Review: DNA Music Labs Hotkey Matrix V2

DNA Music Labs just released a Version 2 of The Hotkey Matrix. This new release features improved graphic design and layout and is compatible with Pro Tools 10 and 11. Everything Recording got their hands on one of these units to review.
I’ve spent the greater part of 10 years trying to shove as many Pro Tools shortcuts in my head as I possibly can. Alas there’s only so much space in there and eventually when a new handy command is added to your arsenal, another is sometimes lost… That and the brain is only so fast at recalling all of this info. So I bought the Pro Tools shortcut keyboard, which is ok, but for the beginner can basically look like a pastel rainbow sitting in front of you. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something that would eliminate the need for most of these commands and condense the whole thing to a single device. Well, if you use Pro Tools, you’re in luck!!! The guys over at DNA Music Labs have come to the rescue. They have taken what they feel are the 144 most used functions in Pro Tools and have done all of the grunt-work to condense these commands into one button solutions. Brilliant right?!
I’d love to go into a highly technical rant here explaining how all of this works, but the premise for this piece of gear is very straight-forward. You get a control surface (or Matrix as they call it) with 144 keys, all very clearly color coded and labeled. The chassis is made of plastic but feels very solid without being bulky; but big enough that you aren’t hitting several keys at once. Even the tightest of control rooms can make way for this clever device. I’ve taken the Hotkey along for several sessions and have had no problem incorporating it into each studio spread. One thing I really wish the Hotkey would have had would be backlit keys for those dark control rooms we tend to know and love. To make up for this, they have made the key colors fairly bright. Plus, once you memorize where your commands are, a quick glance down will have you where you need to be.
Installation is very simple. A few drag and drops in the right place, a setting or two changed, and you’re off to go. I had no issues at all with install on both my Macbook and Mac Pro. They also give you an extremely concise guide to get you up and running. The guys at DNA Labs do warn you that it takes a little bit of time to get used to, but persistence pays off. The guide even explains what each key command does to allow you the opportunity to both learn new commands, as well as incorporate them into your sessions.
So you’re all wondering how it is. At first, it takes a little bit of habit breaking to stop your mouse finger from clicking away at menus or the left hand reaching for the “command”, “alt”, and “shift keys.” For me in the beginning, things took a little longer because in order to break myself, I would undo what I did, search on the HotKey, and then use it several times to get it in my head. You will probably want to start using this thing with the more advanced commands in your free time at first so as not to get in the way of your normal session flow. I had a session the day I received it, so I did the install which was quick, then resorted to ONLY using the record arm, solo, mute, and new track commands. This in itself was invaluable in that it made me think less and work faster, which makes you look like a wiz to the client. I also found that the Hotkey worked best for me right above my trackball. I could quickly lift my hand off of the mouse and get to the commands I needed to, but of course there is no wrong way to use this thing. The nudge keys are low on the control surface, so it basically became my 3rd and 4th mouse button which works wonders on those long days of drum edits. Once you do learn the layout, you are off to the races. Personally, I have these stubby fingers and some of the Pro Tools commands require what I like to call “Yoga Fingers.” Gone are the days of me playing Twister against my keyboard. I’m sold on this thing. DNA Labs sent me one for testing and I quickly let them know I will be buying it.
There’s not much you can complain about at all with this. The only things I can say about it are mere enhancements like the backlit keyboard and maybe a few keys that you can program to your liking or a basic play stop and record transport built on. I know at first you might see this thing as a little intimidating with buttons and it will all blur into an array of colors, but if you find a few and memorize the ones you use frequently, something amazing will happen. As you’re going to those familiar keys, your eyes will start roaming and you will start seeing other keys and memorizing their location. In no time, you’re set ablaze on this device cutting keystrokes and menus by the thousands and saving valuable time. One of the great things about the Hotkey is that if you already have other control surfaces you love, it will fit right in as an added enhancement. It doesn’t get in the way of anything existing. It only makes life even better for you. I use it with my ipad and V-Control Pro, and I couldn’t be happier. And at $269.99, it is a steal too. This device is really a no-brainer for you Pro Tools users. If you don’t use Pro Tools, maybe if enough of you ask nicely, they’ll make one for your favorite DAW one day.
Go get one of these… seriously… you won’t look back. I bought one.
For more info, videos, and to buy, visit

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