Home / Hardware / Softube Console 1: the “mix in the box” game changer.
Softube Console 1 - Softube Console 1: the "mix in the box" game changer.
Fig.2 - Softube - Console 1

Softube Console 1: the “mix in the box” game changer.

Softube, for sure, does not need any introduction, being one of the most known and respected audio plugins developers around the world. Their releases for the UAD system are, in my opinion, a must have and they are always in my Universal Audio shopping cart.

Here I am going to talk about an extremely innovative product; and the point is: its huge potential is dramatically clear only when your hands touch his hardware controller. Softube conceptual work (because this is what we are talking about, creative intuition) focuses on our “mixing in the box” workflow, providing an incredibly sharp tool, allowing us, with a indescribable naturalness, leaving the mouse and letting us go toward a physical interaction with the mix.

Softube - Console 1
Softube – Console 1

IN THE BOX

The unboxing delivers a few interesting objects. The eye catcher is, for sure, the big black and gray controller. All-metal, encoders that have a natural and functional feel . Control elements arrangement is designed with great ergonomics; i will be back abundantly later on this part of the product (Pic.2).

Fig.2 - Softube - Console 1
Pic.2 – Softube – Console 1

The console 1 software section consists of a controller’s virtual interface standing in between us and our DAW, and a suite of plugins emulating the SSL SL4000E channel strip: filters section, expander / gate, equalizer and compressor modeled directly from the desk, with the addition of a powerful transient shaper and an overdrive section (Fig.3). It is possible to buy separately a further suite of plug-in modeled on the XL9000K console (Pic.3).

 

Fig.3 - SSL SL4000E
Pic.3 – SSL SL4000E

SETUP AND USE

The installation contemplates the ilok license manager setup (no hardware dongle needed), then the set up of console 1 plugins (VST, VST3, AU and AAX, 32 and 64 bit) along with the controller’s virtual interface. All the software packages can be downloaded from their respective websites.
The workflow of console 1 is based on a “ghost plugin” that we are going to open in the track inserts that we want to manage from the controller. For example, I have an Hip Hop mix consisting of 45 tracks flowing into 8 busses, you just select all of them and open “console 1” plugin in the track insert (Pic.4).

Fig.4 - Interfaccia Console 1
Pic.4 – Console 1 interface

At this stage we can start mixing the song, just looking at the controllerìs virtual interface, showing us, with smooth and pleasant graphics , all the devices existing in console 1 channel (along with a very useful FFT spectrum monitor (Pic.5)), it also allows us jumping from one track to another by a push-button row of 20 fully dedicated to track selection. Via this section of the controller you can “select and jump” to as many tracks your project has.

Fig.5 - Monitor FFT
Pic.5 – FFT monitor

 

MY OPINION

Here, once finished the cornerstones of which a review must talk about, I can freely express the idea that i have about console 1. An atypical introduction for this paragraph is extremely relevant for a product transcending anything with which I have worked in 15 years of “in the box” post production.
Working on console 1 controller/display creates a “stream of consciousness” that I have never felt in any other remote control system. The creative “trance” triggering after just the first 30 minutes of work on this piece of metal is indescribable.
There is no gesture that mediates between listening, thinking and action. The visual correlation between the monitoring window and the controller makes instant any response to the environment. The track selection takes just a few minutes to be mastered. Am i listening a resonant bass in a vocal track? After a just a split second i am on the filter and I’m correcting; Am listening a sustain problem on a bass drum? The track is selected and the envelope shaper reached in a moment.
Compressor gain reductions are monitored simultaneously at the bottom of the tracks preview. The dedicated controllers for pan gain and saturation give a real feel of analog to everything we’re doing. Recording complex automations, such as growing presence and saturation of a drum kit, before, during and after a chorus, with disarming naturalness, just blown me away (Pic.6).

Fig.6 -Settaggi del test
Pic.6 – Test settings

I packed a compilation of drum bus bounces processed through a SSL Waves virtual strip, an Uad strip, one physical channel on a SSL XL-DESK, and one last processing through the Softube console 1 which I enclosed at the bottom of this article; please feel free to download them, line them up in a sequencer and compare them; i really loved the results of the comparison especially she we came at the saturation stage.

STATISTICS AND CONCLUSIONS

Our workflow benefits, from small details and small DAW innovations, of small leaps forward in speed and fluidity. With this tool, our approach to mix receives an incalculable, solid, indisputable boost. This is because the controller and its corresponding software create an extremely small attention area allowing us to focus of our senses at the best of our potential.
Speaking of “trance” in the workflow is not at all an exaggeration. I found myself opening a blank session and “sculpting” the tracks a few seconds later, without any “time wasting action” (drop-down menu plugin search, mouse scrolling, track selection and anything else you can think of) could interfere between my thoughts and my action. Sound sculpture receives a huge boost from the trimming of redundant signals to subtle cut nuances to the harmonic texture.
On a side note there is Console 1 CPU load: with a 2048 buffer, I opened about 50 instances of full operating strips, at least in the compressor, the equalizer and saturation section and found a load of about 35 38% of a processor i7 3.4 GHz with 16 GB of RAM (Pic.7).

Fig.7 - Plug in usati nel test
Pic.7 – Audio processors involved in the comparison

PROS AND CONS

PROS: In favor of this product we find the unquestionable quality of the plugin that can rival any emulation; the controller excellent workmanship delivering solidity and clarity in the design.

CONS: Agains Console 1 is really hard to find any argument; wanting to be picky you could need a fader helping in the automation process and a push-button transport bar, but with an ipad and any DAW remote controller all this kind of items are, to me, absolutely redundant.

 

Fig.8 - Hardware usato nel test - SSL XL-Desk
Pic.8 – SSL XL-Desk

* I would like to thank Silvio Speranza from “L’Arte dei Rumori Studio” ,for having made available a Solid State Logic XL-Desk to process the comparative files you can download from the links below and the producer Sonakine for supplying the audio material you can listen in the demos .

Demo 1 Flat Drums (by Sonakine)
Demo 2 Console 1- Processed Drums (by Sonakine)
Demo 3 Console 1 – Processed Drums + Drive And Shaper (by Sonakine)
Demo 4 UAD – Processed Drums (by Sonakine)
Demo 5 WAVES SSL – Processed Drums (by Sonakine)

I thank you for time spent in reading, hoping that Console 1 will give a positive impulse to your workflow,
See you on the next Age of Audio Article.
Giovanni Roma

About Giovanni Roma