May 13, 2001 12:00 PM, By Dan Rudin
Hi, my name is Dan and I’m a Protools addict. I own, or have owned, one of almost everything Digidesign has ever made with one notable exception, a control surface. Why no controller? …Well, having used Protools since its introduction in 1991, by the time dedicated controllers like HUI and ProControl were on the market I was quite used to using a keyboard and mouse to get around. And with the minimal amount of mixing I actually did in Protools versus the cost of these units, I felt I was better off investing elsewhere in my system.
But over the past few years things have slowly begun to change. I’m now mixing in PT more often and felt it would be nice to offer clients a tactile interface, something familiar, so that they could make adjustments or try things out for themselves; I thought this might make the technology even more transparent (and it might also get me out of the chair once in a while). I also found myself in need of a comprehensive control room monitor unit, one that had multi channel monitoring, alternate monitors, would switch between ext sources, had good mono, dimming, talkback and cue sends. There are a couple of very good ones on the market, like the Martinsound MultiMax, but they are a bit pricey.
Enter the Control 24 from Digidesign and Focusrite. This baby’s got it all. A well-thought -out control room monitor section, 24 touch-sensitive motorized faders, dedicated buttons for almost every protools control or operation, 16 input analog line mixer, and 16 Focusrite mic preamps all housed in a high-tech, yet elegant chassis. Needless to say, at $7999 I was first in line to lay my money down.
Roughly the size and of an old Oberheim synth, the Control 24 is portable yet big enough to feel like a real console. In fact, at first sight it looks like a conventional recording console. Sitting in front of it everything is easily in reach but not crowded, this is facilitated in part by the geometry of the board. The back half of the unit is about a 40 degree angle to the front, making it easy to read the “scribble strip” LCD displays and the LED meters at the top of the desk. However, while this design does allow easy access to everything on the board, it also posed a big set-up problem for me, I couldn’t figure out where to put my speakers!! With such a steep angle the back of this sucker is TALL and, sadly, a perfect sound reflector back to the mix position. Even with very versatile speaker stands I couldn’t find a place for my speakers (vertically or horizontally) that was comfortable and that sounded good. Placement of my new Control 24 was further confounded by my wish to still have easy access to my keyboard and mouse. In an effort to make the Control 24 as sonically invisible as possible (and as portable as possible) I set it on a keyboard stand that put it at just the right height for me. Putting my keyboard and mouse below the Control 24 left me so far back that finally I gave up, left my keyboard, mouse and computer monitor in center mix position, and put the Control 24 off to my left. This works out fine for me, but for those Protools users who prefer a traditional control room set-up it may pose a problem.
Once I got set up, however, I was giddy as I turned one of the rotary knobs and watched the input level of my Bomb Factory 1176 plug-in change right with it. The faders are quick and quiet, all the LED’s and scribbles are easy to see, and the edit / function buttons are grouped logically. I must admit, the Control 24 works very smoothly. Ethernet communication rules! Anyone who has only used MIDI controllers will be amazed at the seamless interaction between the C24 and Protools, when you move something on the board it goes right with you on the screen… whoopee!
Here are a few of my favorite things;
All of the dedicated function buttons have an LED on them, so you can quickly check things like quick punch enable (where have you been all my life), or loop play/ rec.
Although I haven’t listened to them yet, who among us wouldn’t be pleased to have 16 more mic pre-amps in their studio. It’s my understanding that these are based on the focusrite platinum series, not fancy,but I mean really…16 pre’s with XLR inputs, phantom power and low pass filters…cool. If that’s not enough the first two have DI inputs and all 16 have selectable line inputs (1/4” balanced).
The C24 sports a very well thought out CR monitor section. There are 6 stereo inputs which, in 5.1 mode, still leaves you 3 stereo ext inputs for CD’s, 2 trk returns, or the stereo output of the analog sub mixer. The addition of the 8 stereo input sub mixer lets you monitor through a couple of MDM’s if you are mixing stems, which I think was a great idea.
My only real beef with this unit is that most of the audio I/O is through D-sub connectors. To make the most of the C24’s I/O features a patchbay seems like a good idea, and although D-subs have become fairly standard, they still add expense and inconvenience to wiring the C24… and the manual doesn’t even include an SAC pinout.
Overall I am impressed with the Control 24. It is professional in every regard (and it really looks killer in that Star-Treky/ Neve Capricorn sort of way) and I believe that even engineers with little or no Protools experience would find it familiar enough to soon be running a basic recording or mix session. For those of us long time users it does take an extra effort initially to use the C24’s controls instead of reaching for the familiarity (and speed) of the mouse, but I for one am excited about the possibility of looking at the screen a little less and getting to listen a little more.