The studio keeps growing

Continuing my recent spending spree on my new Visa card, I’ve made some more improvements in my basement studio.

I upgraded the entry-level Steinberg Cubase SE to the full Cubase SX3. This was necessary, in part, to support the second big purchase: a Mackie Control Universal control surface.

The Mackie is truly the Cadillac of control-surfaces right now. And with a price to go along with it. There must be a huge markup on these things. They’re basically just a fancy mouse/keyboard, no audio ever touches them.

Behringer has been doing some very interesting things with their B-Control line of products. I like them, but they lack the nice all-in-one integration of the Mackie Control Universal. I think if Behringer put together a serious all-in-one control-surface at their usual price-point, they would kick some ass.

I had some trouble getting the Cubase SX3/Mackie combination working properly at first. When I played back one of our previous projects in SX3 with the Mackie, I got a lot of audio dropouts. Very similar to the kind of dropouts I used to see when I had my wireless network card enabled during audio work. Not the kind of “click” sound that often denotes a word-sync problem. The system would freeze up, then continue a few seconds later.

Eventually, I determined that the problem was the MIDI ports. On my system, Cubase for some reason detects only “emulated” MIDI ports through DirectX. Cubase, according to their Knowledge Base, tries to filter out redundant MIDI ports. But in my case, it’s filtering out the “true” MIDI ports, and presenting only the “emulated” DirectX ports. When I try to run the control surface through it, with the huge blast of continuous MIDI traffic that the Mackie Control requires, the system can’t handle it.

I found on their web-site how to configure Cubase to stop filtering out the “true” MIDI ports. When I switched the Mackie Control to use the true ports, every became rock solid again.

The Mackie Control, so far, seems to be quite a delight to use. I look forward to breaking it in for real during a session with my brother and friends tomorrow evening.

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