Softube’s Console One is marketed as the perfect blend between analog desks and digital mixing
Although its faster workflow is a brilliant aspect, a few features ultimately let it down
We take an in-depth look at the system…
Part of the big appeal of analog desks is a faster mixing workflow thanks in part to the signal running through the circuitry imparting micro-phasing. Not to mention how much easier it is to fix something when the tool is always right in front of you.
The only downsides of hardware are the user being slowed down by the physical size of the desks, time consumption, and the cost of maintenance. Softube’s Console One system is marketed as if it’s the best of both worlds.
The best way I can describe it is software with a dedicated controller – much like Native Instrument’s Maschine.
While users can manually remap the units, most users that have gone this route note it being more trouble than it’s worth. If you’re looking for a DAW controller for your setup, this may not be it.
It is more of a channel strip controller for Softube’s suite of channel strips. In some digital audio workstations (DAWs), additional functionality may be present to further integrate it into its user’s DAW of choice.
Some of these features include automatic track/channel renaming inside of the Console One ecosystem, transport control, and fader control. Out of the three DAWs I work in (Logic Pro, Luna, and Pro Tools), none of them are fully integrated with the Console One ecosystem. The two DAWs everything is fully integrated with are Cubase and Ableton.
While this may detract some users, it is really the workflow and how things just immediately sound better with it that has kept me around.
In Luna, while I do not have access to everything like automatic renaming of tracks and transport control, functionally it works as it should. In Logic, track renaming is back but it seems like something random will mess everything up like all of the tracks acting like they are grouped – seemingly in inverse ways.
With Pro Tools, in the beginning, it never seemed to play along very well with its protocol. However, as of late, it seems to be the better option as far as a host DAW goes for my current needs – and it’s just due to the track renaming and overall stability over something like Logic or Luna.
It seems to be up to Softube to work with these DAW companies that are exclusively running plugins on audio unit architecture, though after waiting for four years, I have serious doubts of that ever happening.
Console One: Verdict
When I first purchased what was the first piece of their Console One ecosystem, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Was it just a DAW controller or was this something similar to other plugin-specific controllers?
What I found was that it was a little of both but what ultimately was the biggest selling point was the faster workflow it offered.
Unfortunately, though, that’s not to say that there still aren’t problems. Console One is an interesting case of an amazing product with some of the worst business practices for a plugin developer to adopt.
How It Sounds (9/10)
With complete honesty, these next two categories are the only reason I use this product despite the workarounds I find myself having to do.
Manually renaming your tracks inside of Console One is one of the most horrible experiences you can subject yourself to if you just wanna mix the damn record. It can easily add an extra 30 minutes to your session and just bring your energy completely down.
Luckily for you, this is really only an issue in Luna, but unfortunately for me, Luna happens to be my preferred DAW. Lately, it (the renaming issue) has been tempting me to switch DAWs to Pro Tools for mixing – but I haven’t crossed that bridge yet.
While Console One seems to work fine in Pro Tools, I have other reasons for wanting to remain using Luna and Console One.
I kind of keep referring to Console One as a unit with its own sound but it’s important to remember that it is just an emulation of various channel strips Softube has available for purchase.
These strips can range from the SSL 4k which comes included out of the box, the SSL XL 9K, American, British, Chandler, Weiss Empirical Labs, and more.
I can’t speak too much on the authenticity of their sound, but they sound comparable to other emulations. What really makes it shine though, is just how fast you can dial sounds in.
With Console One, it is like they took the layout of a channel strip, turned it to its side, kept the traditional fader layout, and then gave users the ability to switch channels on the top of the channel strip.
This allows users to work very quickly on a mix without having to look at their screens nearly as much.
The signal flow in the strip can be changed around using the “order” button and everything beyond reverb and delay is right there for you to use on every channel. In some DAWs like Cubase, you can even use sends.
Once you get the hang of the workflow, it’s one of the fastest and most enjoyable mixing experiences one can have with software. It gets even better if you save it as a template. By placing all of your immediate, non-bussed, tracks with console one as the first insert, you can save a lot of time down the road.
Speaking of setting up templates, the preset button is a handy way to not only save your presets but also recall them at any time, helping the process of making a new template a little easier – or even if you just made a new track for that new layer in that sound you’re making.
When you set up Console One like that, it is just such a nice immediate experience. You just start mixing. Sure, there may be the odd project where you find yourself just having to reach for Fab Filter’s Pro Q3 or Oeksound’s Soothe 2 – but beyond that, I find myself doing 60%-80% of the mix in Console One.
Users can even use instances of certain Universal Audio plugins in Console One where the plugins gain an extra feature – a wet knob!
