Nektar Pacer Review
Verdict and Review Summary
The learning curve is steep if you want to take full advantage of the Nektar Pacer's capabilities, but for basic use like selecting effects or presets in a MIDI-compatible device, the Nektar Pacer is a dramatically underrated option given its reasonable price tag, especially compared to other more popular MIDI controllers. The Pacer deserves serious consideration from producers and guitar players alike.
At the time of writing this review, Nektar was making the Pacer available for about $230 new, which is an extremely reasonable and inviting price tag, especially compared to units like the Voodoo Lab Ground Control and Roland FC-300. We think this asking immediately makes the Pacer a high-value option, even if limited to the most basic MIDI controller tasks.
But the Pacer is actually a fairly involved MIDI pedal, able to handle the rigors of guitar rig control and/or DAW control.
For our Nektar Pacer review, we unboxed the unit and tested it ourselves with the following devices:
- Walrus Audio ACS1 with MIDI port (presets and amp selection)
- Old Behringer rack effects unit (Modulizer pro)
- Ableton Live Lite
We found the Pacer to be a fantastic solution for all of the above devices. We were able to set different parameters for different banks, and map buttons on the Pacer to effects on the Modulizer and settings on the ACS1.
While we did not test every capability of the Pacer MIDI controller, the basic tasks worked extremely well.
Though it's important to keep in mind that your experience with the Pacer will certainly depend on the gear or software you try to use it with. Make sure that the devices you want to control are indeed MIDI compatible, then take the time to learn how to map preset buttons. This will allow you to call up certain effects or setting for your MIDI compatible devices.
Your experience could vary, depending on the device.
For example, I had to program the ACS1 into the Pacer before it would do anything.
But on the Modulizer Pro I just plugged in the MIDI controller and it intuitively allowed me to cycle through effects presets.
So some of your experience will depend on your rig, and the gear you bring to the table.
Read more: MIDI compatible guitar pedals
Basic Scoring, Pros, and Cons
The only category where we took some points off is ease of use, which could be an issue for any MIDI controller if you're not familiar with how to set one up. For me, it was mostly a matter of trial and error and learning on the fly, but it certainly didn't ruin the experience. There's a learning curve, to be sure, but it's not unreasonable.
IDEAL FOR: Studios, recording, performing, guitar rig/effects control, and DAW control
EASE OF USE
While the Pacer is marketed as a DAW MIDI controller, it's actually not that different from most floor-based MIDI controllers on the market. The DAW control side is actually a secondary functionality with the floor pedals, allowing you to invoke functions like play or record, directly from the Pacer.
In preset mode, those same pedals can be programmed to different effects, depending on which devices you're pairing it with.
To test the Pacer, we connected an old Behringer Modulizer rack effects unit and the Walrus Audio ACS1 pedal.
Read the full review: Walrus Audio ACS1
Here's a quick summary of what type of gear the Pacer is compatible with:
What does it work with?
- MIDI Compatible Guitar Pedals
- Rack effects units
- DAW and studio software
With any MIDI controller, the exact nature of functionality is going to vary depending on what exactly you're trying to control. But generally speaking, the Pacer can control things like effects presets, bypass buttons, settings parameters, and even expression pedal functionality.
Ease of Use
In some ways, the Nektar Pacer is pretty easy to use.
For example, when I set it up with my Behringer effects unit, it automatically mapped effects to the preset buttons. If I wanted to change them, I simply went into the preset/programming mode and changed them to the corresponding MIDI numbers.
For a quick preset programming tutorial, I found that this guy's video was the most helpful:
To use the more advanced functionality of the Pacer, you might need to spend a little time in the user manual. There are multiple layers of presets, giving you 24 total, and the functionality of the footswitches will change depending on what mode you're in.
It's also important to note that there are setups for more popular MIDI-capable effects units, like the Line 6 Helix and Kemper Profiler.
For me, there was definitely a bit of a learning curve figuring out what this pedal was capable of and how to use the simpler aspects of it. Because all I really wanted to do was control presets on my pedals and move through my rack effects processor.
