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AVID S3 as replacement for D-command
Old 16th November 2017
  #1
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Jamie Mac's Avatar
AVID S3 as replacement for D-command

For many years I have been a die hard ICON user and have long thought the s3 to be a step down. However with recent EUCON updates, it seems to become a viable option for d-command users. Wether it's an upgrade, downgrade or lateral move is something I decided to test for myself so I ordered an S3 with a dock (which will arrive later)

What made me think about moving from the one platform to the other is:

-The future is EUCON
-It is smaller and lighter (I actually walked from my appartment to my studio, which is a 10 minute walk with the s3 in my arm. I dare anyone to do the same with a d-command
-As I'm doing a lot of foley work lately, recording myself with the ipad app is really easy, and you can't use both ICON and Eucon protocols together.
-The layouts and VCA spill features

I received the unit today so I'm only starting to figure it out but from the start I can already say the following:

-Eucon seems to be a hassle to setup and it is a bit random wether or not the s3 can connect or not. The icon just worked, always. Until now, the s3 not so much.

-I was also interested in the s3 because people here said the faders were better than the d-commands. Maybe I have a faulty unit, but the faders are definitely not as smooth as the d-command's. they are also much louder and feel a bit flimsy.


Any other d-command users jumped boat?
Attached Thumbnails
AVID S3 as replacement for D-command-img_0153.jpg  
Old 16th November 2017
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Mac View Post
-Eucon seems to be a hassle to setup and it is a bit random wether or not the s3 can connect or not. The icon just worked, always. Until now, the s3 not so much.

-I was also interested in the s3 because people here said the faders were better than the d-commands. Maybe I have a faulty unit, but the faders are definitely not as smooth as the d-command's. they are also much louder and feel a bit flimsy.


Any other d-command users jumped boat?
Connection used to be a little shaky in the early days but I haven't had issues in a long, long while. I would say there are some best practices:

keep your computer connected to your Eucon devices on a separate network. For the old Mac Pro, one port goes to a switch that all the Eucon devices are hooked to and the other port goes to the normal network.

I recommend static IPs (and in the Eucon preferences on your computer, set the port on your computer you are using to be the one to be searched for devices.)

Use the iPad on the Dock with the usb kit to ethernet connector so you have a wired connection for Eucon and turn off the wireless on the iPad. Not only does everything update better (metering, timecode, etc.) but if you work with heavy automation, I found that I would have glitches or the iPad would loose connection to the Eucon software on the computer over wireless. Once it was wired, I've never had an issue. My guess is that there's a circular check of fader positioning between the iPad and the Eucon software and that it gets backed up eventually leading to a failure of communication.

I like the S3 faders better than the D-Command but the S3 is shallower so the T bar (I believe that's the type of fader used on both) is also shorter. Which could lead to it feeling "flimsy."

(also, make sure your firmware is up-to-date from Eucon)
Old 16th November 2017
  #3
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The faders are definitely better on the d command. The s3 faders are more like the c24's. Maybe a little better but in the same ballpark. The being said, I own 2 S3's. They are so much faster to mix with then a d-command or anything icon. You need to enable "edit selection links to track selection" in pro tools and in eucon, enable "selected track links to attention track". Now whenever you are editing in pro tools, the Eucon surface attentions that track. So you can just highlight a track and tweak the EQ on the dock or S3. It's already attention'ed. That's light years faster than clicking on the plug in in pro tools to focus and track or soloing or whatever why you have worked out now.
Old 16th November 2017
  #4
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Jamie Mac's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by brandoncross View Post
The faders are definitely better on the d command. The s3 faders are more like the c24's. Maybe a little better but in the same ballpark.
Yes, it seems the s3 faders are of the same type as the Artist series/C24/command8. Although they seem slightly better. But still quite stiff and noisy compared to the d-command.

The S6 has the same type of fader as the d-command apparently. Though probably an improved version.

Btw, I would wager a guess that you could fit a d-command with s6 faders if you change the connector.


