The MasterControl combines a FireWire audio interface (ASIO. WDM,and Core Audio), control surface, and room monitor control section in one compact, but not cramped, unit.Intended to be a “this is all you needfor your DAW” device, I feel that Alesishas realized that goal, at least for smaller project studios.
Audio interfacing. There are twoXLR mic/line combo jack ins (with +48Vphantom power that affects both ins simultaneously) and six 1/4" line ins.These also have TRS input jacks. However,MasterControl is expandable viacoax SPDIF and two TOSLINK opticalins (these provide two ADAT ins or oneADAT/one optical S/PDIF in). So, youcan take adevice like thePreSonus Digi-Max D8 orMOTU 8pre, witheight mic ins andADAT out, toincrease thenumber of channelsyou canrecord simultaneously.There are six 1/4" line-levelouts, a footswitch input, and (yes!)physical MIDI in and out DIN connectors.
I’d classify the preamp sound qualityas not in the boutique preamp category,but as a definite overachiever atthis price point. Including only two micpres allows putting more resourcesinto them; those who need more micpres can go the “external box feedingADAT input” route. Also note that eachchannel has an activity/clip LED.
Control surface. The controls areHUI/Mackie Control compatible, soyou’ll be hard-pressed to find a DAW MasterControl can’t control.There are eight bank-switchablelong-throw (100mm) movingfaders for handling up to 24 channels,and a master moving fader.You can also shift faders by a trackat a time instead of by bank. You’llalso find per-channel buttons formute, solo, record, and select, aswell as eight assignable rotarycontrols set up as three banks.These default to pan, send on/off,and send level, but can be user modified. One nice touch is aspace for a “scribble strip” thatshows the current assignments.
Eight assignable buttons (again,with a scribble strip) take care offunctions like punch, save, markerplacement, calling up particularwindows, etc., and the transportcontrols include a jog/shuttlewheel. One very cool feature: Apreview button which when held,shows what a control does in thedisplay, but doesn’t actually sendany data to the computer until yourelease the switch.
Control room functions. You canenable/disable the six outs as threepairs, if you want to (for example)switch among different sets ofpowered speakers—or use all theouts for surround. There are twoheadphone outs (each with a levelcontrol) separate from these outs,as well as monitor level controls.
In use. Presets are included forCubase/Nuendo, Ableton Live (liteversions of both programs areincluded), Sonar, Logic Pro, Samplitude,Digital Performer, ProTools, Reason, SoundTrack Pro,two plug-ins of your choice, andthe Alesis HD24 recorder. Thisdoesn’t mean users of, say, Acidare out of luck; you’ll just have totell Acid it’s seeing a Mackie Control,and do a little configuring.
Getting the MasterControl upand running was simple, due in largepart to excellent documentation.For example,...