Smart AV Tango DAW Interface Review

May 21, 2010 4:38 PM, By Brandon Hickey



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Tango allows for buttons and scroll wheels to be programmed and used in combination.

Tango allows for buttons and scroll wheels to be programmed and used in combination.

Smart AV, the designers of the original Smart Console, have created a new worksurface that aims to provide ergonomic control over your favorite DAW. The Tango’s small footprint fits into editing suites, overdub rooms, smaller mixing suites and home studios. Tango features motorized faders, a giant 22-inch touchscreen, and dozens of buttons and touch-sensitive rotary encoders that make for a comfortable user experience. Currently, there are presets for popular apps like Pro Tools, Logic and Cubase with extended support for Nuendo and Pyramix.


Smart AV Tango Controller Video

The most distinctive feature of the original Smart Console was the large curved meterbridge called the ARC. This concept is replicated in Tango’s MonARC, a virtual meterbridge on the top part of the touchscreen interface. This is a clever, ergonomic way to allocate software tracks to the physical resources afforded by the control surface. You can assign any track to any fader by holding the touch-sensitive Inject button for that fader and then touching the desired track’s meter in the MonARC. Alternatively, you can choose Chair mode, which was designed to re-create the experience of sitting before a large-format console and rolling a chair from one bucket of I/Os to the next. Dragging a finger across the MonARC loads all available faders with the consecutive mixer channels surrounding the finger’s position. MonARC can be resized to reveal 27, 54 or 108 channels.

At any point in time, the desk presents eight active channel strips, each of which has a touch-sensitive motorized fader and endless rotary encoder, solo and mute. A Hold button will lock a track assignment to a channel strip, even while operating in Chair mode on the other faders. The touchscreen also has slick-looking graphics resembling a DAW’s mixer window. An input section controls the input trim on software like Nuendo, which offers input trim on each I/O strip of the Mix window. DAWs with dedicated dynamics in the mixer channel strips really shine here as Tango instantly activates these components with a press on the touchscreen.

The large, easy-to-read graphic representations of dynamics and EQ in the corner of the touchscreen mirror the smaller versions on the channel strip. DAW-specific dynamic plug-ins and any other inserted plug-ins are controllable by 16 rotary encoders—enough to control all parameters on one page for most plug-ins, although you can bank through multiple pages for more complicated plug-ins. Each encoder offers a reasonably comfortable resolution. The last control touched is also automatically mapped to the Active Encoders, a pair located in a more centralized position on the desk. One of these has a finer resolution than the ordinary encoders; the other, a motorized control, is not endless. It ranges from the lowest control value (far left) to the highest (far right), allowing quicker changes of extreme values. This proved very useful.

The channel strip also shows graphic send values and, again, these values can be changed by tapping the section, revealing larger graphics and twisting the encoders, which have mapped themselves. The output section has a pan control that blossoms into a fine-looking surround panner when surround is available. The last control value touched in any of these sections automatically maps itself to each of the individual rotary encoders for each channel strip where that control might be applicable. This way, each channel’s rotary encoder can be a panner, but as it isn’t fixed in Pan status, it becomes a more versatile control. If you adjust a headphone send on one channel, you can easily adjust that same send on other channels.

Although Tango has a monitor section similar to what you might find on competing products, Smart AV has taken a different approach to monitor connections. With the Tango, your interface outputs are connected directly to speakers and the routing is handled through the connected DAW. Choosing a speaker set will adjust the output routing. Adjusting the control room volume on the desk simply raises or lowers the monitor fader. The provisions for each DAW vary greatly. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to this approach. The overall effect should be cleaner than running through additional analog circuits. Conversely, the execution is clever, though not necessarily simple. In most software, outputs are named with codes that will dictate how they will show up on the unit. Setting this up in each session I opened with Tango involved importing a preset output configuration from a template.

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