I've attached a picture illustrating the different fader types.
Attached Thumbnails
AVID S3 as replacement for D-command-faders-avid-controllers.jpg  
Old 16th November 2017
  #5
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dr.sound's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Mac View Post
Yes, it seems the s3 faders are of the same type as the Artist series/C24/command8. Although they seem slightly better. But still quite stiff and noisy compared to the d-command.
Jamie,
I haven't heard any faders make noise in over 10 years.This is how:
I paste any volume automation into "clip gain".
I then write top to bottom of the session on all faders at 0
and then I put the faders in trim and start mixing.
The faders move only when I push them and sit at 0 when I don't.
No noise, no problems .
Old 16th November 2017
  #6
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Jamie Mac's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dr.sound View Post
Jamie,
I haven't heard any faders make noise in over 10 years.This is how:
I paste any volume automation into "clip gain".
I then write top to bottom of the session on all faders at 0
and then I put the faders in trim and start mixing.
The faders move only when I push them and sit at 0 when I don't.
No noise, no problems .
Interesting workflow. I'll give that a try, thanks!
Old 21st November 2017
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by dr.sound View Post
Jamie,
I haven't heard any faders make noise in over 10 years.This is how:
I paste any volume automation into "clip gain".
I then write top to bottom of the session on all faders at 0
and then I put the faders in trim and start mixing.
The faders move only when I push them and sit at 0 when I don't.
No noise, no problems .
But then how do you trim your trim automation?
Good workaround in any case Marti, thanks for sharing.
Old 21st November 2017
  #8
I work that way too, I commit the trim automation by coming out of trim mode and going straight back in, you choose the preference in Pro Tools. A single button press and you're trimming your trims, unity gain on the faders whenever you want them.

Rob Walker
Old 21st November 2017
  #9
Right, understood. I must be too used to a real console, or just not bothered by fader noise .
Old 22nd November 2017
  #10
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I'm not a big fan of the S6, I greatly prefer the ICON, but that's a moot point since the ICONs are fast on their way to losing support. I haven't used an S3 but it's hard to imagine it's more flexible than the S6. While I have a somewhat unique approach to how I go about mixing, I am a believer that the console should not define the workflow, it should adapt to it, and while I've never used any console that prevented me from doing a good mix, the S6 was awkward and required numerous work-arounds. The faders are sure nice, though.

Last edited by ggegan; 22nd November 2017 at 04:23 PM..
Old 22nd November 2017
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
the S3 was awkward and required numerous work-arounds. The faders are sure nice, though.
Care to elaborate on this? I am considering buying an S3/Dock set up for my home studio so this statement is a little unnerving.
Old 22nd November 2017
  #12
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapwatr View Post
Care to elaborate on this? I am considering buying an S3/Dock set up for my home studio so this statement is a little unnerving.
My bad, I was referring to the S6 and mistakenly typed S3. I haven't mixed on an S3, but it would sure be interesting if it turned out to be better for me than an S6.

I edited my previous post to clarify.
Old 22nd November 2017
  #13
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Leverson's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
My bad, I was referring to the S6 and mistakenly typed S3. I haven't mixed on an S3, but it would sure be interesting if it turned out to be better for me than an S6.
This is interesting to me, as I've found the S6 to be my favorite controller to work on.

I've only ever used the Avid branded stuff, so I don't have any experience or commentary on on outside-the-box consoles, but I found the S6 to be incredibly quick and intuitive and I absolutely love the flexibility of Eucon and easily assignable custom fader groups and flying auto-select faders, etc etc.

My personal studio is all artist series controllers, so that might also be why I found the transition to an S6 fairly smooth. I eyed the S3 and there was much I liked about it, but ultimately deemed it wasn't worth the cost of the upgrade to what I currently have for now. I have also eyed used Icon controllers as I think they are powerful, common in a lot of studios and stages, and I enjoy working on them (and they have come down to remarkably affordable price points used) but I just didn't want to give up the speed and flexibility of Eucon. I'd love my own S6 but it's out of my practical price range for my personal studio.
Old 22nd November 2017
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leverson View Post
This is interesting to me, as I've found the S6 to be my favorite controller to work on.

I've only ever used the Avid branded stuff, so I don't have any experience or commentary on on outside-the-box consoles, but I found the S6 to be incredibly quick and intuitive and I absolutely love the flexibility of Eucon and easily assignable custom fader groups and flying auto-select faders, etc etc.

My personal studio is all artist series controllers, so that might also be why I found the transition to an S6 fairly smooth. I eyed the S3 and there was much I liked about it, but ultimately deemed it wasn't worth the cost of the upgrade to what I currently have for now. I have also eyed used Icon controllers as I think they are powerful, common in a lot of studios and stages, and I enjoy working on them (and they have come down to remarkably affordable price points used) but I just didn't want to give up the speed and flexibility of Eucon. I'd love my own S6 but it's out of my practical price range for my personal studio.
You will find mixers coming down on both sides of my opinion. I know a number of mixers who hate the S6 and others who think it is the best console ever. The same was true of most digital consoles and control surfaces. IMO the S6 was optimized for certain workflows and is less effective for others, and I found it to be a bit buggy. That doesn't mean it's a bad console, just not my personal favorite. I'd rather mix on an ICON.
Old 22nd November 2017
  #15
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I find the S6 both buggy and a bit slow (loading up a session, etc.) I feel like there's a lag on everything done -- like a ms goes by after every press. That just starts to annoy me -- but I think a lot of that has to do with the console attempting to do so much. Never felt that way with the D-Command/D-Control.

