Best MIDI Controller for Guitar (our top pick)
Voodoo Lab Ground Control
Though expensive, the Voodoo Lab Ground Control is the best MIDI foot controller from a functionality perspective and easily our top recommendation in this category.
You might think of this as a much simpler version of our MIDI pairing article where we highlighted the foot controllers we liked, but also talked a lot about how to use them and set them up. On this page, we're just highlighting the products, for those of you who want a simpler and more straightforward recommendation about which controllers to buy, or which are the most ideal for guitar rigs.
Truth be told, there aren't a ton of these units available, as MIDI controllers are far more likely to come in keyboard form. Still, of the ones on the market, we believe the four listed here are the absolute best available.
Note that these units will control any of the following devices:
- MIDI-compatible guitar pedals
- Most rack-effects processors
- DAWs, recording or effects software
Note that in the following table, we've built a simple, weighted ratings system for MIDI foot controllers that looks like this in our Excel graph:
This is simply meant to give you an idea of where each pedal has strengths and weaknesses compared to the others in this list. For example, the above graph is for the Voodoo Lab Ground Control, which we can see has a great functionality score but doesn't do so well in terms of "Ease of Use."
These grades can help you prioritize different features based on general strengths and weaknesses of each product.
Here are the four MIDI foot controllers we'll discuss and recommend:
Best MIDI Foot Controllers (top 4 picks)
Voodoo Lab Ground Control
Rocktron MIDI Xchange
Rocktron MIDI Raider Pro
1. Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro
While there's certainly a learning curve to be considered, the Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro is one of the single most complete and high-functioning MIDI foot controllers on the market. It's also quite popular with professional musicians and guitar techs.
Here's just a quick, broad-stroke list of what it can handle:
- Control MIDI (or non-MIDI) rack effects
- Control stompboxes
- Switch between amps
- Switch between channels
Setting Up the Ground Control Pro
There is a setup process to get your Ground Control Pro to talk with the device(s) you're trying to couple it with, which will depend somewhat on those devices and how you want to use them. Learning how to take advantage of all the Ground Control's functionality could take some time.
If you want to get a quick summary of the setup process, this video is a good place to start:
If you take the time to get familiar with the interface, setup gets significantly easier. For new Ground Control owners/buyers, I'd advise watching this video and consulting the manual first, even if you're reasonably familiar with MIDI controllers. Once you're able to switch between devices, then presets within those devices, you'll be well on your way.
At that point, you could also add an expression or volume pedal and program its functionality via the Ground Control's front panel.
Overall Value and Ideal Situation for the Ground Control
The Ground Control Pro is most ideal for guitarists with more complex rigs and multiple MIDI devices needing to be controlled from one location.
Personally, we wouldn't recommend it for small rigs or for those who only need to control one MIDI device and wouldn't take advantage of multiple units. Moreover, the price of the Ground Control moves it outside the scope of smaller, lower-functioning setups. It's well worth the investment if you would take advantage of all the control it provides, but otherwise you're over-buying.
If you're in a situation where you need more functionality and control, perhaps switching between multiple amps, pedals and rackmounted effects, the Ground Control Pro is the most ideal fit.
IDEAL FOR: Live performing
EASE OF USE
2. Behringer FCB1010 MIDI Foot Controller
The Behringer FCB1010 has some notable advantages over the Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro, particularly for those of us who might have felt the Ground Control was too much pedal for what we were trying to do. In terms of functionality, the FCB1010 is still a capable option, but is much more affordable and - by many accounts - easier to use.
For prospective buyers, the FCB1010's most attractive feature will almost certainly be the price tag, as it's one of the most budget friendly MIDI foot controllers on the market.
It also includes two expression pedals built into the unit itself, both of which can be assigned the same way you would assign an external expression pedal in the Ground Control.
Setup Help and Other Resources
There's plenty of solid instruction and setup help available for the FCB1010. I'll list a few of them here for those who want a clearer picture of how to use it with an existing guitar rig.
