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If you were interested in a DAW control surface

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by DonnyThompson, Aug 31, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Which would you be looking at?

    I'm just curious... I've given some thought lately to having an actual surface from which I could work in a more tactile fashion, as opposed to "mousing" every command, particularly when it comes to the mixing end of things.

    I'm woefully out of touch with what's out there these days when it comes to control surfaces.

    I'm not an Avid guy, so I don't see the need in spending multiple-thousands of dollars on what amounts to an overblown - and proprietary - surface for PT, when I don't use PT.

    I'm using Samplitude ProX Suite, running on the W10 OS.

    I'd like to keep the budget to around $1800-$2000, and to be able to mix in a more tactile fashion; levels, EQ, etc. as well as having the device act as the central hub for monitoring and I/O; maybe I'm asking for too much for the money I want to spend ?

    If you were looking at a control surface that could fill these needs,, and this was your budget, which model would you be looking at?

    I don't really have to have the additional pre's /input channels, but if that was available within that budget, I wouldn't turn away from it, either... so then, does that now open up the range of choices to the possibilities of something more like one of the Presonus StudioLive desks, or, maybe something like the A&H Zed Series?

    Or ...would you not even try to get something for that low amount of money, and instead, keep biting the bullet with ITB mixing until you could get what you really wanted? And if so, what would that be? If you had, say, $5000 to spend - is there something in particular you'd want in that price range?

    Thoughts? Suggestions?
     
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I use the first version of Mackie Control that I bought used for 500 2 years ago.. Altought the flying faders are a bit Noisy, I don't regret it for a minute.
    Doing volume automations is charm and even if I have more than 8 channels on my projects, I find it easy to navigate the tracks even tho I don't have channels extensions..
    The only thing that I don't really use is the control for plugins, EQ and others, I find it easyer to work with the mouse to sweep frequencies and Q.

    I'm sure they made great upgrade to the version they sell now and I think it fits your budget ;
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MCUpro
    http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MCUproXT

    I've used it when I tested Samplitude 9 and the setup was plain easy !
     
  3. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    I have both MCU Pro and XT also a C4 all work great. And newer faders (Alps) ones are great. I do know some people think they are a problem looking to happen though. Odd issues with displays apparently over the years.
     
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It sounds like the sort of spec that the A+H Zed-R16 would fill. I have from time-to-time used the MIDI features on my Zed-R16 to control Reaper, but I realise I haven't tried it with Samplitude. I have probably only scratched the surface of the many MIDI and control-surface features, however, I know mix engineers who use it thoroughly and say it's been well thought out within the limitations of what is essentially an analog mixer.

    One thing to be aware of is that the MIDI codes for the various knobs and faders are fixed, so you need a DAW that has a learn mode to map these to the required functions in the mix. If you select a channel fader as a MIDI control, the fader value for the analog function on that channel is set to unity.

    From the SOS review of the Zed-R16:
    The Zed-R16 also works well as an analog mixer. Oh, and it's got FireWire or ADAT ins and outs on all mono channels.
     
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Yup.(y)

    Samplitude values can be assigned so that part is covered for you.
     
  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    But the Zed-R16 doesn't have motorised faders does it? I wonder how this is limiting when modifying existing automations?
    Anyway, it's a great idea to get a controler and a mixer at once.. if the preamps are Worth it..
    The only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't have direct to converter inputs for external preamps but at least it does have ADAT inputs...
     
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yes, no motorized faders, but I usually take the view that if you want automation, your DAW gives you that. On the infrequent occasions when I need a control surface, what it does for me is make it much quicker to set up new DAW mixes that may be very different from any I have stored. I also personally prefer knob adjustment of EQ and gain rather than pushing a mouse around. However, I generally only use a control surface when I need a facility in the DAW that I can't easily do OTB. This might be, for example, two copies of a channel, one time-advanced to account for delays through external hardware processing.

    The pre-amps in the Zed-R16 are good, but if I really need to take a line in from external pre-amps without going through the internal ones, then I go the insert route (through a bal-un if necessary).

