1 (edited by neirbod 2014-11-25 17:09:55)

Topic: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

I am experimenting with a MS Surface Pro 3 (256 GB, i5) to use with my UFX on location for both recording and as a mixer for sound reinforcement.  There are a number of posts on Gear Slutz and elsewhere, as well as some videos, that demonstrate this tablet is more than adequate to run a DAW as  long as one does not load too many plugins.  For example:


I personally ran tests and it did not show any problems recording 20 tracks at 24/96 for over an hour.  Testing is limited so far, but encouraging.

The biggest questions for me are more related to the touch screen interface and how it works practically in the field.  I thought others may be interested in this so I will report my findings here.  So far, I am pleased with running TM on the Surface with some tweaks and caveats:

1) At native resolution and normal zoom (100%) in TM, the TM window is very small both to see and to manipulate.  But, the Surface has a 4 or 5 step slider under display preferences (separate from resolution) allowing one to make items smaller or larger.  Sliding one step to "larger" from the default, and setting TM zoom to 200% and in 2-row mode works fairly well.   For my purposes I need at most two playback channels visible on location, so in 2-row mode I can just slide them mostly out of sight and save room.  The bottom of the TM window is just slightly off screen in this set up which I don't think will be a problem, but I need to test it more.

2) Using the normal touch screen, even in its larger view, can be awkward for a few reasons. First, you put your finger direct over what you want to adjust, meaning you can't see it (e.g., for fine fader movements).  Second, there is a small lag in the responsiveness, so that for example you need to move a fader ~3-4 db before it registers, resulting in a significant jump or decrease in volume. Once it does register you can make finer adjustments, but this is still not ideal.  Third, given the small fader sizes it is difficult to set faders precisely where you want.

3) Fortunately, the above problems seem to be solved by a nice little program I found called Touch Mouse Pointer.  It emulates a touch pad on your touch screen.  You can set it up different ways, including turning your entire Surface into a big touch pad.  You can then move your pointer over a fader without your finger covering it, double click and drag to move the fader.  It does not have the lag isssue I mentioned above, and the effective fader length is much larger.  The documentation is limited and I am still experimenting with it.  So far it seems to work perfectly.


Of course, a bluetooth mouse would work well for many applications. But one application for me is to run several monitor mixes from the stage for my band.  So, I want the tablet on a mic stand and to not need a mouse.  I can then also have a FOH guy using Touch OSC on an iPad linked to the Surface for a very compact system.  The only limit I see is, due to maximum USB cable length of 5 m, the interface needs to be on stage near the Surface.

Another benefit for ease of set up is that the battery life seems long enough to go several hours, long enough for most concerts.  This means I can have one less cable to set up, but of course I would keep a charger cable in my gig bag in the event I need it. 

So far, I think this this will work out very well.  I expect it will be a good option for any USB interface.  I will report back any new info.



2 (edited by neirbod 2014-12-01 05:45:27)

Re: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

A few updates.

Navigating both TM and Sonar with just the Surface screen as a touch pad takes getting used to.  For example, using the Touch Mouse Pointer (TMP) app mentioned above, Sonar does not always recognize a click the same as a click from an actual mouse or from tapping the screen.  You can still do what you need, but sometimes slightly differently.

I found another nice feature of TMP.  In "full screen" mode dragging with two fingers emulates a mouse scroll wheel, which works well to manipulate TM faders.  You have the ability to adjust settings as desired to make the action more or less responsive.  There is a "step" setting for this wheel function that I don't fully understand, but the default setting of 1/1 it is problematic as it does not respond at all to slow finger movement.  But changing the setting to 1/5 or higher takes care of this problem.  With adjustments, I can set the two-finger drag so that it is quite sensitive and two full screen lengths equals full fader range.  So it is very easy to set precise movements

The Surface is not silent (as I initially thought). There is a fan that comes on under load, such as when tracking.  It is quiet enough for most work, but those who are very sensitive to noise may not like this.

As far as performance overall, the Surface is doing quite well. Assuming no problems, I will try it in a live concert setting next weekend.

Re: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

RME should make an option inside TM on windows to use "touch interface"..  they have designed the iPad interface so why not make use of it on windows, lots of laptops and tablets out there with touch screens...

Re: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

A Windows version of the iPad interface would indeed be a nice addition. 

Another small but important quirk in the Surface - power options to turn off the *display* after a certain amount of down time actually put the computer into *sleep mode*!  Quite a difference.  I wondered why my recordings were stopping after 10 minutes.  Setting this to never happen is easy to do, fortunately.

5 (edited by basssalad 2015-05-16 23:44:19)

Re: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

I tried using TMFX on a 13 inch touch screen laptop with the same bad results. It would be nice to be able to load one row at a time. Have a separate tab for the Hardware Inputs/ software playback/ hardware outputs/Control room/snap shots, groups, layout/recording mode.
This is becoming so common in control apps By Presonus, Mackie etc.

Re: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

Something easier might be adding a scroll bar on the side to use in 3 row mode.
100% and 135% are too small but 200% would work if you could use the arrow keys to scroll up and down. This is on 1920×1080 screen.
A 300% would be an option too.

7 (edited by garry 2016-01-26 01:35:47)

Re: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

Size is fine on surface pro 4 (2737x1824), with totalmix set to 200%. ive hidden what channels i dont require to make it a bit easier

Would be nice to have the option to make full screen (currently need to drag the window to the right place, also option for real fullscreen (hides windows bar if you press f11 or similar)

Ability to manually move items around (real modular layout customization) as you can see there is a fair bit of wasted space, or similar to cubase mixer where you can manually scale the mixer to whatever size you like

Or indeed a real windows store app (like ipad) dedicated to hi res touch devices

Works great anyway!


RME HDSP9652 | | RME Babyface Pro

Re: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with TotalMix FX

Touch screen usability is still inferior to most mixer apps. QSC, Behringer, Mackie's apps are much easier to use.  Love the sound quality of my UFX. Too slow for live use :^(