- Behringer FCB1010 Setup Wiki Page
- The "Ultra Quick" Setup Video (still 13:00 long though)
Again, keep in mind that this is always dependent on the gear you're using and how you want to set it up.
Other Features We Like
The FCB1010 switches are made of a rubbery material that's really quiet when clicked, and far more subtle than the ones on the Ground Control. If you watched the video tutorial for the Ground Control, you probably noticed those switches have a distinct "clack" when you engage them.
With Behringer's MIDI board, switching stays quiet and feels seamless which is an overlooked benefit of the FCB1010.
As you might notice from the photo it's also a good deal thinner than the Ground Control, at least at the front of the board.
For transportation, storage and functionality, there's more length in the FCB1010, yet less height and depth to worry about. Other features worth mentioning include support for trigger and tap-tempo applications, as well as 10 fully editable user presets for each preset bank.
Overall Value and Ideal Situation for the FCB1010
The FCB1010 certainly is not as durable as the Ground Control, yet we haven't seen or head of any instances of it cracking, breaking or being more prone to physical defects as a result. And while there are still complexities (depending on what you're hooking it up to) there's a simplicity to the interface that's conducive to smaller rigs and more basic setups.
I'd recommend the FCB1010 for amateur to mid-level players who want a MIDI foot controller for just one or a few devices. Things like an iPad, PC or Mac connection are also well-handled by Behringer's board.
IDEAL FOR: Budgets
EASE OF USE
3. Rocktron MIDI Xchange
The MIDI Xchange from Rocktron is the younger and much smaller cousin of the Rocktron MIDI Raider, which we'll cover next. We like the Xchange because it's extremely basic and easy to use. You've got UP and DOWN buttons for cycling through MIDI presets, as well as a "RECALL" button to memorize or "bank" particular sounds.
For smaller rigs, especially when you're controlling just one MIDI device, that's about all you need.
So far, the Xchange is also the most affordable option on this list.
Rocktron MIDI XChange Connection Diagrams and Setup
While browsing the Xchange's user manual, we noticed some of their diagrams provide a nice reference for setting up a MIDI foot controller of any kind, so I've included them here to provide a clearer picture of what our final MIDI foot controller setup might look like.
In the image below, your signal goes from the guitar to the Rocktron effects processor - which is controlled by the MIDI Xchange and running through the amp's effects loop - then back into the amplifier.
If you're setting up a more complex rig with multiple MIDI devices, your diagram might look something like the picture below. Note that the Rocktron MIDI Xchange can control multiple devices via the in and out MIDI connections.
You might need to add a MIDI cable that gives you enough length to work with. Otherwise, setting up something like the Rocktron XChange is just about as basic as you can get in the MIDI foot controller realm.
Features and Drawbacks
Keep in mind:
With the two-button system you're going to have to order your presets in a linear line, making it difficult to skip to certain settings. The RECALL button provides some additional flexibility, but you'll still find yourself cycling through sounds like you would songs on a CD, one at a time.
That's the price of admission for a simpler MIDI foot controller.
One other detraction is that a power adapter is not included, per the user manual:
It can run off batteries and (depending on how you have it hooked up) phantom power. But I'd be lying if we said this didn't bother me, especially when all the other units we've looked at ship with their own power source. We should add, however, that there are un-boxing photos of this particular MIDI controller with a Rocktron-branded power adapter.
Who and where you buy from (used options, third-party sellers, etc.) could have something to say about whether or not you get a power adapter out of the deal. For example, when I (Bobby) bought my Line 6 DL4 delay off Amazon, it came with a power adapter and a converter, which the original owner had purchased and simply packaged with the DL4 when he sold it to me.
In that instance, I benefited from the seller's good graces and not a formal perk from Line 6.
It's certainly not a deal-breaker, but worth keeping in mind.
Overall Value and Ideal Situation for the FCB1010
The omission of a power adapter (maybe) and the linear preset selecting both contribute to negatives for the Rocktron XChange.