    One compromise is that the Zed-R16's ADAT inputs are standard-rate only, so can't be used when replaying 96KHz tracks from HD24XRs, but that isn't a problem for me as I'm usually going from the HD24XR analog outputs into the mixer.
     
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Good thing about the inserts ! :)
     
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Motorized faders are not high on the list of priorities, guys. I've worked on many desks with FF automation, ( in fact I still have one, LOL) and past the initial "cool-factor", it kinda loses its charm after awhile, and, truthfully, can often become a source of potential problems after awhile. Besides, as Bos said, if I'm going to automate, I'm probably going to do that ITB within the DAW anyway.

    What I want most is a more tactile approach to EQ and Gain; it's just a personal preference thing, really, and a harkening back to a time when I would sit at a console and mix; as opposed to mousing those adjustments... I don't know why it should matter, I doubt it will sound any different, after all EQ is EQ is EQ.... but, for whatever reason, it makes a difference to me.

    I'd find it hard to believe that the preamps in any A&H desk would be "lacking" - so, yeah, okay, they aren't Neve's or Millennia's, but I've heard ( and used) A&H desks in the past, and their preamps always sounded good to me - I never thought that they sounded bad... they never "jumped out" at me as lacking, or being noisy, or cold, harsh or brittle ( descriptions that could easily apply to a Yamaha 02R, BTW).

    I do have a few nice external preamps that I like to use for fundamental tracks - like vocals and other acoustic instruments - I have the ADK AP1, which offers the XFO/OpAmp "pop and swap", along with a Studio Projects VTB1 (Tube) and 8 channels of Presonus XMax preamps.
    I'm also planning on purchasing a Grace M101 in the next few months or so - to round out my pre choices, and to give me an option of more transparency than what I have now with the XFO-based ADK AP1 and the VTB Tube pre. ( I also have an Aphex Model 107 dual channel mic pre, that I haven't used in a long time).
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    Side note: I know there are some who dislike the Presonus XMax pre's, (Kurt ( @Kurt Foster) has mentioned that he doesn't care for them, but honestly, I've never had any issues with them. I think that they are a fine sounding preamp, and for the money, I actually think they sound great - and once again, of course they are not of the Millennia or Great River caliber - but I've done many good-sounding tracks using XMax pre's, and, I think the VSL also offers decent conversion as well.
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    Knowing that I can insert any of these external preamps into the A&H makes it that much more attractive - although I do realize that this puts these externals at the mercy of the built-in converters on the Zed, but knowing and having experienced A&H's quality, I can't believe that their converters would suck. Perhaps they aren't of the caliber that manufacturers like Dangerous or Apogee would offer, but my bet is that they would be fine for what I am doing.

    With the Zed, I also like the option of having more than just a " midi controller" - and that I would also have an analog desk for those times when I would use it as that.

    According to Chris, Samplitude has a midi learn function, so as far as I can tell, there are really only 2 "downsides" that I can see at this point with the A&H Zed:

    The first is that the A&H can't track/mix track at higher SR's. But, honestly guys, the majority of what I do is at 44 or 48 ( 32 bit ) anyway; and while I've toyed with higher SR's from time to time, it's not something that I commonly use myself; and, 95% of my clients who are bringing in tracks for me to mix are giving me 44/48. I can count - on one hand - the number of times in the last two years that clients have given me projects to mix that were sourced at 88 or 96. And, if I would get a project brought in at a higher SR, I always have the Presonus 1818, which supports SR's up to 96. (FWIW, The Presonus also has SPDIF and ADAT connectivity, along with a word clock.. I don't know how or if this matters, or if it could somehow be integrated into the A&H using the connectivity I described).

    The second rub is that my PC is not FireWire equipped, but I would think that this would be an easy and fairly cheap thing to do - adding an FW800 PCIe card to my existing PC isn't a huge deal, nor is it an expensive one, either.

    Thanks for all the input, guys. I'm not ready to pull the trigger on this just yet - my next purchase is going to be the Grace M101 (most likely, based on research, reviews, and price)... but, I am going to add a midi control surface at some point within the next year, and this is all great info to have and to consider. It's good to know I have affordable options, which can also offer alternate workflow options ... and quality.