But I don't feel that way about the S3 because the S3 feels much more connected to the Artist series. Only thing with the Dock + S3 is the Mixer/Tracks tabs seem to need more of a "deliberate" selection before it is registered and attentioned on the Dock fader while the soft keys page seems to work as it should. That tells me it is something they've done in the software (and possibly comes/goes with different app versions.) Right now that is annoying (think I selected the track, move fader, realise I'm still on the older track, hit undo, select with a longer press the track I wanted, etc.)
Old 23rd November 2017
  #16
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I like the ICON D-Control because it's what I have and it's paid for
The ICON has a lot less going on than an S6.
On a S6 you have all those displays etc.
That is why it's laggy in comparison.
I will eventually buy a S6 to keep up with the Joneses
but my ICON has been gone through, faders cleaned, Power Supplies
redone, Fader Motor supplies redone and a Panner section recently redone.
It's very solid and it's fast and I like the way it sounds
Old 23rd November 2017
  #17
The Icon buttons are so much more forgiving to my delicate fingertips than S3/S6.

one step forward, half a step back.

Rob Walker AMPS
Old 26th November 2017
  #18
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Jamie Mac's Avatar
So I've been playing around with it and I have decided to keep it and sell the d-command.

Apart from:

- The quality of the faders
- The lack of dedicated set of properly laid out knobs for eq with Q control (I have to get used to the extra button press just to access the Q value)


I would say the S3 + Dock + ipad is an upgrade to the d-command.

Eucon just adds a whole other level of possibilities which aren't available to the ICON series, and which will presumably get better and better in the future.

The layouts and vca spill seem to speed up my workflow and by adding a program like keyboard maestro I can have buttons for my favourite audio suite plugins and even automate a couple of processes right from the controller.


I must add that I never used the d-command to map plugin controls to the faders, so I don't miss that feature. So if you heavily rely on that feature, I can understand that it gets harder to make the transition.

But for me, it seems to be perfect
Old 27th November 2017
  #19
My thoughts on the S3/Dock Control surface

I posted this on Facebook but I wanted to add it here as well. I recently finished a feature film mix and a mix stage that had the S3/Dock/Control App setup for their control surface (Midnight Post, which is Carlos Sanches' private stage).

Here are my observations mixing on the S3 and Dock Combo after two days. I’d never worked on them extensively before, just played around and researched them. I had previous experience with the Artist series so I knew my way around Eucon. I’d watched some videos about them. I am a long time user of 24-fader D-Commands (7 years) and the S6 (3 years) consoles. Here are my thoughts in no particular order. Just stream of conscious.

