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Bjarki Gudjonsson
DAW Controllers
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:48:46 am

Hi everybody.

We're working on an upgrade to our modest mixing facilities and one of the things we're looking at is DAW controllers. As we generally have larger projects mixed elsewhere, this is a setup we use for smaller stuff, but we're looking to maintain future usability.

We run Logic in this little setup, but are looking to move over to Pro Tools in the future, so any interface would need to support both. The ones I've seen are the Mackie MCU, the Euphonix MC Control and MC Mix as well as having seen links to the JL Cooper MCS-3800 and the (now discontinued) Radikal SAC-2K or 2.2.

The Euphonix combo is our top pick, but may be a bit too expensive. The others are available used on eBay for around $500, so they might be a good place to start. Does anybody have experience with these setups? I'd be especially curious to know what people think of the JL Cooper - I've used their Color grading hardware and it is rock solid.

Thanks in advance!

Bjarki


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Jean-Christophe Boulay
Re: DAW Controllers
on Sep 23, 2010 at 1:47:56 pm

Hi Bjarki,

In the scenario you describe, Pro Tools compatibility will be the determining factor. Logic plays nice with most control surfaces and supports many protocols.

PT is notoriously fiddly about which control surfaces it integrates well with, mainly because Avid (formerly Digidesign) make their own surfaces and they'd like you to use those. Smaller control surfaces should have a HUI-emulation mode for the best integration to PT. The Mackie MCU has this, of course. I'm not sure about the SAC-2K but I remember seeing it working well with PT a few years back. I'm never fond of buying into a discontinued product line, though.

The JLCooper MCS-3800 manual contains references to compatibility with ProTools 5 only. The current version is ProTools 8. If you go for the JLCooper, this warrants further investigation before you plump down the cash. The JLCooper's hardware looks really solid compared to the others. I haven't used one of these myself.

The most supported of the surfaces you listed is the Euphonix. I've used them with Logic and it was a brilliant experience. More importantly, Avid has acquired Euphonix and is integrating the EuCon communication standard into its products. Pro Tools support for these should be excellent in the near future. They are a tad pricy, though, as you noted. I've seen them for quite a bit less in small ads and even in a local pawn shop!

If you have clients in that room, the Euphonix clearly are the best-looking ones and, sometimes, that client saying "ooooooh" is worth the extra in the price. If not, I think the Mackie would be the best place to look as it's very compatible, stable and has nice upgrade options should you ever need more faders or pots.

IHTH

JC Boulay
Technical Director
Audio Z
Montreal, Canada
http://www.audioz.com


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Bjarki Gudjonsson
Re: DAW Controllers
on Sep 23, 2010 at 2:17:07 pm

Hi JC.

Thanks for the great answer. Since originally posting I've actually eliminated the SAC-2K for precisely the reason you mentioned. A discontinued product line will most likely never be properly supported. I'm actually getting a Euphonix package soon for the edit suite, but we're going to go nice and easy on the sound-side.

I'm really hoping to find that the JL Cooper stuff works. It's built like a rock and is pretty smooth. Otherwise the Mackie seems to be a safe bet.

Thanks again,
B.


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Danny Grizzle
Re: DAW Controllers
on Oct 13, 2010 at 2:40:12 am

Years ago, I bought a Steinberg Houston Controller and never got much use out of it. My edit desk started life as a conference room table, but the audio control surface was still too big. The Houston was, however, a glorious thing to see in action.

BTW - Harman Kardon manufactured the Houston Controller in England for Steinberg. It is beautifully built, and not too long ago Steinberg updated the drivers -- astounding for a long discontinued device. I should probably put mine on eBay - it is in perfect condition. I'll never use it again after losing my Nuendo dongle, which was inside my MacBook Pro laptop bag when it was stolen in Houston, Texas, 3 years ago. I got so bent about losing a $2,000 dongle, I went with Apple Logic to replace Nuendo. I also lost a Waves Diamond dongle in the same theft.

OK - back on controllers and space considerations.

I was recently considering a Euphonix MC Control (the MC Color, actually, but the line also includes a mixer control surface). Euphonix happens to be sponsoring a banner ad here on CreativeCOW even as I write this.

Now for something completely different, and easy on the desktop real estate:

http://saitarasoftware.com/Site/AC-7_Pro.html

I had already bought an iPad, so this was a $10 no-brainer purchase for me. I'm just now putting together my new FCP workstation, but this iPad app looks crazy perfect, and it is wireless to boot! The Apple-brand iPad case folds into an easel at the perfect angle to turn the iPad into an ideal audio control surface!

The AC-7 Pro has mixed reviews, but it appears problems were documentation related, and that this issue has been resolved. I should know soon when I setup configuration on my new workstation.

My take - the AC-7 Pro is so beautiful on my iPad screen, it is worth $10 even if it does not work. But I suspect it may become the favorite audio control surface I have ever owned!


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Bjarki Gudjonsson
Re: DAW Controllers
on Oct 13, 2010 at 9:33:00 am

Hey Danny!

Thanks for the great post. I have actually used the AC-7 software, and it's pretty cool. The downside is that you don't have actual tactile controls. I now have 3 Euphonix controllers in my edit suite; the MC Color, MC Transport and the MC Control. They're awesome.

With the audio suite, I bought a JL Cooper MCS-3800 for about $400 and it's really great. It's a really sturdy piece of equipment. I think our next move will be to improve our actual desks.

I feel for you with the laptop bag theft - that may be the worst case I've heard of.

Regards,
Bjarki


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