    I'm not shutting this thread down, BTW... I feel there is much to be learned and discussed here, and if perhaps there is someone else interested in this topic, and who might be doing an internet search on it, this thread could be very useful to them.

    :)
     
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    When I replaced my PC last year I didn't even look to see if there was a FireWire port on the new motherboard (as it happens, there was), I bought a cheap TI-equipped PCIe board (Lycom PE-101). Two of the FW ports on this board run my RME FF800 and the Zed-R16 faultlessly.
     
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Bos... Is 800 what you would suggest? As opposed to 400... and should I look at a card with a dual port for possible future use? or is this something that doesn't exist and I would need two separate cards...
     
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The card I linked to is FireWire 400, and has two rear (external) FW400 connectors supported on a single PCIe lane. FW400 was enough for my needs since I don't have more than one FF800 to daisy-chain. My usage with the Zed-R16 is mainly only for 2-track out, set-up and MIDI, as I run the digital I/O to/from the board in ADAT mode. If you want to connect a device that takes power from the FireWire connectors, you need to connect a disk drive-style internal power cable to the card.

    In the case of trying to run two independent streaming FW devices at near full FW rate concurrently, I probably would recommend that you look for a multi-lane PCIe card.
     
  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    As I see it the Zed has only 2 FW400 ports
     
  14. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Yes, the Zed-R16 is FireWire 400, but the FF800 is, as its name implies, a FireWire 800 device. The higher rate is needed really only if you run all FF800 channels flat out and/or with a second box as an expander. FireWire 800 host boards adjust to the speed of the connected devices and the different ports can run at different rates.
     
  15. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I too have a FF800, I got the impression going for FF800 is only Worth it if you daisy chain two units. FW800 to the first and FW400 to the second. Am I wrong.
    Would going to a FW800 help the performances of the ff800 ?
     
  16. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If you had two daisy-chained FF800s, you would need to run them both at the same FireWire speed. So FW800 if you are aiming for large channel counts, otherwise you could get away with FW400.

    If you are running only one FF800, then it should make no difference to the performance whether you run it using FW400 or FW800. It's possible the latency would be less at the higher FW rate, but it's not a measurement I have ever made.
     
    pcrecord likes this.
  17. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Donny this little guy is so useful. The center knob controls any pluggin is vsti control your mouse is hovering over. Also allows you to co from two pluggin knobs at once. Something impossible w a mouse. Dunno how up to date it is but we use it along w the mackie mcus.
    image.jpg
    I think the digidesign command 8 was the best feeling small format control surface I've felt. All the bigger newer ones don't feel as solid. Strangely nobody talks about it, imo one of the few things avid did very well for the entry user, a nice piece.

    If you ask me the 2-5k control surface market has a real hole to be filled. Things like the studio live x32 and qu32 being split focused.

    Tiny display readouts are also common. To be honest the avid artist series may not be the worst. I think the ssl nucleus is expensive for what it is.

    I feel like the mackies are not really great feeling the lcd display has limited characters and the pan pot readout is guesstimation.

    I don't know that any control surface really provides super tactile pluggin control. Barring avid.
    .
     
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  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks Kyle... that's very useful info. :)

    Can I use that little guy without having another bigger controller? It doesn't require anything other than to just midi it up to my DAW?
     
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    One usb cable connects it to the computer. There's a little driver that runs for it and that's all there is to it. It plays nicely with or without other control surfaces.

    It's not super sturdy but it's never broke yet and they are quite cheap. I always wished they made an upgraded model with scribble strips and sturdy steel knobs. But there aren't many of any other reasonable standalone pluggin controllers, that I know of.
     
    DonnyThompson likes this.
  20. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Any EuCon surface will be supported by a number of DAW's outside of ProTools. Sequoia 11Pro is an example. And for the record....since 2011 ProTools is NOT a proprietary system requiring ONLY Avid products to operate. There are many professional installations using PT as their DAW with ZERO Avid outboard. Read Wiki for a simple and complete explanation of this.
     

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