• First off I noticed the faders were louder, for sure. Fixed that with a soft key to turn them off. But I got used to it and didn’t notice it as much until the second day there was a scene with some crazy moves. I just threw everything into trim and was good. I only felt like did that for this purpose once, which isn’t bad.
• I miss my automatch indication arrows. On the D-Command they are right next to the fader and it is really nice. The S6/5 have the best implementation of this, showing you where to match on the meter next to the fader (while keeping your meters on one). Best but can’t really be expected on this unit. I wouldn’t like it with the lower resolution meters. But little up and down arrows could be added to the S3 channel screens. I use trim a lot as it is, but I found myself using it more because I knew I could always go back down to zero to have it match out nicely.
• That leads me to my next point, I really wish there was a trim enable/disable button on each channel. This was sorely missed. I found how much I like to swap in and out of that when it was a hassle to do so. In this setup I would have to select the channel first (which I didn’t always want to make it my focus channel), then hit ALT on the dock (because I always used those buttons in ALT mode), and then the trim button. I found myself disabling and enabling trim on all channels helped, but still a workaround. Personally, I’m always in latch mode. While I LOVE the preference for the record/automation button to be automation by default, I’d really prefer to have a third option to make it the trim button. I’d use that way more. I’d much rather have more button pushes be for changing the automation mode than the trim. I hardly ever change the automation mode. But I know people who do, so just make it a preference.
Back to automatch, I couldn't find a way to automatch on a single channel. I miss that feature from the ICONS.
• I liked the knobs and buttons a lot. They felt better to me than the S6, honestly. It has some small buttons but not as tiny as some of the ones on the S6. Those are horrible.
• As I’m used to the S6 I loved that it had the same color scheme.
• I found that sometimes I’d have to click on and off a channel to get the focus fader to follow. But I was having some stability issues in general (not related to the surface I believe) so that might have just been that.
• Faders felt nice. No real complaints with those. Different from the other two but not significantly worse. Definitely an upgrade from the artist series.
• I like the top row of knobs on the S3. It would take some getting used to, for the muscle memory, but no huge issues. I did find that sometimes I’d set it up to have the EQ those knobs and then I wouldn’t use it for a bit and then I’d clicked on a channel and look down to use the EQ, but it’d be gone. It’d be back out to the default top level. I’m sure I click around on a few other channels before this so maybe if I clicked on a channel without and EQ it would reset it? Not sure but not surprised if simply user error.
• I missed having the attention fader be different from the selected track in Pro Tools. I prefer to work with the edit and track selection linked. But found I could use a soft key to unlink them to lock my focus fader. That works, it would just take getting used to.
• The screens are nice. Not too small. But THE SCREEN ARE IN A HORRIBLE LOCATION. They should be in front of the knobs. I’m a tall guy and the knobs were annoyingly blocking part of the screens. A small tilt of the surface would help, but I think that is just bad design from the beginning. All the older digidesign desks got that right. Put the screen below the fader. I hate this about the S6 as well. Horrible design.
• Loved the big solo and mute buttons. Much better than on the S6.
• LOVED LAYOUTS! I’m sure I would really use this feature a lot. I loved being able to quickly access them with dedicated buttons. To swap custom fader groups on the D-Command I’m covering up knobs or soft-keys. I’d never liked that.
• I quickly setup three layouts. I don’t care for having to do it within Eucon, rather than on the surface, but I can live with it. Only had to do it three times. Only showed the tracks I wanted in Pro Tools which made it much faster.
• For layouts I had one for all tracks, one with 5 masters and then regular tracks, and one with all my VCAs. I wish they had the option to show hidden tracks in the layout but I can accept that as a price difference between the S3 and S6. I use markers to show and hide tracks, so I just put all my VCAs down at the bottom on the screen so I could access them on a layout at any time. Loved that once I made that change.
• I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED VCA spill. Goodness. JUST SO FREAKING AWESOME. Love the implementation. Way better than the D-Command. So simple. Worked amazingly. Just awesome. Well done.
• The Dock is awesome. I didn’t have much time to dig into it so it was underused compared with the S3. But it is such a powerful combo. Truly a mini S6. First noticed the buttons on the left side with the ALT layer for all my go to automation commands. Nicely done. Great designed. Used all day. Love that it has a local alt switch and that it wasn’t part of the shift layer. That would have been annoying. I really liked the transport section. All the buttons had a nice firm feel. I quickly reprogrammed the RTZ button to be the back and play button (without needing to shift).
• I setup a few soft keys which were nice. I would definitely dig into those more with the time. I LOVED the design concept of being able to re-program the buttons. There’s so many buttons on the D-Command that I don’t use and would love to reprogram them but can’t. I’ve always dislike that about the ICON. The programmable soft key section of the D-Command is so limited in comparison.
• I LOVED the meters next to the fader. More resolution would be nice, sure, but you get that in the S6. These were perfect for me. If I wanted more I could have looked up at the screen on the iPad. I never did.
• I missed my center section of the D-Command. I just missed the muscle memory of the EQ knobs, but I know I could get used to the S3’s top row. There’s more of them. Focusing them and the ones of the dock were awesome.
• I REALLY MISSED PLUGIN FOCUS. I am sure part of this was that I’m just not used to the S3/Dock and was slower navigating to what I wanted. But even so, I use that all the time on every Digidesign surface. ICONs, Command 8, 003 all had it. Click on a plugin , focus and its up on the surface. Done. They need to bring that back ASAP.
• I missed my window buttons from the D-Command. I wanted a way to manage the windows up on the screen, namely the pan and plugin windows. I tried the preferences to open and close them automatically in Eucon. Didn’t work as expected or consistently. But even if it did I’d prefer to have control when it opens and closes. Not sure if these are available in programming the soft keys?
• I loved the form factor. It is nice and small. I liked not having to reach as far for the knobs. It wasn’t too small or bunched up, except for the fact that the screens were covered, but I think that could have been fixed with swapping their location.
• I know people complain about the select button being next to the fader, but it was fine for my hands. Only hit a fader once or twice. Not the best design, but okay. Better than the S6. The D-Command wins here though. The button layout about the faders on the D-Command are the best, but they take up a lot of space.
• Overall I really liked the ergonomics of it, maybe even better than the S6. That’s tough.

