For a lot of musicians, nothing beats the tactile experience of a physical mixing board. Of course, that’s not always possible, practical or affordable, especially in a home studio. We try to make do with plugins, but we miss the interactivity of actually grabbing a control knob and twisting it until something magical happens. The Softube Console 1 tackles this in an extremely elegant manner. It’s a hardware control surface that gives you hands-on access to EQ, compressor, gate, volume and pan on all your tracks, and while it’s always possible to map controls like that onto any MIDI controller with enough knobs and buttons, this device doesn’t require any MIDI mapping. Everything is labelled, and it’s designed with incredible forethought as to how it would be used in the real world.
Console 1 is designed to sonically emulate the legendary Solid State Logic SL 4000 E console – probably the most used high-end mixing desk in the history of music recording. The emulation was developed in close collaboration with SSL, and is included with the purchase of Console 1. There are also over 60 Console 1-ready plugins available from Softube and Universal Audio, so you can mix and match virtual units from Chandler Limited, Fairchild, Teletronix, Tube-Tech, Abbey Road Studios and many others, which are all pre-mapped and ready to go. It works with any major DAW on the market, but currently PreSonus Studio One and Cakewalk SONAR have additional integration for hardware control of functions like track selection, volume, send levels, pan and solo/mute.
The surface is divided into sections: the input section has an input gain control with high and low cut knobs, the shape section has noise gate features, the equaliser has a comprehensive four-band parametric EQ with cut/bell/shelf and Q controls, the compressor has attack, release, threshold, ratio and parallel dry/wet controls, and there are drive and character knobs and a pan control alongside the master volume. You’ll also find a strip of select track buttons along the top and other handy buttons, including one that selects the order of effects for each track and one that governs the path of the signal to an external sidechain.
What this all essentially means is that Console 1 gives you the same ‘instant gratification’ level of control that you get from reaching for an amp knob or a physical mixer control, and you don’t have to keep remembering which knob you’ve mapped to do what function when you switch tracks. It’s incredibly elegant and stupid proof, and a valuable addition to any home studio.
Hits and Misses
Hands on practicality over the digital realm
I can’t fault the SSL 4000 E emulation
I don’t own one