If you want to get your workflow moving in the right direction, a studio controller is a useful addition to any home studio. Available at reasonable prices and designed and manufactured to high-quality standards, there is a plethora of choice for the modern enthusiast.
A short time after I first set up my home studio, I realized that I wanted a little more control over the monitor selection, folding to mono and inputs. My MSP7s were partnered with a single Avantone Mixcube and some ‘Grot-Box’ alternatives. The workflow was being hindered by folding the mix bus to mono by rerouting the output to an existing mono buss. Manually turning down the MSP7s and manually turning up the mix cube.
I was initially using a Behringer Eurorack UB802. That may not appear like a whole lot of something, but it definitely slowed down my mixes and sent me off track more than one time. At the time, I was watching a lot of Youtube videos and saw the likes of Dave Pensado and Chris Lord-Alge using their mix consoles so skillfully. Their workflow didn’t get in the way of the music that they were mixing, and I wanted that for myself too.
The Behringer was soon replaced by the Mackie big knob. To this day, I laugh when I read or write the name of the product - they even boast that having one in your studio will provide no end of jokes. All jokes aside, the Mackie is a serious piece of equipment – it is heavy, and exudes robustness, durability, and quality. It has rubber feet that help it grip to my desktop like a limpet. The Behringer used to slide around like a hockey puck on new ice, or fried eggs in a pan!
Anyway, the Mackie meets all of my needs, I can switch between any set of monitors in two buttons, there is no awkward pop or crunch when audio is playing. There is a mono button, push it to fold everything to mono and back into two stereo speakers or just one Avantone cube. It is one of those products that you wonder how you lived without before and would replace it in a heartbeat if it got damaged or broke down.
There are a few buttons for inputs. Switch between DAW, 2 track A, or 2 track B. You can connect anything you like in reality - whatever you have connected you can select via the input button. There are also trim dials on each input for adjusting the input levels. Once set up, you won’t need to touch them again, and they are stiff enough that they don’t vibrate from their set position.
The dials and switches are sensitive to touch, and each has a great tactile feeling when turned or pushed. The unit really feels well made and refined. The main volume dial is ‘BIG’ – hence the product name – and is therefore easy to turn. This feature is especially advantageous for minor volume increments – something which is challenging on a fader or standard size dial.
There is a single mute button. There is also a single dim button, which drops the output by 20 decibels. Both of which are ergonomically placed in a convenient location on the front of the box. The power switch is located on the backplate of the unit on the right-hand side, making it easy to switch on and off, but out of the way so that it is not inadvertently pushed.
There are two handy headphone outputs. I keep my Sennheiser HD800s permanently plugged in to socket one and use socket two for all of the other headphones that I use in the studio. Both headphone outputs have separate volume controls, which is useful.
Other features on the Mackie include a microphone and talkback speaker. However, I never use these as they are more suitable if you have a separate area for recording, which I don’t. All in all, I love this product, good job Mackie!