5 Of The Best Small Midi Foot Controllers For Guitar
When a person thinks of a midi controller, the first thing that comes to mind is some kind of massive floor board with a ton of switches and options. But what happens when you don't need all those switches and just need a few simple options that will save space. I am going to address some frequently asked questions around the small midi foot controller as well as review some of the best one's on the market.
What Is A Midi Controller?
I like to think of a midi foot controller as a multi-effects pedal without the built-in brains. A midi foot controller is used to control software, hardware or both as a means to achieve your guitar sound. The midi foot controller is not necessarily a new invention as guitar players have been using them to control their rack mount units since way back in the 80's even. However, foot-controlled midi devices have come a long way since then and offer a lot more functionality than back in the day. They're also used for a lot more purposes than just controlling rack-mounted effects. Which I'll touch on further down.
|One Control Basilisk|
|Top Choice||Best Features||Best Budget Controller||Most Compact||Offers Most Control|
The Need For A Midi Foot Controller?
As I mentioned above, the most common use of the midi stompbox controller is to simplify the switching of patches, banks, and sounds. However, since the invention of the Kemper Profiler and other profiling/modeling guitar units such as Axefx, the need for a midi foot device has skyrocketed. Another popular need is the use of guitar processing software via a digital device such as a laptop or tablet with the use of DAW's. Many guitar players are gravitating towards these types of units due to its ease of use and vast tonal capabilities. However, in order to control the software for live playing, one will need a midi foot controller.
Why Go Compact?
There are the whole host of reasons why choosing a smaller controller would be better than a bigger one (sometimes bigger isn't always better). Sometimes you just don't need all of the options that the larger midi foot controller provide. The small ones often provide a lot of options and switching capabilities despite their small size.
1) Tech 21 Mongoose
The Mongoose by Tech 21 is a lightweight, affordable, space-saving and easy to use midi foot controller that has 5 footswitches which are capable of accessing up to 128 patches on 16 channels. Tech 21 is a very well known and respected brand when it comes to producing pedals for both bass and guitar. Whilst this is a midi controller, it still follows the precedent set by Tech 21 when it comes to making quality pedals. Let's look at some features of the Tech 21 Mongoose:
- Small & light enough to fit in a backpack or guitar bag
- Has 2 separate inputs so you can control an extra midi device
- Can run on 9V battery or DC power supply
- Also has phantom power jack (7-pin)
- Bright display with anti-glare (can be seen in light and dark)
- Enclosed in a rugged and tough metal house and like all Tech 21 pedals, can take a beating for years
- Very simple to use and program
Overall this is a great unit for the price and you get a lot of functionality, a user-friendly experience and the rugged and tough as well as great sounding reputation of the Tech 21 pedal company. These work really great with the Kemper & AxeFx units.
2) Source Audio Soleman Midi Controller
In my opinion, this is probably the best midi controller on the market. The reason that it does not sit at number 1 is because of the higher price. Besides that, this Source Audio Midi controller for the feet is a very strong contender. The number of things you can do and program with this device is endless. What separates this foot controller from the rest is the built-in Midi to USB interface. Basically, what this means is that it has a built-in soundcard. This minimizes the need for an extra piece of gear which I think is amazing.
Some features of the Source Audio:
- Control hardware and software devices
- Built-in Midi to USB interface
- Has input for an expression pedal
- Has the capability to add an extra 2 extra footswitches
- 2 midi outs & 1 midi in
- Lets you make patches, midi messages, set orders, song lists, and tap tempo
Some downsides to the SA Soleman: The sheer amount of options on this device can be somewhat off-putting to those who are after simplicity. The price is also not favored towards those on a budget. Besides these, it is hard to think of anything else that is wrong with it.
3) Rocktron Midi Exchange
This Midi foot controller by Rocktron is a very nice compact unit with a lot of features for its size. The Rocktron only has 3 footswitches but it has two inputs for an extra two expression pedals which can control the volume of sounds and patches, an expression such as wah-wah, filters, delay times or parameters. It is also able to run on 9V battery or via AC power adapter which is very useful. This midi foot controller is very intuitive and user-friendly which means you shouldn't have a hard to figure how to use and program it.
The features of the Rocktron include:
- Two inputs for expression pedals
- control: expression, parameters, and volume
- 3 footswitches
- 7 Pin Phantom power
- Powered by 9v battery or AC power supply
Downsides: The device only has a Midi out and no Midi in. Another possible downside is that although it is small, it could be a little bit bulky for its size when compared to other devices on this list.
Overall it is a great choice for the price.
4) Basilisk One Control Foot Controller
This is a very simple to use controller that allows full take over of the midi your devices you wish to control. It is quite similar to the Rocktron above but it offers an extra footswitch. it does however not run on 9v. This device offers two separate modes: The first mode lets you bring up your presets very fast whilst the second mode lets you bring up your presets using the built-in footswitches.
Features of the Basilisk One Control:
- 128 presets with 64 banks (you can have up to 2 presets for each bank)
- The 4 footswitches are not loud at all when engaged
- Very small and portable. Basically the size of a guitar pedal stompbox.
- Can send PC# & CC#
- Brightly lit display
Downsides: For the price of this unit, it is quite hard to find any problems or downsides with it. However, if I have to be picky I'd say that a downside is that it can only be powered using power supply and not 9v battery. Also, the layout of the switches in a square may turn some away however for me it is not a massive issue.
5) Softstep 2 USB Foot Controller
This Softstep midi controller is probably your best bet for controlling your guitar sounds from software on a laptop or digital devices like Ableton or Guitar Rig Pro etc. Having said that, The Softstep 2 works perfectly well with the Kemper profiler. By looking at the unit and taking the name "Softstep" into account, one would assume this device is easy breakable. However, quite the opposite is true. In fact, the Sofstep has been tested by a car driving over it and it passed with flying colors.
The magic in the device is the 10 "Switches" or "Buttons" as they appear. These 10 switches are highly controllable and you can adjust the sensitivity of each switch. Not only that but the switches can process many parameters at the same time which no other midi foot controller has the capability of doing.
Features of the Softstep include:
- 10 switches each with multiple parameters & sensitivity control
- Exceptionally lightweight, slim and portable (would easily fit in a backpack)
- Powered by USB (supported by MAC OS, Windows & iOS)
- Unbelievably rugged and tough and also resistant to liquids
- Can be used with Kemper, AxeFx, etc
Downsides: To my eye, the soft nature of the pedal switches would lead me to believe they'd get worn out pretty quickly. However, I've yet to hear of this happening. Another possible downside is that the unit is only powered by USB and not anything else. But for some, this may not be an issue at all.
6) Tech 21 Midi Mouse
In 6th position, we have another midi stompbox controller made by Tech 21. In fact, this Midi Mouse is the "Younger brother" to the Mongoose featured in our number 1 position. It is pretty similar to the Mongoose but the Midi Mouse is much smaller and compact as well as only having 3 footswitches. Besides for the number of footswitches the Midi Mouse does exactly the same as the Midi Mongoose.
- Very compact and small
- Can be run on 9v battery, power supply or phantom power
- Highly durable constructed in a metal casing
- 128 presets/patches with 16 channels
So Which Small Midi Foor Controller is for you?
You have to consider the use for which you are buying a midi foot controller. Once you know this, choosing one will be much easier. We see the list below are a few points to help guide you decide what are the reasons you need one:
- To control software / Virtual instruments / DAW
- To control hardware like Kemper Profilers or Axe Effects
- A combination of both
Most of the controllers in this list will cover all of the above. However, some are better geared towards software use whilst other hardware and others are great all-rounders.