investment to really feel like a master of the ReMote.

SOFT SIDE The fill-in-the-dialog-box method of creating/editing templates in the ReMote SL Editor software is not as friendly as a pop-up menu system or other hierarchical choice method might be, but the utility does make setting up keyboard zones easy because you can see the note ranges highlighted, and you can click-and-drag them longer or shorter. The software is also used to upload these templates to the keyboard and to receive template dumps from the keyboard to be saved on a computer.

LESS CLICK, MORE WRIST FLICK All the hardware and software editing available is nice but not necessary to have a great experience. With the Automapping and the instrument templates, many people may never edit anything. The ReMote is also wonderfully easy to set up. After performing an update to the latest OS downloaded from Novation's site, the driverless controller was ready to go — I simply dialed in a template and launched an instrument. You don't need a template for every software instrument, either. One template can control other synths, but the controls may not match up perfectly. In Cubase SL/SX 3, the Automap recognizes and maps whatever VST instrument is active.

I tested Automapping on Reason 3 and Live 5 with an iMac G5 2.1 GHz running OS 10.4.6. Setting up was as easy as designating the ReMote as the master keyboard in Reason's preferences and as the control surface in Live's preferences. From then on, whenever either program launched, the ReMote immediately entered the appropriate Automap mode and dedicated its controls to the active instrument or device.

For each program, Automapping performed flawlessly. There was almost instantaneous two-way feedback between the actions on the ReMote and within the software. In Live, the ReMote's faders alternately control the track volume, panning and aux send levels as you cycle through with the row-select button. The buttons below control track on/mute, solo, record arm, etc., and you can cycle tracks using the scroll up/down buttons. On the left-hand side, the controls operate the selected plug-in. For example, with Live's Impulse 8-part drum machine active, the ReMote drum pads played the sounds, and the knobs above the pads controlled the various sounds parameters. Pressing the row-select button cycled the controls to the other seven sounds.

In Reason, the ReMote maps the device whose track is selected for MIDI control in the sequencer. The ReMote controlled instruments, drum machines, Combinators and mixers with equal aplomb. A nice time-saver is the ability to scroll up the ReMote's right-side display and view sequencer information, such as the location of the play-head; from that page, two buttons scroll up and down the sequencer tracks, so that you can quickly select the device to control.

You've either been dying for Automapping, or you didn't know you needed it but won't want to live without it. Perfect for any program, it especially suits Reason and Live because they share the philosophy of easing technical headaches and lifting creative restrictions for better musicmaking. Having Automapping actually made me more enthusiastic about reviving stalled projects and exploring new musical territory.

The controller itself also feels superb. The faders possess a deep curvature, so it's easy to bring all eight up or down together with two hands. Their resistance straddles the right balance: not too loose and not too stubborn. The x-y touchpad reacts with precision and has a coating that facilitates smooth movement. I like the globular pitch- bend/mod joystick; its solid feel makes it playable and expressive. While the drum pads are not going to give any of the dedicated pad units a run for their money, they're great assets, especially in a portable keyboard. They also respond well to velocity, and you can play them from the corners for fast, two-fingered drum rolls.

I have only two small complaints: The Tap Tempo button never stops blinking, which can get annoying, and the Global menu still showed the software as v.1.0.13 even after updating to v.1.5. That made me think the update didn't work, but checking the templates proved that it did.

MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE The ReMote 25SL would be impressive even without Automapping. With it, the keyboard is almost the dream controller for any heavy user of the Automapping programs. And like fine wine, comfortable jeans and Charlie Murphy, the ReMote series should only improve with age as Novation adds more templates and more third-party software embraces Automapping, which I believe will become the MIDI-control standard that other companies aspire to.

Key Features

Automap Instant control over sequencers and plug-ins. Automap removes the pain and time involved in assigning MIDI parameters.

Two Giant 144-character LCD screen Frees the artist from being chained to the computer screen, placing all the essential data right alongside the relevant controls.

Semi-weighted keyboard with after-touch Delivers the feeling of playing an instrument, rather than a computer peripheral.

Huge array of controls including sliders The artist has the exact control setup they desire, no matter how complex the plug-in.

Programmable drum pads Eradicates the need for separate drumpad triggers, providing the ideal platform for sketching out beats or triggering samples.

2-D Controls Fantastic ‘Xpression’ pad and adjustably sprung pitch/mod joystick, both freely assignable in MIDI Controlling mode

Back to top Overview The ReMOTE SL MIDI controller is the first keyboard to provide automatic, instant and intelligent control of all major sequencers and all automatable plug-ins. The SL's two giant 144-character screesn display up to sixteen assigned parameters at once, with the essential data laid out logically right before the user’s eyes.

Automap software ensures that little or no user setup is required. Sequencer controls are automatically mapped to the SL the moment the sequencer boots up, whilst all VST or AU parameters are intuitively assigned as soon as a plug-in opens. In addition, an instant click and control ‘learn’ function is available for quick custom assigning, providing personalised plug-in control.

In Automap mode, the number of controls is unlimited. In Manual Template mode, the 8 rotary potentiometers, 8 sliders, 8 rotary encoders and 24 switches provide a huge array of different assignable parameters. Eight velocity-sensitive trigger pads are also available, ideal for triggering samples or sketching out beats.

