Console 1: Questions and Answers
Henrik Andersson Vogel, April 2013

Softube's Console 1 offers a straight-forward and intuitive approach to computer based mixing. Nevertheless, the concept is unique and a few things may need to be cleared up. So here you go—questions and answers on Console 1!

What is Softube Console 1?
It is an integrated hardware/software mixer which works in tandem with your DAW. It takes the quick and intuitive workflow of a digital mixer and pairs that with the great sound of an analog Solid State Logic SL 4000 E mixer. On the hardware, you select the track you want to work with and then you adjust the effects settings using physical knobs and buttons.

So: Select a track, tweak the knobs. Select another track, tweak the knobs—that's essentially how you use Console 1.

So it's a DAW controller?
Console 1 works in tandem with all major DAWs, but for most DAWs, it's not a DAW controller per se. The hardware controls the Console 1 software, which is in turn linked to your DAW via the Console 1 plug-in. Other than that, Console 1 doesn't affect any of your DAW's settings or functions.

So it can control some DAWs?
Yes. There is an extra tight integration between Console 1 and Presonus Studio One and Cakewalk SONAR. In these DAWs, the Console 1 track selection is reflected into the DAW's track selection, and vice versa. Furthermore, the Console 1's Solo, Mute, Pan and Output Volume can control the corresponding parameters in the DAW as well as the send levels on the selected DAW track.

Is there a DAW compatibility chart?
Yes, here you go (click image to enlarge). We are aiming to have all of these functions added to all major DAWs.

I don't get it. How can I mix without a mouse just using this small hardware unit?
You insert the Console 1 plug-in on all your DAW tracks, which routes the sound to the Console 1 mixer and then back to the DAW. The tracks will now show up in the Console 1 system where they are each assigned to one of the track selector buttons. So you can now select and control each track from the hardware. In some DAWs, refer to the chart above, track selecton will also follow track selection in the DAW. Vice verca the DAW will follow the selected track from the Console 1 hardware.

The settings for the selected track are shown in the On-Screen Display—Console 1's mixer window—and the LEDs around each knob and button on the hardware. Use the hardware knobs to adjust the settings to your liking. Then select the next track you think needs work, and tweak that.

I only see 20 track selector buttons on the hardware, is that the limit?
No, the track count is unlimited (or rather, only limited by your computer's processing power). The tracks are organized in banks of 20, and you select bank with the Page Up/Page Down buttons on the hardware. Just press Page Up once, and you'll see track 21-40, press it again and you'll see track 41-60, etc. The limit to your channel count is how much your computer can take, just as with other plug-ins.

What software effects are included?
With the purchase, the Console 1 software comes loaded with our model of the classic analog console Solid State Logic SL 4000 E, which was developed in close collaboration with SSL themselves. We have modeled the equalizer, the channel compressor, the gate/expander, the high and low cut filters and also the harmonics and non-linearities you get from overdriving the signal through the analog circuits of the Solid State Logic SL 4000 E, with adjustable intensity and character. We also added Transient Shaper, which is purely a Softube effect and not part of the original Solid State Logic SL 4000 E console.

What if I want other effects than the Solid State Logic SL 4000 E?
You can expand the options by replacing the SL 4000 E channel with Solid State Logic XL 9000 K-Series for Console 1 or British Class A For Console 1, available for separate purchase. Furthermore, any Softube gate, compressor or equalizer can be loaded into any channel. So if you for example own our Trident A-Range and want to use it instead of the SL 4000 E equalizer on a specific track, or on all tracks, you can. There is also Summit Audio Grand Channel for Console 1, which adds tighter integration and some extra functions for owners of both Summit Audio Grand Channel and Console 1.

But what about the plug-ins I own from other developers?
You can still use them just as you did before, insert them in your DAW and mix with the mouse. You can toggle on/off the Console 1 On-Screen Display with a dedicated button on the hardware, so just turn it off to see your DAW windows again. Working like this, you will get a workflow that is very similar to an analog studio. Console 1 is your mixer and centerpiece, and the other plug-ins are like your outboard rack effects that you patch in and adjust separately. Console 1 makes your workflow easier, it doesn't take anything away or lock you in.

So I can't use other developer's plug-ins within the Console 1 system?
Not currently. We'll see what happens.

What is the Shape section?
With the Shape section, we combined a slightly simplified SL 4000 E gate with our own Transient Shaper. The Transient Shaper lets you soften or sharpen the onset of the sound, and also make the sound sustain shorter or longer. This effect has been expanded further and has now been released as a separate plug-in, the Transient Shaper. For other channels, such as Solid State Logic XL 9000 K-Series for Console 1 and British Class A For Console 1, the Shape section is simply a gate.

Is the Console 1 software and its effects DSP powered from the hardware?
No. All signal processing takes place within the computer. The hardware only controls the software and has no built-in processing power. You can actually use the Console 1 software without even having the hardware connected to the computer, which is practical if you work on a laptop and you're sometimes away from the hardware. Most parameters can be adjusted using the mouse in the Console 1 plug-in window, accessible from the DAW.

Why isn't there DSP power in the hardware?
For a number of reasons. First and foremost, today's computers are powerful enough to handle even big mix sessions, so adding a DSP chip is unnecessary. It would also have added to the cost and it would have meant that the user was forced to always have the hardware connected. Furthermore, Console 1 could not have been solely powered by the computer's USB buss.

But this looks like it's going to take a lot of CPU power?
Not more than you'd expect from any other Softube plug-in, and we're well known for making plug-ins with a low CPU usage (with TSAR-1 Reverb and Modular as possible exceptions). When you first add the plug-in to a channel, all its sections are bypassed by default, and if you keep it like that, the CPU usage is barely measurable. But you still get pan, input level and output volume for that channel (as well as Solo and Mute), so we recommend that you create a mix template with the Console 1 plug-in inserted on all channels to get complete control of your mix from the Console 1 hardware.