An added bonus is that since Console One also encourages users to not look at their screens as much, it also helps you become a better engineer and an all-around faster mixer. You start to really understand the term ‘use your ears’ with this product as it does really encourage rejecting visual stimulation – as overstimulation of your vision does reduce your ability to hear accurately.
My favorite section has to be the shape section, which has some of the most user-friendly and pleasant sounding gates I have ever personally used. My favorite one being their stock 4K gate.
Why? Because you get a sustain knob – which surprisingly comes and saves me in a pinch when the singer or guitarist might have stopped the note a millisecond too fast.
On top of that, there is a punch knob that gives it a little more transients – or takes them away. The shape section is just an overall lifesaver in the mixing phase.
Admittedly I don’t use this feature much these days since I’m doing a lot of stuff in Luna – that and Luna and Console’s (Universal Audio’s) coding is pretty similar, leading to your computer to start freaking out.
But… When I did all of my tracking in Logic, this was my favorite feature. Apollo Central allows users to control their Console (Universal Audio’s) using Console One (Softube).
Apollo Central is probably the best implementation of Softube’s MIDI control function beyond just controlling Console One. In Console (UA), users of Console One (Softube) can control the sends, volume, what plugins they’re using in that session, but even control the Universal Audio plugins – albeit usually in some limited form.
Though, that makes sense if you think about it – since not every plugin has the same parameters, the same number of bands, or a hard gate. The only real unfortunate thing with my whole set up though is that Luna, Apollo Central, and Console One do not play well together.
Sure, I could just record in Logic or Pro Tools, but if I’m ultimately bouncing it all out to bring into Luna, starting in Luna is just the faster, more efficient use of my time.
Actually, there’s not an objectively bad piece to this tool. Even the limitation of only four bands in the EQ is really a good thing since sometimes when we have too many options we experience “decision paralysis.”
If there was one thing to harp on, it would be that the EQs are kind of bad for surgical style cuts, but let’s be honest, there’s not a lot that would make us ditch our precious Pro Q 3 out there anyways.
I find it more helpful to think of its suite of EQs as more musical EQs – where broader strokes are used. Their EQs in general are used to make room or take it away, not to fix bad audio. All that considered is why this next section stings the most.
Where Could Console One Be Improved?
Customer Service/Support (2/10)
I genuinely do not know why they even have a support ticket system. They never answer – or if they do answer, it’s to resolve a request from years ago – without actually resolving it.
Unfortunately, you’re kind of on your own… relegated to scouring the group on Facebook (of all things) for a workaround. I have no idea what is gonna happen if my unit(s) go down, but it’s really no different from any other channel strip. You just don’t have the controller.
Some Notes On Compatibility With Softube Console One
In general, if you want the best experience, you need to be on a Mac that is NOT an M1, and you need to run it as VST3 inside of Cubase, Fruity Loops, or Ableton.
The number of DAWs where this product works flawlessly can be counted on one hand whereas most engineers don’t actually work in that smaller section of the community.
Not that there’s anything wrong with those other DAWs and their platforms, but “most” working engineers and producers are using Pro Tools to some degree.
Without the product being fully usable in at least Pro Tools, that is going to turn off a lot of engineers from considering the product. Especially since really, it’s not really bringing a whole lot to the table other than a wet/dry knob that users can’t get elsewhere.
It’s really just an emulation that users can get elsewhere and set up themselves using a MIDI controller. Albeit, this is a much more time-consuming and headache-inducing alternative.
It seems like the philosophy when it came to getting it right was just whether or not it just ran in other DAWs, not to what extent it does.
So, should you get Console One? Maybe – if you’re on one of the DAWs like Cubase or Studio One you could definitely make a worse decision.
Though I do enjoy the one-of-a-kind workflow, you could really do the same thing without it. Probably for a lot less than they are charging you.
The Behringer Xtouch comes in around $600 USD, offers more DAW control for some DAWs like Logic, and users could just make a template with your current favorite channel strip across the whole template.
You can even control that channel strip plugin from the Xtouch – maybe not as nicely with dedicated knobs, but with banks, it’s doing the same thing. While I do really enjoy the product, I will admit that it doesn’t really do that much I couldn’t have done already.
My suggestion, find a DAW controller you really like that is in your budget. Get to know that piece and how to control other parameters. Then get a $25 channel strip from Plugin Alliance when they have a sale.
You’ve essentially just recreated Console One for half the price. But you don’t get that encouragement to use your ears… and to that, I would say to just take a step back and listen with your eyes closed.
You’d be surprised by the problems that leap out to you when you turn off that visual stimulation. It’s a scientific fact after all that our hearing becomes reduced the more visually stimulated we are.
The tools we use do not define us or the work we do. Use what you find appealing. For some users, that may be the Console One ecosystem, for others that might be a touch screen. Use what you like and what allows you to work the fastest.