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Softube Console 1 MkIII

Software Mix Environment & Hardware Controller By Sam Inglis
Published April 2024

Softube Console 1 MkIII

The latest version of Softube’s Console 1 gives you even more reasons to abandon the mouse.

Console 1 is now 10 years old. You might expect such an enduring success to have inspired copycat launches from other manufacturers, but not so: Softube’s first foray into hardware has remained almost unique. That, I think, reflects the one‑off blend of expertise, imagination and determination needed to create something that cuts across so many product categories.

You can read our June 2014 review of the original Console 1, and it’s probably worth doing so if you’re new to the concept. To provide a brief recap, the idea is to replace DAW mixer functionality with Softube’s own, based around the emulation of classic large‑format console processing. This is implemented using software and hardware components. First of all, there’s a Console 1 plug‑in, which you instantiate in the last insert slot in every channel on your DAW mixer. Second, there’s a control surface with knobs and buttons that map precisely onto the plug‑in parameters. Tying it all together is an application called Console 1 On Screen Display, which runs in the background on your computer.

When it first launched, Console 1 was almost completely independent of the host DAW. Softube have since worked with software manufacturers to achieve deeper integration. Almost all DAWs now support the ability to transfer track names and numbers into the Console 1 plug‑in automatically, and many go further, for instance by allowing the controller’s mute, solo, volume and pan controls to manipulate those functions in the DAW mixer.

Console 1 users today also benefit from a decade’s worth of plug‑in development. At launch, the system was based around a licensed emulation of the SSL E‑series console. Over the years, numerous alternatives have been added, and it’s possible to mix and match on a per‑channel basis if, for example, you prefer API‑style equalisation with Neve‑style compression on vocals. A tie‑up with Universal Audio means Apollo and Satellite owners can use many of their UAD Powered Plug‑ins within Console 1, too, although you may not get access to all parameters.

At around the same time UAD support was added, back in 2017, a MkII version of the hardware was released. This was largely identical to the MkI, but a move to Chinese manufacturing made it much more affordable. Now, the Year of the Dragon brings us the biggest update yet.

On Your Marks

The hardware controller is now known as Console 1 Channel, to distinguish it from the companion Console 1 Fader surface. It has enjoyed a ground‑up redesign, and although it’s about the same width as its predecessor, it is a fair bit deeper. The layout is similar, with a row of 20 track selection buttons along the top and the EQ controls in the centre, but there are extra controls and, most strikingly, a pair of high‑resolution colour displays. The cosmetics and physical design are all‑new and very classy, with a robust aluminium shell, expensive‑feeling rotary encoders, super‑bright white LED rings and understated panel legending. It is all very monochrome, though; a bit more colour might have made the different sections more easily distinguishable at a glance. The only real ergonomic gripe I can muster is that the buttons used to exit menus are awkwardly positioned above the encoder used to scroll through them.

The brighter LEDs and displays mean Console 1 Channel MkIII requires more current than its bus‑powered predecessors. For this reason, it has two USB‑C ports discretely hidden either side of the centre section. In theory, it too can be bus‑powered, but in practice, I got low power warnings both driving it directly from my Mac Mini and from the ‘high power’ port on a powered USB hub. Softube have evidently anticipated this, because they supply a PSU with a nice long USB cable that can be connected to the second port. Software installation and firmware updates are handled, very smoothly, by Softube’s own Softube Central utility.

The Console 1 MkIII is a little deeper than its predecessors, measuring 435 x 45 x 219mm.The Console 1 MkIII is a little deeper than its predecessors, measuring 435 x 45 x 219mm.


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