Overall I really liked it. For the price, I am amazed! They packed so much into it that years ago cost way, way more. My D-Command has been on the way out for awhile. I am confident I’ll really enjoy the S3 and Dock combo when I move to that.
Old 27th November 2017
  #20
Wow Dan, thank you for taking the time to do such a thorough write-up of your experience with these units. Great info!
Old 27th November 2017
  #21
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Jamie Mac's Avatar
Thanks for your thoughts!
It surprises me how much of the s6 features they have put into the s3 and dock. To the point where i think they're shooting themselves in the foot

To put things into perspective:

I bought the s3, dock and ipad (which came bundled for free) and desk to put it on for about 2/3rds of the price of just the s6 legframe/stand.

A 16 channel s6m10 costs roughly 7 to 8 times as much as the s3+dock combination.

I think it's insane value for money
Old 27th November 2017
  #22
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We are considering the build of an additional 5.1 mix stage, we now have a stage with a 24 fader D-Command, like the OP.
One thing that became a topic for debate was the "client impression factor". A D-Command + expansion at least "fills" the room with buttons, faders and meters, while a S3 in comparison seems ridiculous size-wise, when in fact it's more functional in many aspect. But what do clients know anyway... OTOH a S6 is an overkill economically.
I almost wish there was a dummy console panel with the look of the S3
S3 users: don't you miss the meter bridge?
Old 1st December 2017
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
You will find mixers coming down on both sides of my opinion. I know a number of mixers who hate the S6 and others who think it is the best console ever. The same was true of most digital consoles and control surfaces. IMO the S6 was optimized for certain workflows and is less effective for others, and I found it to be a bit buggy. That doesn't mean it's a bad console, just not my personal favorite. I'd rather mix on an ICON.
It took me quite a while of hands-on experience and software 3.7 but now I prefer the S6 to the D-Control. That's for my workflow and also for TV work. YMMV.
Old 1st December 2017
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nucelar View Post
S3 users: don't you miss the meter bridge?
Ghe meter bridge is by the faders where it should be. So no.
Old 1st December 2017
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandoncross View Post
Ghe meter bridge is by the faders where it should be. So no.
Ehhm, maybe I'm the only one but I like to have my meters near the line of sight to the screen, not partially obstructed by my fingers. Not to mention the poor resolution of the s3 in comparison to the D-Command.
Old 1st December 2017
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nucelar View Post
Ehhm, maybe I'm the only one but I like to have my meters near the line of sight to the screen, not partially obstructed by my fingers. Not to mention the poor resolution of the s3 in comparison to the D-Command.
I always have a hard time following the meter bridge to the channel fader. So, for me, the meters right by the fader is the best. As far as resolution, neither meter bridge have anything close to a useful resolution.
Old 1st December 2017
  #27
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Leverson's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by brandoncross View Post
I always have a hard time following the meter bridge to the channel fader. So, for me, the meters right by the fader is the best. As far as resolution, neither meter bridge have anything close to a useful resolution.
Agreed on this and same for me. I love having the meters next to the faders, I find it easier to react and grab what I need. The color changing/matching track color lights are greatly helpful as well. At least on the S6, I'm not sure what the track color functionality is like on the S3.
Old 3rd December 2017
  #28
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Avid has done some dumb things from time to time but I can't imagine them dropping support for the icon which is the biggest selling large format console in history.
Old 3rd December 2017
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
Avid has done some dumb things from time to time but I can't imagine them dropping support for the icon which is the biggest selling large format console in history.
Of course they will eventually drop support, biggest selling unit or not. They need people to buy the new version of hardware to keep banks and investors happy, regardless of the previous unit still being fit for the job or not. At some version of Pro Tools in the future they will announce that the Icon will go the way of the ProControl and that for some obscure reason it will not be supported and compatible with PT.
I know that it'll also be the case for the S5 somewhere down the line.
Old 11th January 2018
  #30
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Can an S3 do VCA spill without the Ipad app? Is there a dedicated button for this on the S3?
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