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Posted by on May 15, 2014 | 10 comments

In Search of a DIY Surround Panner

Photo by: Lu Chiganer

Photo by: Lu Chiganer

Last month my friend Marc Mailand was showing me around his home studio (which is super sweet). We were discussing his surround setup and mentioned needing a surround panner and how expensive they are. I noticed the PS3 controller sitting on his desk and wondered out loud: “There has got to be some sort of DIY solution using a game joystick as a surround panner”.  So when it came time to think up an article for this months topic of “Surround” I thought it would be eezy peezy to round up all of the DIY surround panners out there, only to find that it is a mythical beast!

While asking around many people thought the gamepad would be a really cool idea, but I did get a few replied that it wouldn’t work very well  due to the stick auto centering and not having much range of motion to which I would say: Nuendo has the gamepad functionality built right into it and people use it all the time! As far as I am aware, the drawback of the game joystick auto centering is mitigated by using a button on the controller to engage/disengage the sticks input into the panner. Perhaps simply using an app like Joystick Mapper to map the X and Y of a mouse to a joystick and the right/left click to buttons and/or trigger. This thread on Gear Slutz also has some interesting ideas worth checking out.

Osculator with a gamepad might be an option but unfortunately I have not been able to test it out! Osculator also has built in plug and play functionality to use a Wii Controller which I have heard of being used as a surround panning controller.  MIJOY Pro 4 would be a possible Osculator equivalent on Windows.

On the touch interface front: Many people have suggested just using a Magic Trackpad. A Wacom using the pen or the touch would also get a similar feel and functionality. On iPad: V-Control allows for virtual surround panning on an iPad. TouchOSC probably allows for surround input mapping as well.

So my quest has brought up some leads but nothing as concrete as “use this small app and plug your controller into your computer and you have a surround panner that works with any DAW”. I suppose whomever finally makes that app is going to make a decent living. So I leave it up to you the community: If you have found a good DIY surround solution let us know in the comments!









  1. The easiest and cheapest DIY solution for a surround panner that I’ve come up with is to go to a dollar store and buy a toy gun that has suction cup darts. Place a dart on your trackball. Done. Weeeee!

    Bill Mellow

    • That is ingenious.

    • haha – Nice one Billy. I remember that one :)

  2. Osculator does not support joysticks or gamepads, which I find very frustrating. One alternative to that would be STEIM’s Junxtion software, which has a terrible GUI, as all things STEIM do, but it is a good piece of software despite that.

    I use an iPad for surround (in my case, quadraphonic) panning. I use Lemur, but for me any app with an XY-pad object would do.

  3. Reaper has joystick panning built in. It has some pretty good surround support all round.

    Also your KvR thread link goes to GearSlutz :)

    • Ill have to check that out in Reaper, I hadnt come across that functionality! Thanks for the heads up on the link, I must have gotten wires crossed!

  4. how about using a Keith Mcmillen Softstep as 10 foot controlled x-y pads?

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