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QuickPick: Euphonix MC Mix

June 1, 2008
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Euphonix is well known in the world of high-end digital consoles and other hardware, including the MC Pro and System 5-MC control surfaces, but the MC Mix is the company's first foray into the price-conscious personal-studio market. At $999, it may be the first Euphonix hardware many musicians have a chance to use and own.

The MC Mix control surface shows its high-end Euphonix lineage with crisp response and tight integration. Both its faders and its knobs are touch sensitive.

The MC Mix control surface shows its high-end Euphonix lineage with crisp response and tight integration. Both its faders and its knobs are touch sensitive.

The MC Mix is a very attractive unit, minimalist in design and efficiently laid out. Except for Solo and On (mute), its buttons are smallish but are no harder to use than some of the smaller buttons on standard large-format consoles. Their backlighting is bright, and their labels are small but legible, even under low-light conditions. Every knob has a secondary function that can be invoked by using the Shift key. There's a Shift key in each bottom corner for easy reach, and by pressing both, you can lock Shift on.

The unit features touch-sensitive faders and continuous rotary-encoder knobs that also function as buttons. Above each fader is a 128 × 64-pixel organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display with bright yellow text that serves as a scribble strip and is way ahead of the displays found on competing units.

Euphonix expects to release, by the time you read this, a companion unit called the MC Control ($1,499) that features a configurable touch screen, dedicated transport controls, and four faders. Both the MC Mix and the MC Control connect to a host computer via Ethernet, using the EuCon protocol developed for Euphonix's high-end control surfaces. Up to four MC Mix units can be ganged together.

EU ARE IN CONTROL

The MC Mix works with all the major Mac-based DAWs and with video applications such as Apple Final Cut Pro, but it runs only on a Mac. Some applications, such as Apple Logic and Steinberg Nuendo, support EuCon directly; non-EuCon apps can communicate via the HUI or Mackie Control protocols. I worked with the MC Mix running Apple Logic Pro and Digidesign Pro Tools HD and M-Powered 7.3 and 7.4 on a MacBook Pro and on a Mac Pro.

A small application called EuControl must be running for the MC Mix to operate. Having to run ancillary applications next to a DAW is generally a bad idea, but EuControl seemed to do its thing without robbing any significant resources.

EU HAVE ISSUES

The well-documented installation went perfectly on my MacBook, but my Mac Pro initially wouldn't recognize the MC Mix. I contacted tech support incognito to be sure I got the real end-user experience. Euphonix has outsourced tech support for the MC Mix, but I got immediate and helpful attention. The problem resolved itself mysteriously and didn't recur.

The Bank buttons in the first version of EuControl wouldn't properly switch between fader banks in Pro Tools due to a glitch in the HUI implementation, but an update resolved the problem. I was at first a bit skeptical about having to fall back on HUI, but all the most important functions are fully implemented. The only real shortcoming is that the Home and End buttons, used to switch to the first or last bank of faders, don't work under HUI. Fortunately, an update is imminent, and the Home and End buttons should be working under HUI by the time you read this.

PERFORMANCE

One of the most important advantages of a control surface is the ability to automate multiple plug-in parameters — as well as volume, pan, and mute — across multiple tracks, something the mouse simply can't do. The MC Mix does all this with ease and grace. The faders move smoothly and respond crisply, probably due to Euphonix's use of Ethernet instead of MIDI. (To be fair, the performance difference between the MC Mix and most MIDI or USB control surfaces is less significant than the theoretical advantage of Ethernet would suggest, but better is better.)

Plug-in parameters can, of course, be laid out across the scribble strip, and you can page through them as needed. However, the MC Mix also offers dedicated EQ and Dynamics buttons that lay out select parameters for any relevant plug-in on the selected track.

Assigning plug-ins is simple, although the method is given so offhandedly (under “knob configuration”) in the otherwise well-written documentation that I missed it repeatedly. Plug-in names are listed alphabetically under HUI and lumped into four categories under EuCon, and the names are hard to make out, given the limited number of characters a channel's scribble strip can display. It would be better if the names spilled over into the adjacent track's strip and if the order and categorization reflected that of the host DAW.

Transport controls are Shift-modified On and Solo buttons. I wish the Shift key were close enough to control the transport one-handed or that you could at least invoke Shift-lock with one hand.

WRAP IT

Overall, I was very pleased with the MC Mix. The only thing about the device that didn't seem appropriately high end is that the faders on the review unit chattered quite a bit when playing back a lot of automation. However, when writing automation, the faders were very smooth and precise.

Aside from a few quibbles, the MC Mix's overall implementation is quite elegant. If you're looking for a compact control surface for your Mac-based DAW, I recommend that the MC Mix be on your short list.


Value (1 through 5): 4
Euphonix
euphonix.com

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