Review: Euphonix Artist Series MC Mix and MC Control

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Robert Brock

SLEEK, CUSTOMIZABLE DESKTOP OPERATION FOR MAC DAWS

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The encoders also have a push-button. The upper-right encoder that says “pan” didn't control panning, which seemed strange. You must first press the Pan encoder like a button and then turn the only pan parameter, which is now on the encoder on the upper-left side. This happens because MC Control uses a layer system for the encoders, and the first layer is simply used to select the category of controls you want to look at. As there's only one pan parameter for most tracks, it seems silly to have to navigate to a second layer just to move the shaker track to the left speaker. For all other channel strip parameters, the layered approach works well.

Pressing the Inserts encoder displays the names of the plug-ins in the first eight insert slots next to each encoder. Editing a plug-in was easy: I pressed its encoder and the first eight parameters of that plug were mapped to the eight encoders for adjusting parameter values. If more than eight parameters are offered, the Page buttons can move to the next set of parameters. One flaw with this system is that some plug-ins have so many parameters that your favorites may be spread across multiple pages. The MC doesn't provide a way to map the most important parameters to a single page. In Logic, this is possible using a $200 MIDI fader box that outputs generic Continuous Control numbers. It would be nice if the MCs provided a MIDI CC mode to get around this problem.

Next up: MC Mix

The MC Mix lacks MC Control's flashy screen and programmable buttons, but I like its dedicated rotary encoders and displays above each channel. Selecting and editing channel strip parameters is similar to that of the MC Control, but MC Mix gives you an additional set of Select and On buttons next to each encoder. One notable advantage of the MC Mix over the MC Control is that the former can flip parameters from the encoders onto the faders — a real plus when doing automation moves or building headphone mixes. I also like EuControl's option to bank the faders of the MC Mix and MC Control independently so you can view two parts of your mix at the same time.

Automation and Mute/Solo

I automate more than just fader moves and I enjoy working with touch-sensitive encoders. Most control surfaces lack touch-sensitive knobs, making work in touch-automation mode less than intuitive as the DAW can't recognize an intent to update a parameter until the knob moves. With the MC units, as soon as I place my finger on the encoder, Logic started to write data. It was during the automation tests that I came across my biggest disappointment with these surfaces. Quick taps of buttons didn't always register, which was particularly annoying when I was trying to perform mute automation. Although this is less critical, I also noticed a sluggish response with soft-keys. I was able to work around this by being a bit more deliberate when pressing buttons. Fortunately, the fader control and touch response on the encoders felt great.

You can mute and solo tracks from either surface, but the MC Control offers an innovative way to perform these basic functions. Click the Track soft-key on the touchscreen and it displays a 32-block grid of the channels in the project. By tapping the blocks you can solo, mute, record-enable or select tracks. Unfortunately, you can't slide a finger across a range of tracks to solo or mute on either unit, but this display seems to offer the fastest way of finding tracks in large projects.

Studio Monitor Express

A feature not to be overlooked is an application called Studio Monitor Express (SME). SME let me use the MC Control and my MOTU 896HD for conventional control room monitoring functions by intercepting the audio signal between the application's output and the audio interface. Once configured, the MC Control's dedicated Control Room speaker-level knob and the touchscreen offered options like sum-to-mono and even talkback capability without having to modify anything in my Logic project. I really like this approach, which is a feature that is absent on most other controller systems.

End of the Test Drive

If you're a Mac-based DAW owner, MC Control and MC Mix will change how you work. Their controls have deep feature sets and let you quickly switch between applications, as well as completely customize the units' look and operation for your own needs. Despite minor complaints I have about the ergonomics and the inability to map favored plug-in parameters on the surface, the positives are overwhelming, making MC Control and MC Mix a solid, small-footprint control choice for command and control of your audio applications.


Robert Brock is an audio consultant, musician and engineer.






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