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Microphone Month 4

Hands On: Avid S6

When you’re in a production environment, getting things done quickly and efficiently is key to success. Avid has always provided tools that allow professionals to get the job done, including a lineage of control surfaces that let Pro Tools users get away from the computer screen and mouse and back to hands-on control with real faders, knobs, and switches. Last fall, Avid made a huge announcement: a new line of high-end control surfaces was on the way! Now, I’ve had a chance to get my hands on one of the very first S6 control surfaces, and here’s what I found.

Modularity, Ergonomics, Visuals

Avid stressed three things when designing the S6: modularity, ergonomics, and visual feedback. The console channel strips are made up of several types of modules: Fader modules (eight faders per module, with additional channel controls), Process modules (switches for controlling functions and a pan encoder that can be assigned other parameters), and Knob modules (eight channels with four knobs per channel). These can be loaded into a 4-deep or 5-deep frame in just about any combination. You can short load if you like, leaving blanks that you can fill later with additional modules. There are two flavors of S6: M10, which are preconfigured consoles, and M40, which are completely customizable. In the M40, you can also load Display modules, which are super cool (and brings us to “visual feedback”). Not only can the Display module show meters, but also scrolling waveforms per track and function displays, such as EQ curves. The S6 I worked on was a 5-knob, 16-fader M40, with Display modules, in a 4-deep frame. This means it was configured with two Fader modules, two Process modules, two Knob modules, and two Display modules, in addition to the Master modules described below.

The “center” section of the console consists of Master modules, including the Master Automation Module, with control over automation, transport, and more, and the Master Touch Module, which has soft switches for frequently accessed functions, as well as a 12.1″ multi-touch display — which encompasses both visual feedback and ergonomics. The touchscreen is a work of art and functionality. Navigating is super fast; working with plug-ins is intuitive and hands on; you can sort tracks, control the S6’s operation, and so much more.

Everything, in all the modules, is assignable and configurable. OLED mini displays by encoder knobs provide a ton of visual feedback — way more than a simple 6- or 8-character display. Of course, there is a full monitor section, which interfaces with Avid’s Xmon monitor controller.

Getting up and running on the S6 is fast, with a gentle learning curve. I was navigating fluently in just a short time. Once you are fluent, the S6 really does remove the computer monitor and mouse from the equation for tracking and mixing. Your focus can stay on the control surface in front of you instead of locked to the computer screen, and your ears and hands can do the work of creating in an artistic way.

If you’re doing serious work with Pro Tools or another EUCON-compatible DAW, then the S6 is going to be your dream control surface come true. I’ve worked on everything from the Artist series to Control 24 to D-Control, and this is the best-integrated control surface I’ve used. Plus, with all its cutting-edge technology, the S6 looks and feels like a real console.

There’s so much more to say about the S6, so many options, and so many configurations that I can’t possibly cover even a fraction of them in this space. Give your Sales Engineer a call to learn more about this amazing control surface!

Mitch Gallagher

About Mitch Gallagher

Sweetwater Editorial Director, Mitch Gallagher, is one of the leading music/pro audio/audio recording authorities in the world. The former senior technical editor of Keyboard magazine and former editor-in-chief of EQ magazine, Gallagher has published thousands of articles, is the author of seven books and one instructional DVD, and appears in well over 500 videos on YouTube. He teaches audio recording and music business at Purdue University/Indiana University, and has appeared at festivals, conventions, and conferences around the world.
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