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With Avid’s deceptively effective new mixing controller, fusing hardware tactility with touchscreen convenience, is the S1 set up to usurp its siblings? In my Avid S1 review, you’ll find out everything you could want to know and discover if this is the mixing platform you need in your life.
If you’re new to music production software or unsure whether you’re using the right software for your needs, it makes great sense to read as much information as possible regarding all your options.
Avid’s S1 can be viewed through many lenses. It is an affordable distillation of the higher-end S6 and an update on (and replacement) for the older Artist Mix.
The S1 includes Pro Tools Dock and the free Avid Control app. Personally, I believe it to be the brand’s most diminutive hardware mixing system yet. And my review and guide will bring all my findings to you.
- My Bottom Line up Front
- My Avid S1 Review
- Avid S1 Key Specifications
- Avid S1 Features
- Pros and Cons of the Avid S1
- Alternatives to the Avid S1
- SSL UF8
- PreSonus FaderPort Mix Production Controller
- Behringer X-Touch Mini - Best for Budget
- Buying a Mixer - Buyers Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts on the Avid S1
My Bottom Line up Front
This isn’t an essential product. Yet, the Avid S1 makes life dramatically easier and can astronomically cut down your time resources.
My Avid S1 Review
There seems to be much discussion online about whether the Avid S1 is worth its price point. At over $1,000, it isn’t a budget product, but hopefully, my findings will help you to decide whether it is something you can justify or, indeed, need.
The Avid S1 promises rich visual feedback with unparalleled speed. There’s hands-on control of all your favorite software, including Cubase, Logic Pro X, Pro Tools (check out our comparison of Logic Pro Vs. Pro Tools here), and Premiere Pro.
You can connect the slimline device to your Android tablet or iPad for easy touch workflows and fundamentally mix audio more intuitively.
One of the biggest advantages to the S1 is its more compact size, which allows it to fit comfortably between your keyboard and display. But is it just a glorified keyboard and mouse? And, is it something you need to make your music production better?
Let’s look a little more closely at the Avid S1.
Avid S1 Key Specifications
|Faders||X8 100 mm long-throw, touch-sensitive|
|Knobs||X8 touch-sensitive, push-top, rotary encoders|
|Additional Controls||Assorted hardware buttons for various functions, including Record-enable, Solo, Bank, and Nudge.|
|Software Interface||Avid Control app compatible with iPad or Android tablet (tablet not included)|
|Dimensions||(D) 14.9-in x (W) 12.3-in x (H) 1.2-in – 3.8-in|
|Latest Price||See here|
Avid S1 Features
Avid S1 Ease of Start-Up
You are able to use the S1 immediately upon plugging in; the startup couldn’t be more simple. You can see the active tracks via the OLED display and use solos, cuts, and faders to start balancing your mix.
I found it straightforward to navigate your DAW with the assistance of Avids S1, and it’s easy to get to grips with personalizing its user keys to help with edits.
Avid S1 Attention to Detail
Although the components are more basic than you may expect, given the fairly high price point, everything has been expertly designed with the S1. There is an external DC input, USB socket, and ¼-in footswitch socket.
On top of the panel, you will find eight identical channels, each with solo, mute, and fader buttons, an encoding knob, and an OLED display.
Each of the eight channels has buttons for record, select, and in/out actions.
Above the channels, you’ll find a neat row of thirteen buttons – with a Shift button accompanying to effectively double the functions to twenty-six. By simply adjusting the channel encoders, you can shuffle through tracks in banks of eight, which I found an incredibly convenient and useful option.
Below the channels, there are a further eight (soft) keys – I didn’t find much of a use for four of these, but the four user-assignable commands for most used actions are pretty cool.
Avid S1 High-Resolution OLED Displays plus Free Pro Tools Control App
Avid S1 integrates with the free Pro Tools, which hugely enhances your workflow and provides instant visual feedback. I found the hands-on experience to be comprehensive and that the S1 is a compact yet large-format console that is remarkably versatile.