However, as was true with the two previous options, the value of this MIDI foot controller is almost entirely contextual. For example, if you're in a situation where you only use a few different MIDI presets on a single device, and you want to easily cycle through them, this is an ideal budget-friendly option for you.
If you're in need of a more comprehensive MIDI foot controller, the larger MIDI Raider Pro might be a better option if you want to stay in the Rocktron brand.
IDEAL FOR: Single MIDI Devices
EASE OF USE
4. Rocktron MIDI Raider Pro
Rocktron's MIDI Raider is one of the most expensive MIDI foot controllers available, and also one of the largest, spanning a 19 x 13 inch footprint with room for 18 total buttons on the front panel. The device also accounts 11 pounds of metal casing and parts.
The Rocktron MIDI Raider allows you to work in three different "modes" that include the following:
- Bank Mode
- Song Mode
- Remote Mode
The Bank Mode has 120 total presets, which can be setup as something like 24 banks of five presets with 10 'instant' switches. If you prefer a simpler setup, all 15 access switches can be used as 'instant' switches. In my experience, 15 different sounds is almost always enough, but that depends on your playing style and what gear you're running.
Speaking of how much gear you might be using:
Like Voodoo Lab's Ground Control, the MIDI Raider from Rocktron is designed to handle multiple MIDI-controllable devices. Thus, you can have a rack unit with several devices and a few MIDI-controllable guitar pedals, that can all have their own controllable MIDI channel.
In the above photo, the DigiTech, TC Electronic, Nova Drive and EHX pedals all have their own MIDI channel where you can cycle through presets for each one.
As with the Ground Control, there is a notable learning curve for the Rocktron MIDI Raider.
The user manual is a staggering (though not unexpected) 80 pages.
Let's take a quick look at the specs, then go through some of the most crucial information covered in the manual.
Overall Value and Ideal Situation for the MIDI Raider Pro
Even at just the surface of its capability, the MIDI Raider Pro can easily handle a massive amount of presets and larger groupings of MIDI devices, similar to the credentials we saw in the Voodoo Lab Ground Control. Its most ideal suitor would be a larger rig, perhaps where you're looking to control a DAW, rack effects and multiple MIDI pedals.
Since the Raider is so expensive, make sure you'll take advantage of its ability to control multiple units and avoid it for smaller rigs that don't need to be centralized.
IDEAL FOR: Multiple MIDI Devices
EASE OF USE
Rating VS Retail
The following chart zeroes in on approximate retail and the overall rating we gave all four of these controllers, which gives you an idea of where the most value is. Based on the chart (down and to the right is better), the Behringer FCB1010 is the best-value option, even if it's not the highest rated overall.
MIDI controllers are the single best way to apply a canvas of control over your entire rig. They're designed to centralize all of your effects and make everything you use most often accessible from the same spot. If you own rack effects processors, they're the most ideal and common way to control those units from your pedalboard without having to make changes by hand.
Before deciding on a MIDI foot controller, we would recommend taking an inventory of the following:
- Number of MIDI devices you want to control
- Number of presets within each devices that you want to use on a regular basis
For example, you might have a rack effects processor that you typically use for seven different sounds and a MIDI delay pedal with three different sounds. With all of that information on paper, you can buy a MIDI foot controller that's most ideal for a rig of that size and context.
If you have questions about the products listed here, or about the MIDI setup process, feel free to get in touch via the comments section below.
Other MIDI Foot Controller Resources
Written by GC Editorial on MIDI and Roundups
Vince Cimo says
Be sure to check out DataLooper as well! It’s new on the market, but is super lightweight, all aluminum and features 12 completely programmable buttons and RGB LEDs, 28 presets, 2 expression pedal jacks and MIDI In/Out.
Check it out at http://www.datalooperpedal.com
Bobby Kittleberger says
Hey, thanks Vince. This looks great. Saw your email as well. Will certainly check it out further!