What else is included in the Console 1 mixer?
You will find phase reversal and input gain/output volume. There is also pan, plus Solo and Mute switches. You can change the order of the sections, if you for example prefer to put the compressor before the equalizer in the signal chain, and you can group any or all channels to tweak their settings simultaneously. You can copy settings between tracks and save and call up presets. You can route external sidechain signals to the compressor or the gate/expander. Everything is controlled from the hardware and almost all functions have their own dedicated switches or knobs.

How do I know what settings I have made?
The On-Screen Display gives detailed visual feedback on all settings and functions of the Console 1 system. You can toggle it on/off with a dedicated button on the hardware to reveal your DAW behind it, resize the window to your preference, or drag it to a second computer monitor if you have one. You can also have the On-Screen Display automatically pop up as soon as you change a setting on the hardware. The LED meters and rings around the knobs on the hardware also give you plenty of visual feedback, so it's possible to complete an entire mix without watching the computer screen at all.

Will there be latency in the system?
In most use cases, plug-in latency is not a problem as any major DAW offers automatic compensation of plug-in delay. But even for use directly on the incoming signal, the latency of the Console 1 channel is very low—4 samples in 44.1 and 48 kHz sample rate, and 0 samples in sample rates above that.

Can I copy settings between channels?
Yes, you can copy an entire channel strip setting, or select as many or few sections of the channel strip you would like to copy. Still without using your mouse.

What does the History function do?
It is an undo function which lets you scroll back in time and step by step undoing the adjustments you have made to the selected channel. Very few DAWs offer this for plug-in settings—with Console 1, you don't only get the function with any DAW, you can control it directly from the hardware.

Will the Console 1 channel strips be released as a separate plug-in?
No, Softube's Solid State Logic SL 4000 E, Solid State Logic XL 9000 K-Series for Console 1 and British Class A For Console 1 are Console 1 exclusive and we have no plans to release them as stand alone plug-ins.

So how can you control settings on the other Softube plug-ins, that have controls that differ from the hardware's layout?
In most cases, this is less of a problem than you might expect. You'll be able to see the loaded plug-in's parameters in the On-Screen Display of Console 1 and you'll quickly get the hang of it. If you find it confusing, you can always insert the plug-in on the DAW's mixer channel and mix with the mouse just as you normally would.

As a side note, Console 1 can actually add functionality to other Softube plug-ins. For example, the Tube-Tech CL 1B Compressor compressor does not have a parallel function built-in. But if you run it as part of Console 1, it's going to get that. With Summit Audio Grand Channel for Console 1, you can add distortion from either the Summit Audio TLA-100A Compressor or the Summit Audio EQF-100 Full Range Equalizer section using one knob, which is also something you can't do with the traditional plug-in.

Can I control sends? Can I control the TSAR-1 Reverb via Console 1?
You can insert the Console 1 plug-in on aux channels and the master buss if you wish—actually, we recommend that. This will let you EQ, compress, set the output level, etc. You can use Console 1 to set DAW send levels in Studio One and SONAR, but currently not in other DAWs (see the DAW compatibility chart above). You cannot control the parameters of TSAR-1 Reverb or any other of our reverbs or delays, their settings are simply too far off the channel strip sections of Console 1 in regards of controls and parameters. Same thing with our Amp Room plug-ins.

What operating systems does the system support?
Mac OSX and Windows. See System Requirements for Console 1 for details.

How do I connect the hardware to my computer?
By a standard USB connection. The hardware is USB powered, so it has no extra power connections.

Can I run the Console 1 software without the hardware connected to the computer?
Yes. You can change the settings from a graphic user interface on the computer, that resembles the hardware unit. In this case, you will of course need to use your computer mouse.

Can the Console 1 effects settings be automated?
Yes, all the effects settings can be automated in your DAW, using the knobs on the hardware controller.

What plug-in formats does the system support?
VST, VST3, AU and AAX, 32 and 64 bit.

Why doesn't Console 1 support AAX DSP? Most of your other plug-ins do.
When you run Console 1 in native (AAX, as well as the other formats) and turn off the different effects section of a Console 1 channel, this reduces the CPU power usage. So if you have a channel inserted but with everything in bypass, that channel uses virtually no CPU power. This is why we recommend you to insert the Console 1 plug-in on all tracks even though you don't intend to use it, it doesn't cost you anything CPU wise, but the track will still appear in the Console 1 mixer so you can for example control Volume etc.

This is not so with DSP systems. A DSP system will determine how much power the plug-in might need, and reserve that amount of processing power—regardless of whether you actually use it or not. So having 40 tracks of Console 1 on AAX DSP will take up the same amount of processing power if all channels have all sections in use, or if all channel sections are in bypass. Most plug-ins do one thing, for example equalization or compression, so this is normally not a problem. But for an entire channel strip like the Console 1 plug-in, this means it eats up a lot of processing power you might want to allocate differently. So we simply blocked AAX DSP from the Console 1 plug-in.

What are the physical dimensions of the Console 1 hardware?
It's 427 x 186 x 52 millimeters, about 17 x 7.5 x 2 inches.

I have a question that hasn't been answered here, what do I do?
Send us the question via Contact Softube Support. We'll answer you, and put the question here as well if it's a good one!

Marketing and Sales Manager. With a background as a studio owner and as the editor of Sweden's premiere magazine for musicians (Musikermagasinet) he's the perfect guy to have on the road showing off our latest contraptions. Henrik is the guy you'll meet at trade shows or other events, and if you have anything sales related he's the one who picks it up.