The Monitoring view allows you to quickly control listen-back and talk-back and accelerate your mixing and recording workflows. You can either opt to use multiple units at once or stick with the free Pro Tools to have a single integrated surface.
Avid S1 Compact Form
I love the compact size of the S1; it fits comfortably in a backpack and sits perfectly between your keyboard and display. There’s all the status information you need due to the OLED screens, and although the interface looks a little complex, it is completely user-friendly and soon becomes second nature to navigate.
It’s easy to store the S1 when not in use, which I believe to be a significant advantage over much larger devices that have to make their presence known around the clock.
Avid S1 Scalability
The price and size of the Avid S1 make it a solid choice for multi-purpose facilities and agencies, where audio projects are required to be of decent quality but not yet a huge priority. With the S1, there is the perfect balance between good value for money and the ability to create a professional and complex mix.
If the time comes where you outgrow the S1, there isn’t the need to go and lay out another large investment on a more expansive desk. Instead, you can link up to four additional S1 units.
Avid S1 EUCON Support
Any fan of Avid consoles will be used to the EUCON protocol to communicate with Pro Tools, and the S1 is no exception. In fact, it goes above and beyond what one may imagine.
The EUCON integration means that you can continue to use the S1 if you want to move your mixes to Logic Adobe Audition, Propellerhead, Ableton, or Cubase. Additionally, you can control video editing apps such as Premiere and Media Composer through the S1 interface.
I believe this contributes to making the S1 one of the most adaptable studio accessories that are around today.
Pros and Cons of the Avid S1
As with all products, the Avid S1 has its advantages and drawbacks – which I have outlined just below.
Pros of the Avid S1
- It’s an award winner!
- Affordable Price Point
- Free Pro Tools
- App Compatibility
Cons of the Avid S1
- Although a solid construction, some consumers cite concerns over the durability
Alternatives to the Avid S1
If you’re not convinced that the Avid S1 is the best speaker for you, then here are some comparable products.
The SSL UF8 is slightly cheaper, although due to being primarily distributed from the UK, shipping costs can mean this isn’t so much of a budget pick. I found this DAW controller to be very nicely constructed, with smooth rotary encoders, clear and bright color displays, and high-quality, touch-sensitive faders.
The Soft Keys are particularly impressive, and I believe they offer a great deal of DAW control – beyond what the core MIDI protocols support. You can operate up to three DAWs at the same time, and even for complete beginners, this would be a simple setup; extremely easy to use.
Now for the bad points. I found the aging HUI and MCU control protocols to limit the UF8’s capabilities slightly and that the Soft Keys (as impressed as I was with these) were not ideally positioned to act as modifier keys or operate DAW transport.
- Strong Metal Housing
- Clear, Bright Color Display
- Touch Sensitive Faders
- UK and China Distribution Centers – may mean a slight delay in shipping.
- Aging HUI and MCU Controls
- Awkward Positioning of Soft Keys
PreSonus FaderPort Mix Production Controller
The PreSonus FaderPort Mix Production Controller is solidly built, efficient, colorful, functional, and fun to use!
It isn’t a perfect product, and some things are missing, but I found that the design makes up for this with some particularly useful functions I would never have expected, given the price point. There are also some clever alternate control procedures.
Overall, this is a truly impressive piece of kit and definitely worth considering if you do a lot of mixing. The brand has several buying options, such as the smaller FaderPort 8, which has pretty much all of the same features but is much more compact – and almost half the price.
With the FaderPort 16, you have 89 different buttons covering 104 functions. Yet, the device is still desk-top-friendly. There are all the features you could wish for to make music, such as Timeline Scrolling, Master Fader Control, Zooming, and Innovative Session Navigator.
The software included is phenomenal and includes Studio One Artist, Studio Magic, and Ableton Live Lite. The FaderPort 16 is also compatible with most recording software for Windows and Mac, such as Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, and Ableton Live.
