The S1 brings Avid's EUCON control within reach of mere mortals.
Avid's S1 is a product that can be viewed through many lenses. It's an update on and replacement for the older Artist Mix. It's an affordable distillation of the high-end S6 modular control surface. And it's part of a mature and coherent ecosystem that also includes the free Avid Control app and the existing Pro Tools Dock.
This ecosystem is all based around EUCON, a protocol developed by Euphonix before that company was bought out by Avid in 2010. Whereas older control protocols such as MCU and HUI are MIDI-based, EUCON data is transmitted over Ethernet. This offers much higher bandwidth, allowing EUCON to support finer fader resolution and richer controller data, so not only are EUCON controllers faster and more responsive, they are also able to control many more DAW and plug-in features.
Avid want to see as many host DAWs as possible implement support for the protocol, but they won't let anyone else make EUCON controllers. Consequently, if you want an affordable eight-fader EUCON control surface, the S1 is now the only game in town. Along with the rest of the EUCON ecosystem, it's naturally supported in Pro Tools, while other 'qualified' DAWs include Apple's Logic and Steinberg's Nuendo and Cubase.
Before describing the specific features of the S1, a brief overview of the EUCON system is in order. At the top of the EUCON tree are the S6 and S4, professional-level 'console replacement' surfaces assembled to user requirements from a number of different modular panels. These include the Automation Module, with transport controls, jog/shuttle wheel, 'focus fader', assignable buttons and more; the Knob Module, which provides eight columns of four rotary encoders, each with associated buttons and OLED displays; and the Process Module, which combines one row of encoders and displays with numerous buttons that assign different functions to Process and Knob Module encoders.
The S6 palette also includes two screen-based modules. At the heart of things is the Master Touch Module, which combines a multi-point colour touch-screen with assignable encoders, knobs and buttons, and can take control of almost any function within a EUCON-enabled host program. The other S6 screen-based module is the Display Module, a highly configurable colour screen designed primarily as a meterbridge; most S6 configurations would use a Display Module for each bank of eight channels alongside a Fader Module, a Process Module and one or more Knob Modules.
Some S6 modules, such as the Joystick Module for surround panning, are unique to that surface. However, much of the remaining S6 functionality is available in other, more affordable ways. In fact, a surprising amount of EUCON control can be had for free, courtesy of the Avid Control app for iOS and Android. This allows multiple tablets or phones to be wirelessly connected to a single host DAW system. One of these connected devices is designated the Master, and offers much of the functionality of the S6 Master Touch Module.
A tablet running Avid Control in Master mode is a pretty powerful controller in its own right, while the Pro Tools Dock is a hardware unit that complements this functionality. Together, a Pro Tools Dock and Avid Control give you something closely resembling the Automation and Master Touch Modules...