Group: Super Admins
Joined: Dec. 1999
||Posted: Jan. 13 2015, 11:30
They're Euphonix/Avid Artist Mix controllers. I own an earlier generation of Digidesign (who were bought by Avid) control surface and like it a lot, and from what I've seen of these (built by Euphonix, who Avid also bought), they're good quality pieces of kit which should give you a lot of years of reliable service. The displays have got a reasonable number of characters on them, so identifying what fader's doing what shouldn't be a big challenge in most cases - that depends on what kind of mixes you normally do, if you're usually only dealing with 16 channels or so, it matters a whole lot less than when you've been given something with 100 tracks which you've not labelled yourself and you really need all the help you can get with keeping track of what's where!
It does have a set of buttons you can use as transport keys, but bear in mind that it's a shared function using some of the solo/mute buttons rather than a dedicated set. If you reckon you'll use the transport controls a lot (I do find I use them a lot myself), you may find it's worth looking at an Artist Transport as well or, if you can live with only four faders, you may want to try the Artist Control, which combines a set of faders (no scribble strip displays above them, though...) with transport controls and a multipurpose touchscreen.
I think having faders and solo/mute keys is also generally useful, particularly if you're working with clients and want to demonstrate rough changes to the mix quickly. I've very occasionally done mixes where I've turned all the automation and ridden the faders up and down, but generally I'll use them to get a rough balance, then do the fine automation tweaks on-screen in Pro Tools's edit window. They, and some kind of transport controller, are generally nice things to have if you're a hands on kind of person - I certainly like to have controls to touch and prod at. You of of course still don't have the advantage of an analogue desk where everything's got a place and stays there, so you can navigate pretty much by muscle memory alone...but on the other hand, it does mean that you can do a 100+ channel mix on faders without having them fill the entire room!
There are of course cheaper alternatives, and whether those are better choices no doubt will depend on what software you're using and what kind of work you're doing with them. An issue with some can be that the faders are quite noisy - whether that's a problem may depend on what kind of levels you normally work at and whether you do mixes with a lot of automation in them...if they're rarely moving much, the amount of noise they make when they do might not really be a problem.
I can say that when I eventually come to replace my current control surface, it'll quite likely be an Artist Mix (or two) that I replace it with, quite likely with the transport as well. Whether they're a good investment for you depends on what you're hoping to do with them, but they ought to do the job of controlling Pro Tools (and a lot of other software) well!