- X16 Touch-Sensitive Faders (High Resolution)
- 89 Buttons and 104 Functions
- Fantastic Software Included
- Compact Design (20-in x 12-in approx)
- Compatible With Most Recording Software
- LCD Scribble Strips in place of more advanced OLED Display
- Single Pan-Pot usable but not great
Behringer X-Touch Mini – Best for Budget
Behringer is known for providing affordable products for music makers, and the Behringer X-Touch Mini is no exception.
This German-built mixer is highly durable, performs really well, and is an excellent solution for those who aren’t ready to invest in a more expensive mixer. I believe the X-Touch Mini to be the best value choice out there at the moment.
The X-Touch Mini lets you manipulate several aspects of production software in a very user-friendly way – I believe it to be the perfect balance between too much and not enough technology. However, a professional musician may find it somewhat lacking when it comes to the functions available.
There is built-in Mackie Control emulation that means you’re able to work on almost every professional audio production software, and you have hands-on control for the major DAWs, effects, and instruments at your fingertips. There’s no setup, and you can use the X-Touch Mini straight from the box.
Although small, this interface features eight rotary controls (with LED collars), sixteen illuminated buttons, and two independent layers with twenty-five control elements each. I love the ultra-compact design of this device, and along with its affordability, it’s a no-brainer for people who want to try out a music mixer without having to lay out a lot of money.
- Excellent Value for Money
- Slimline, Compact Design
- Easy to Use
- Immediate Set up
- Lacking more intricate features found on more expensive alternatives
Buying a Mixer – Buyers Guide
When looking to find the best music production software, a mixer can be seen as an essential item. And indeed one that can form the heart of a recording studio. And in my buyer’s guide, you’ll learn of the things to look out for to ensure you choose the best mixer for your home or professional studio.
Channels and Inputs
It’s important to note how many channels and inputs you’re going to need – and not to always opt for the most, as they will up the price point and could be totally unnecessary. Here’s where I believe Avids S1 has a perfect balance – but more about that further on!
Consider how many microphones you will need to connect, the number of direct inputs for instruments such as bass or guitar, stereo inputs for keyboards, and if future expansion is a prospect, too.
Some mixers provide multi-band parametric EQ on every channel, whereas others offer more basic high/low-frequency adjustments. It would be wise to think about how much sound-shaping capability you will need, or want, from your mixer to ensure you make the most appropriate choice.
Onboard Processors and Effects
If you’re looking to buy a mixer to put into a rig that has outboard processing gear already, then onboard processing is unlikely to be a high priority.
However, a huge appeal of onboard processing is that you won’t need to transport or add any outboard gear. Basically, consider what you need and look to see if the mixer you’re looking at has the correct balance.
Will you only be mixing input channels to the main mixer outputs, or do you need input channels to be routed to external recording systems or processing gear?
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What DAW Are Most Producers Using?
Answer: Avid Pro Tools is the DAW primarily favored by today’s producers. This is the industry standard for professionals.
Question: What is the Main Benefit of a Control Surface?
Answer: A good control surface will give you the ability to produce, mix, and record in a much more intuitive manner. Although they’re not essential, you’d be hard pushed to find a professional recording artist not using one today.
Question: Do You Need a Control Surface for a Home Studio?
Answer: If you’re looking to become a serious recording artist, or are a real enthusiast, then a control surface is something worth considering for a home studio.
It will quite simply change your life. Instead of doing everything virtually via a mouse and keyboard, you’re much more hands-on, which can lead to greater creativity and a better end result.
It can also save things like Carpal Tunnel with repetitive mouse clicking!
Final Thoughts on the Avid S1
For those who believe the Avid S1 and controllers, in general, to be little more than a glorified mouse, then in a sense, you’re not wrong – exactly. You don’t need this device in your life, and you are perfectly able to do everything the S1 does by simply using your laptop or desktop PC.
However, once you begin to play around with the Avid S1 and integrate its features into your workflow, then it will be hard not to see how much more effective, efficient, and fun it is.
Especially for people who are looking to record professionally, a control surface mixer is the way forward. Whether that is the Avid S1 or a comparable product.
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