After a little work and research up front, it got a lot easier.
How to Setup with Pedals
As I've already mentioned, any MIDI compatible pedal can be controlled by the Pacer. In order to assign presets, you'll need to lookup the MIDI numbering in the pedal's documentation, usually in the user manual.
Take the Walrus Audio ACS1, for example. Here's a shot of the MIDI page in the back of the manual:
Since the ACS1 has the capability of setting and saving presets, you can use the Pacer to cycle through those presets. You can also use it to control parameters like bass, gain, or even the speaker cab selection switch.
Your control will depend on the pedal in question, so just make sure to keep user manuals handy (or download the PDF) so you can check documentation for the pedal you want to control.
Working with a DAW
Through a USB connection, the Pacer can also be used to manipulate DAW software, which is especially handy if you need to do so while keeping your hands free. For our Nektar Pacer review, we only tested the basics of this feature, like using the play, record, and tracking buttons.
Even with the DAW compliance, we'd still recommend this unit for a guitar player since it's the floorboard style MIDI controller.
For more comprehensive DAW control, we might recommend a keyboard-based MIDI controller or something like the Ableton Push.
But for basic functionality, the Pacer can definitely give you a fair amount of controller over your studio software, all from a floorboard that can be controlled by your feet.
The Pacer feels really heavy in your hands, and isn't something you'll want to move around much. Buttons are heavy and a bit difficult to press down with your hands. If nothing else, it's durable and not likely to break. We didn't move it around much, so it's not clear to us how scratch resistant the unit is, but the metal exterior seems strong enough to withstand any likely bruises or bumps that might occur.
At $230 retail, the Nektar Pacer is one of the more affordable MIDI controllers on the market, especially when compared to something like the Voodoo Lab Ground Control, which usually retails around $430.
While there are certain aspects of the Pacer that are designed for non-guitar use, it does enough for both the guitar player and the DAW user to have value in both contexts.
Finding a MIDI controller with this level of functionality at a similar price tag is going to be rare.
Is it a good fit for guitar players?
Some guitar players might be turned off by the emphasis on DAW control, but this wasn't really an issue for me when I tested it. As a guitar player, the DAW functionality didn't take away from what it could do for my guitar rig.
It just depends on what mode you use: Track or preset.
For me, I mostly depend on a MIDI controller simply for controlling presets, but if I ever wanted to use the DAW functionality, it's there.
So I would certainly recommend this unit to guitar players, if for just the preset control and great price.
How We Tested It
To this point in my Nektar Pacer review, I've already covered most of the details of the setup I used to test the unit, but I'll do a quick summary for those skimming and to pull it all together.
Since I am first and foremost a guitar player, my priority was to test the Pacer for controlling effects presets.
As mentioned, I did this using a Behringer rack effects processor and the Walrus Audio ACS1.
I powered the Pacer via USB (also allowed me to test DAW functionality), and ran the MIDI connection straight into the two effects units. From there I ran my PRS CE 24 electric guitar through my regular pedalboard and a Mesa Rectoverb combo amp. Note that the MIDI controller simply controls the effects units and does not need to be part of the audio signal between my guitar and amp.
This setup allowed me to test all the basic functionality of the Nektar Pacer, which significantly improved the flexibility of my guitar rig.
Conclusion and Questions
Nektar deserves some credit for creating a MIDI controller that can appeal to both producers and guitar players, and making it available for such a reasonable price. If you need something to control your DAW from the floor, it's a no-brainer. But even for guitar players that don't care about DAW use, the Pacer is a great fit that will allow you to take way more control over your rig.
It's main competition is the Behringer FCB1010, but in a direct comparison we'd prefer the Pacer, just because it feels stronger in your hands and seems to be built tougher.
Overall, there's a lot to like about the Pacer and little to complain about.
If you have questions about our Nektar Pacer review, we keep up with everything that gets dropped in the comments section.
Hit us up there and we'll chat about it.