by Craig Anderton
The Mackie Control became such a common hardware controller that most DAWs included “hooks” to allow for them to be controlled by Mackie’s hardware. But that also created another trend—other hardware controllers emulating the Mackie protocol so that non-Mackie controllers could work with these same DAWs because, from the DAW’s standpoint, they appeared identical to the Mackie Control.
These controllers hook up through MIDI. So, the basic procedure for having a DAW work with a Mackie-compatible device is:
Any controller faders usually control channel level, while rotaries control panpots. Buttons typically handle mute or solo, but may handle other functions, like record enable; this depends on how the DAW interprets the Mackie Control data. Also, there are typically Bank shift up/down and Track (also called Channel) shift up/down buttons (labeled Page and Data respectively in the Graphite 49). The Bank buttons change the group of 8 channels being controlled (e.g., from 1-8 to 9-16), while the Track buttons move the group one channel at a time (e.g., from 1-8 to 2-9). Many controllers have transport buttons as well (play, stop, rewind, etc.).
This article tells how to set up a basic Mackie Control that doesn’t use motorized faders. The Mackie Control protocol is actually quite deep, and some programs allow for custom assignments for various controller controls. That requires much more elaboration, so we’ll just concentrate on the basics here.
We’ll use Samson’s Graphite 49 controller as our typical Mackie Control, but these same procedures work with pretty much any Mackie Control-compatible device. Note that the Graphic 49 has five virtual MIDI ports, and all remote control data is transmitted over Graphite’s virtual MIDI port #5. This allows the other ports to carry data like keyboard notes and controller positions to instruments and other MIDI-aware software.
We’ll assume you’ve loaded the preset that corresponds to the programs listed below. However, note that you may be able to call up a different preset for slightly different functionality. For example, if a preset’s upper row of buttons controls solo, they can often control record enable if you call up a preset where the upper row of buttons controls record enable (e.g., the Logic preset).
Graphite 49 looks like a Logic Control; as that’s the default controller, you usually won’t have to do any setup. However if this has been changed for some reason, go Logic Pro > Preferences > Control Surfaces > Setup. In the Setup window, click the New pop-up menu button and choose Install. Click on the Mackie Logic Control entry, click on the Add button, click OK, and you’re done. The faders, rotaries, Bank, Track, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Record Enable, and the lower switches control Mute.
Go Setup > MIDI > Input Devices. Make sure MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49) is checked, then click OK. Then go Setup > Peripherals. Click the MIDI Controllers tab. For Type, choose HUI. Set Receive From to MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49). Send To must be set to something, so choose MIDIOUT2 (Samson Graphite 49). The faders, rotaries, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Mute. However, the Bank and Channel buttons don’t work with the HUI protocol.
In Options > Preferences, choose MackieControl for Control Surface, and set Input to MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49); Output doesn’t need to be assigned. In the MIDI Ports section, turn Remote On for the input that says MackieControl Input MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49). The faders, rotaries, Bank, Track, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Track Activator buttons.
In Edit > Preferences > MIDI Devices, set the MIDI In port to MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49) and the MIDI Out port to MIDIOUT2 (Samson Graphite 49). Click Apply. Click on Control Surfaces under MIDI, then click the Add New Controller button in the upper right. For Controller/Surface, choose Mackie Control and verify that the Input and Output Ports match your previous MIDI port selections. Click OK, click Apply, click Close. The faders, rotaries, Bank, Track, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Mute.
Go Setup > Control Surface Setup. Click the + sign to add a driver, and select Mackie Control. Under Input Port, choose Samson Graphite 49 Controller (channel 1). Click OK. The faders, rotaries, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Mute.
Under Studio One > Options > External Devices, choose Add. Select Mackie Control. Set Receive From to MIDIIN5 (SAMSON Graphite 49). Send To can be set to None. Click on Okm then click on OK again. The faders, rotaries, Bank, Track, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Mute.
Mackie Control works somewhat differently with Reason from a conceptual standpoint, because until Record was integrated with Reason in Version 6, Reason was not a traditional DAW. As a result, Graphite sends out specific control signals that apply to whatever device has the focus. It’s easiest if you also use Graphite 49 as the master keyboard controller, and go Options > Surface Locking and for Lock to Device, select Follow Master Keyboard. Also, create a track for any device you want to control, including processors or devices like the Mixer 14:2. When you click on that track, Graphite 49 will control the associated device. If you choose an Audio Track, slider S1 controls level, the F1 button controls solo, F9 controls mute, and rotary E8 controls pan.
For example, if the 14:2 Mixer has the focus, the faders, rotaries, and buttons work as expected. (as does the transport) although Bank and Channel Shift commands aren’t recognized. If SubTractor has the focus, the controls affect various SubTractor parameters. There’s a bit of trial and error involved with the various devices to find which Graphite 49 controls affect which parameters; you can always create custom presets to control specific instruments, but this goes beyond the scope of this article, as it involves delving into Reason’s documentation and assigning specific controls to specific MIDI channels and controller numbers.
Go Edit > Preferences and click the Control Surfaces tab. Click the Add button; select Mackie as the manufacturer, and Control for the model. Under input, select MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49). For output, select MIDIOUT2 (Samson Graphite 49). Click OK, and make sure Standard is checked.
Note that you can also lock the Graphite 49 to a specific device so that it will control that device, regardless of which track is selected. Go Options > Surface Locking and choose the device to be locked.
Under Options, check External Control. Under Options > Preferences, click the MIDI tab, check the MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49) box under “Make these devices available for MIDI input,” then click Apply. In the External Control and Automation tab, under Available Devices choose Mackie Control and click on Add. Double-click in the Status field and in the dialog box that opens, in the Device Type field choose Emulated Mackie Control Device. Select MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49) for the MIDI input if it is not already selected. Click on OK, then click on OK in the next dialog box. The faders, rotaries, Bank, Track, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Mute.
The faders, rotaries, and Transport buttons work as expected but only the first eight channels can be controlled and it is not possible to do Bank or Track shifting. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Track Activator buttons.
The procedure is identical to Acid Pro, except that the Status field in the External Control and Automation page updates correctly after selecting Emulated Mackie Control Device instead of saying “No Mackie Devices Detected.” Note that only audio channels are controlled.
Go Devices > Device Setup. Click the + sign in the upper left corner and select Mackie Control from the pop-up menu. Under MIDI Input, select MIDIIN5 (Samson Graphite 49) then click on Apply. Click OK. The faders, rotaries, and Transport buttons work as expected. Graphite 49’s upper switches control Solo, and the lower switches control Mute. However, I couldn’t figure out how to get Cubase to recognize Graphite 49’s Bank and Channel buttons; if anyone knows, please add a comment, and I’ll modify this article.
Cubase offers a very cool feature: If you check Enable Auto Select, when you move a Graphite 49 fader it automatically selects that channel.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.