With its 25-/37- or 61- key (2-/3- or 5-octave) professional, semi-weighted keyboard featuring aftertouch, the SL upholds Novation’s philosophy of designing real instruments rather than mere computer peripherals. The SL provides a truly focused and highly portable MIDI controlling solution through its dedicated transport controls, assignable pitch / mod wheels, and USB bus powering. Novation’s pioneering Automap technology, the huge screen and an unrivalled control set ensure that the ReMOTE SL is the only choice for the demanding, modern music maker in search of an intuitive MIDI controller with all the answers. With the SL range, artists are free to focus on what matter most – their music. Back to topAutomapAutomap will change the way you make music, and is only available with Novation's ReMOTE SL range. A unique sequencer and plug-in control protocol, Automap provides automatic control of any automatable plug-in within any sequencer. Automap removes the pain inherent in old school MIDI control, leaving the artist free to enjoy making music.

Simply open up a plug-in and watch the parameters appear on the SL's screens. Every plug-in is given a 'learn' mode for easy and instantaneous mapping of controls - simply click the software parameter, then move a hardware control to automatically assign.

In addition, open up any major sequencer and the mixer controls, as well as many other session parameters, are instantly mapped to the ReMOTE SL. A single button allows you to switch between controlling different instruments and the mixer, with all names and values displayed clearly across huge 144-character LCD screens.

Find out more about how Automap, and how it works with each Sequencer. Back to top Specifications Keyboard (25, 37 and 61 models only)

Keys: 25/37/61

Type: Semi-Weighted with aftertouch

Velocity Curves: 6 - individually assignable for each Template

Pitch and Mod Wheel Mechanism (25, 37 and 61 models only)

Pitch wheel lever: Rubberised - spring loaded, centre return left to right motion

Mod/control lever: Rubberised - spring loaded, bottom return or free running, front to back motion

X/Y Touchpad (25, 37 and 61 models only)

Touchpad: Pressure sensitive

Parameters: 2 assignable in X direction; 2 assignable in Y direction

LCD Display

LCD: 2 x 144 character silver. Blue LED backlit


Data Ports: 1 x USB MIDI (Win XP/Mac OSX class-compliant)

MIDI: 2 x MIDI Out, 1 x MIDI In, 1 x MIDI Thru

Sustain Pedal: 1 x 1/4 Jack Input

Expression pedal: 1 x 1/4 Jack Input


Rotary Encoders: 8 - Infinite Rotation

Rotary Potentiometers: 8 - Rotation 0 to 270 Degrees

Sliders: 8

Buttons: 32

Trigger pads: 8

Transport Controls: Rewind/Fast Forward/Stop/Start/Record/Loop (assignable buttons)

TAP TEMPO Button: 1

General Operation: Play/Edit/Template/Global/Write buttons

Data select: 1 x rotary encoder, press to change function

Keyboard Octave: Octave up/down buttons


Battery Operation: 4 x Standard ‘C’ Size

External Power Supply: Standard ‘Centre Positive’ 9V DC 600mA Power Supply (optional)

Size (ZeRO): W=468mm, H=68mm, D=163mm

Size (25): W=468mm, H=68mm, D=293mm

Size (37): W=640mm, H=68mm, D=293mm

Size (61): W=965mm, H=68mm, D=293mm

Weight: (ZeRO) 1.6kg

(25) 2.5kg

(37) 4.2kg

(61) 6.2kg

Pre-installed onboard Templates and Automaps



• V-Station

• Bass Station

Propellerhead (only Automap)

• Reason – All Instruments, Mixer, rack effects

Native Instruments

• FM7

• Pro 53

• Battery II

• Kontakt II

• B4

G Media

• Oddity

• ImpOSCar

• Minimonsta


• Cubase/Nuendo Automap - Mixer/Effects and VSTs

• Halion


• Z3ta


• Legacy Cell

• MS-20

• Polysix


• Vanguard


• CS-80V

• Arp 2600V

Rob Papen/Linplug

• Albino


• Logic Automap - Mixer and Instruments


• Live Automap - Mixer/Navigation and Effects

Xcite+ Pack Novation likes to set the standards, and their latest bundled software collection is no exception.

'Xcite+' comes on a DVD-ROM filled to the brim with royalty-free loops and samples alongside a host of powerful applications ideal for getting the new user started, or to expand the experienced user’s creative toolbox.

PLEASE NOTE: The Xcite+ pack was only recently introduced to this product. Consequently, there may be old stock in store. If there is no sticker on the box, then there will be no xcite+ pack inside and it cannot be provided retrospectively. MAKE SURE TO LOOK FOR THE XCITE+ STICKER

The bundle includes:

Ableton Live Lite 6

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Novation Bass Station

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Waldorf PPG Wave Lite classic synth

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Arturia Analog Factory SE plug-in

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Waldorf's D-Pole Lite FX classic filter plug-in

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FXpansion's powerful demo versions of the BFD acoustic drum plug-in

and 'Guru' sample player with library.

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Waldorf's 'Attack Lite' analogue drum module plug-in

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'Mike the Drummer' A collection of 572 inspiring and original live drum loops

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Free 3 months membership for 'i-dance'- Global XS Artist


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