Niklas Odelholm is a Swedish musician, producer and studio whiz who's been in the game for years. Even at his level, however, he's often found himself making mistakes while editing and mixing recordings in the studio. Noticing a recurring problem and habits forming, he put it to his own company, Softube, to attempt a full-scale rectification of it. “I was frustrated with the fact that I made stupid choices when I mixed music,” he begins. “For example, instead of cutting some lows from the vocals if that was necessary, I spent too much time making decisions on what EQ or other tool to use. In the end, I was trying to fix a lot of stuff that maybe wasn’t even that bad.”
The result is the Softube Console 1, a piece of mixing hardware that is described as a straightforward and intuitive approach to computer-based audio mixing. Odelholm says that the mixer allows one to focus in on the specifics while also keeping the bigger picture of the audio in question in the back of your mind. “Say you hear an issue, like boomy lows on vocals,” he says. “Select vocals and grab the low cut – that’s how it should be. The thing is, you always listen to many things at the same time – so you need to be able to react to many things at the same time. You might be comping the vocals and hear that the compression on the kick is a bit heavy. Select the kick, dial back the compression – done. No need to change focus or open a lot of plug-ins and click around with the mouse.”
A mixer with a hands-on approach, the Softube Console 1 also allows for engineers to do a proper mix of their audio without even so much as touching their mouse. As Odelholm demonstrates, there is plenty of scope and range to the console's abilities. “Using only the Console 1 hardware you can select tracks, set the volume, pan, adjust EQs, compress and even select different compressors, EQs, gates or entire consoles on that track,” he says. “You can load up presets, copy tracks, group tracks, undo stuff... all from the Console 1 hardware. You’re not tied to the included SSL SL 4000E, either – there are several consoles to choose from, and you can use other Softube plug-ins and loads of compatible UAD ones as well.”
By taking the focus away from the computer screen, Odelholm says, the Softube Console 1 allows you to hone in on what you want the music itself to sound like. Put to its full use, he believes the sky is the limit when it comes to the console's mixing possibilities. “The input method matters,” he says. “By removing the hand-to-eye co-ordination that a mouse pointer requires, you free your brain for the crucial task at hand – the sound. You can close your eyes and do your mix with Console 1. It's like a mothership that you can use for 90% of your mix tasks, just like a large format mix console did. When you need a special flavour or special processing you insert those plug-ins, just like you normally do.”
A major mixing device on a much smaller scale, the Console 1 is just one of the many audio enhancers that are on offer by Softube, of which Odelholm is vice president. “We love creativity, and we want to make products for creative people in all parts of the creative process,” he says. “At the end of the day, we make products we would want to use ourselves.”
The Softube Console 1 is distributed in Australia through Sound & Music.