Softube Console 1 by Ted Krotkiewski
I just revisited my old GZ thread I started about Softube´s “Console 1” when I bought it 1 year ago.
You can find it here: Softube Console 1 WOW!!!
There´s a lot of happy users just like me, but I was still surprised about the amount of doubters it was out there not seeing what this thing does. Many have looked away from the Console 1 because it can only do a few designated things while there are other “Controllers” that can do everything. I bought the Console 1 for just that reason.
Im working as a producer and a Mixing engineer just loving the stuff to death so I thought it was time to give this product a review and explain how this little thing changed a lot for me in life.
(Console 1 = “C1”)
The Console 1 (“C1”) is a software analog modelling mixer with a digital hardware controller controlling the C1 software. When buying the C1 package you get a model of one of the most famous consoles ever built, The “SSL 4000 E”
The Console 1 is a standalone software that works flawless with any major DAW.
By putting a C1 Channel Strip on any channel in your DAW it automatically shows up in the C1 Software where it sums it up together with all the other C1 channels.
From the C1 controller you can control all of these channels individually without having to look at the screen.
Every channel is individually modifiable which means that you can change the default SSL Eq and Compressor to any of Softubes other EQ´s or Compressors. If you have both the “4000 E” and “9000 K” models installed you may use the different sections from each model. For example if you like the sound of the 4000 E model but like to have the 9000 K dynamics section on a specific channel, you may build your own SSL channel for that individual channel by combining the best out of the two models.
As all of the commands in C1, changing plug-ins inside the console is very easy. just hold down the “Shift” button and press any section you want to change and a list comes up on your computer screen with all the compatible plugins to choose from.
The Console 1 is not for everyone. It suits people that wish to achieve an analog type of workflow and sound, but still being 100% ITB.
It is not a traditional DAW controller. It is not intended to be. This is a large format mixing console in a very intuitive smart little desktop design.
I would dare to say that this is as close one can get to using a real SSL 4 E (or 9000 K) desk being ITB.
What first caught my attention to the “Console 1” was not only the sound. It was the way it made me work. The way it forced me to really Listen and feel instead of “looking at the music” and being disturbed by all the technical information there constantly is on a screen.
I reach for the "Console 1" in exactly the same way I would reach for a real mixing desk. I use the console channels for balance, Eq & dynamics and the sound. I insert all my other plug-ins as usual but think of them as they were hardware units in my rack that I patch in to the desk.
The knobs are there in front of me. I feel them without even looking at them. I press the channel I want to go to and boom. Hands on directly, nothing comes between my intuition and my execution.
To quote mixing engineer Jack Joseph Puig: When you play the guitar you don´t want to look at your fingers and think of where to place them every time you change a chord, You need to feel it.
I believe that our intuition is the most important feeling we have. One may call it spiritual guidance, another may call it Gut feeling. This feeling is a realtime reaction on the present and is always telling us where to go next if you know how to listen to it.
This feeling is what makes great records in the end and Console 1 helps me doing just that. Great records.
The beauty of the C1 is when you have a full mix project of let´s say 50+ channels and you want to just dig in and touch a little here and a little there on different channels very quickly without loosing focus on the music. Just as you do on a real console. Massaging the music as ONE energy of sound instead of channel per channel with a mouse.
When it comes to pure console emulation Im not interested in comparing this one to the others out there as it´s insignificant to me.
What matters to me is if it moves me or not. If it help´s me achieve what I hear in my head.
So… Do I like how it sounds? Ohh Very much Yes! As always, it´s very hard to explain a unit´s sound in words but a few very popular words comes to mind: Extended low end, Punch & More “glued”.
Softube took this one much further than just creating an exact replication of a channel strip. To start with, they added their own “Transient Shaper” which is a great sounding one. Before having the C1 I only used transient enveloping tools for rhythmic stuff or room mic´s etc. But having it at hand on every channel makes you just wanna try it on everything. I often end up using it on the least excepted stuff such as strings, vocals etc.
It can be musical and breathe life into stuff like nothing else. My 1176 with “all buttons in” mode has seen a lot less work since I found the Transient shaper.
Another great feature they added is the “Drive” function. This is where this thing turns into a beast. A big part of the famous classic “SSL sound” is when the desk is getting driven hard and it starts to bend and glue things into place.
Softube say that the character of the added saturation precisely matches that of the original desk.
I find the “Drive” to be incredibly musical. You can push it really hard into distortion but still have the punch fairly intact or in some cases even punchier depending on where the attack is frequency wise on your material.
You can change the sound of the distortion and it´s behaviour with the “Drive Character” knob. By turning the knob left it gets more bass heavy and thick sounding with scooped mids and less punch/transients cutting through. Great for taming harsh sources! It sounds a little bit more clean or “hifi” as the high mid and top end feels more intact when boosting. When turning it clockwise it gets a lot dirtier in a more classic way. Much more mid forward with lots of punch. (Thats where I end up most of the time)
The drive function turns the C1 “Channel strip” into an extremely versatile distortion box worth half of the price alone.
The EQ performs exactly as it is advertised to do. Classic SSL 4000 eq that I bet no one could ever tell apart from an original.
I don't own the Waves SSL bundle anymore but without direct comparison I find the top end to sound much smoother on the C1 compared to the waves SSL plugin.
Although this thing is everything I wished for there is still a few things that Isn´t quite there yet.
The biggest and most discussed downside is without question that it does not Auto track channel names and order of the channels in the DAW. For example, as soon as you make a change in the DAW let´s say moving at track from ch:15 to ch:3 that change doesn´t follow inside the C1 software. (except Pro Tools 11 that has implemented this in their new release)
So, unfortunately In order to get the different DAW´s communicate with the C1 software fully It is down to the DAW manufacturers to make their their respective DAW fully compatible with the C1 software.
However this has not bothered me much. It is a time consuming “error” that can give you a hard time if a lot of channels gets reorganised when being in the middle of a session, but what the C1 gives in sound and workflow (when organised) is unbeatable and nothing else comes close on the market.
Another downside is that you can only load Softube manufactured plugins inside the C1.
I do understand that it must be a hell of a job making all the different plugins out there compatible but I would love to see a future where Softube cooperate´s with some other companies to make the C1 even more versatile.
After 1 year of use I´m so happy and confident with this thing. I´m not only mixing faster, I am mixing better because it forced me to listen. When starting a mix It makes me paint a picture of the song in 20 mins instead of before when it took me 2 hours just to get the fundamentals right.
If this thing saves you let´s say 1 hour per day when mixing, thats equal to 7 hours per week. That´s almost one extra working day a week or even 48 days a year!
Thats not a bad investment for business!
I´m running the Console 1 together with an Avid Artist Mix to get my hands on faders and an SSL SIGMA on the end summing it all together.
The Sigma is supposed to be exactly equal to having a 32ch SSL DUALITY console but without the actual channels (eq, dynamics etc..) Since the Console 1 gives me the missing channels, paired with the SSL SIGMA I now more or less have a real mixing console but in a different appearance.
The price of the Console 1 is about 800 € in Europe and 999$ in US.
Maybe this helps someone out there deciding...