Amidst a Wealth of Options, Why Do So Many Bands Choose the Behringer FCB1010 Foot Controller?

The Behringer FCB1010 is a perfectly serviceable midi floorboard, especially for the price. Certainly it will change presets on the effects processor or amp modeler of your choosing like any good control unit should. But I had a thought while looking back at this Trivium Rig Rundown from a few months ago: why do so many top tier bands choose this particular midi foot controller? If you saw the video embedded in that article, you likely noticed that all three guitarists use Kemper Profiling Amps. And the astute viewers among you may have gleamed that all three Trivium stringsmen are lockstep in unison, each controlling his Kemper with a Behringer FCB1010.

I’ve always held the FCB1010 in the same regard as most other pieces of Behringer gear: it’s an affordable entry point. This is how the company has always positioned itself. If there’s a hot new product that’s out of your price range then Behringer probably manufactures a less expensive facsimile that will get the job done. But professional touring bands don’t often opt for the cost-effective alternative. There’s a particular kind of abuse inherent in playing night after night, around the globe, and these bands should ideally be selecting gear that can weather that shitstorm. So why has the FCB1010 become the go-to foot unit for so many Fractal and Kemper users?

Well, community support, mainly. A stock FCB1010 is not the most feature-robust device right out of the gate. But dedicated modders, with more free time than cash, have torn the guts out of these units and hacked in the kinds of bells and whistles that you usually only find in higher-end foot controllers: the ability to run on phantom power, LCD screen replacements, full on operating system rewrites via the EurekaPROM, and even complete re-housing jobs.

fcb1010-rehousing

Now please don’t misunderstand me; I think this type of fan customization is pretty awesome. Companies like Eureka, ones that have made a business out of completely revamping an existing product, are the boon of any musician with lofty ambitions and earthbound credit limits. You can actually buy a Eureka-modded FCB1010 directly from the manufacturer and essentially own a pre-programmed Axe-FX foot controller for a third of the cost of Fractal’s official one. And yes, I get it: a $2500 amplifier in the rack is not necessarily indicative of another $700 in the wallet, ready to be casually thrown at a (debatably) frivolous control device.

But here’s what I am saying: I’m a bit concerned that the FCB1010 seems to have reached an SM57 level of ubiquity. It’s the kind of omnipresence that self-perpetuates. You see your favorite musician controlling an Axe-FX with the Behringer so you buy the Behringer. Then someone sees you with the Behringer. So it goes. When you take price out of the equation, which is admittedly something that only the economically endowed can do, there are other options. And these options are, in my humble critical opinion, more desirable. I’ve heard plenty of folk refer to the FCB1010 as “bulletproof,” and it does seem about as hearty as a bunch of plastic buttons can be. But if I had already invested several grand into a stage rig that I relied on to keep my concerts running like clockwork I’d want to make sure that the heart of the control system could withstand years of brutal stomping and transport. I wouldn’t want flimsy expression pedals.

There are so many quality units out there, from the very reasonably priced to the admittedly very expensive, but almost all of them come pre-baked with the kinds of features that are being hacked into the FCB1010. Plus they have better UI, more durable construction, some neat bonuses, and they come in a range of form factors that might be better suited to a musician’s needs. I’ve recently rounded up a few of the smaller, inexpensive ones from companies like FAMC, Musicom Lab, and RJM. Voodoo Lab makes a great controller as well. Oh, and our buddies at Axe Hacks put the Keith McMillen Softstep 2 through its paces, demonstrating how to customize it for use with a Kemper. So please, at least keep these alternatives in mind during your late night rig planning fever dreams. The FCB1010 might be the ideal controller for your needs, but I really hope that you’re at least cognizant of the other options available to you. If you have a need for a high level of quality, and the disposable cash to realize that need, then you may want to do your stage stomping with some genuine metal under your feet. You are a metalhead, right?

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.