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  • Hey Brian - MUCH appreciated that you took the time even at this relatively late hour to answer people's questions. :thu:

    And I'll definitely put the CI2 through its paces. I suspect the MR816/CC121 aspect will be done by then, but one cool thing about pro reviews is that it's easy to add addenda.

    Thanks again.
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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    • Great stuff!
      Looks like the CI2 is just what I need, if the mic pres and converters are top quality

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      • Let's turn our attention to the CC121 controller. In a way, it's like you took a Frontier Design AlphaTrack or PreSonus FaderPort, added multiple Cubase-specific features, then put the whole thing in a shiny, compact box with a metal front panel - see the first attached image. However, whereas the AlphaTrack or FaderPort will set you back less than $200, the CC121 weighs in at $429.99 street, or $549 list. I figure at that price, it needs to really help speed up your workflow to justify its existence.

        However, I should also add there's a reason for the price. The build quality is very solid - not one bit of it feels cheap. There's a long-throw moving fader, 14 standard knobs, one "AI knob" (more on this later), and a bunch of switches - transport, EQ stages on/off, channel strip controls, and some multipurpose switches. There are also a bunch o' colored lights to clue you in on what's happening (second attached image). This is a piece of gear that would feel perfectly comfortable in a pro-level studio.
        _____________________________________________
        There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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        • Installation was...well, shall we say, "not painless." It actually took me several hours of messing around before I could get Cubase 5 to recognize the CC121.

          Given that there was an update to V1.5 of the CC121 Tools application, I tried installing that first, along with the updated MIDI USB drivers needed to communicate with the CC121. When that didn't work, I thought it might be the dreaded "Windows XP 10-Port MIDI Limit" issue, so I deleted some MIDI entries in the registry...no big deal, but it still didn't work. Then I thought maybe the CC121 needed the firmware update that's part of the 1.5 update, but I couldn't get it to update either.

          So I de-installed the CC121 tools and drivers and installed the original ones that came with the unit, thinking that maybe I needed to do those first prior to installing a newer version. Besides, I figured an older version would work with Cubase 5, but just might have a few rough edges. During the re-installation the install routine said it couldn't find a file (even though it was on the installation disk) and I needed to locate it, so I did...but that didn't solve the problem.

          A trip to the Steinberg knowledgebase brought up an article on MIDI port limits that was pretty sketchy - I wouldn't recommend messing with the registry if you're a newbie and all you have to work with is that article. But having already cleared out some ports I didn't think that was the issue, so I went to the Steinberg forums.

          Within a few minutes, I had the answer: Apparently Cubase 5 requires the 1.5 extension to work properly, and won't work with the older version. So I updated the extensions, and Cubase finally linked to the CC121. I then updated the MIDI driver, and everything worked perfectly. For the coup de grace, I updated the firmware and that worked too.

          That still doesn't explain why things didn't work initially, but perhaps there was a MIDI port issue (which, incidentally, has reared its ugly head in more than one Pro Review), and that had to be cleared up first. Who knows! The one sense I get from the Steinberg forums is that very few people had problems with the installation, so I suspect they're not reviewers who install and un-install a zillion devices a year.

          Before going on with the CC121, I'd like to digress slightly and talk about Cubase in general. I'm very familiar with Cubase, in fact it was my introduction to serious DAW software. To generalize, I get the sense that Cubase is the type of program that expects you to commit to it, and in return, you get a reliable program with a good workflow. What I mean by "committing" is that there are a lot of setup options, which cuts both ways: If all you use is Cubase, you simply set things up once for your system - and from that point on, you basically boot your computer, open Cubase, and everything's good to go. This includes all your preferences, roster of instruments, control room settings, and the like. On the other hand if you bounce back and forth between audio interfaces, setting up your "virtual studio" each time you switch over can get to be tedious.

          I do find that it sometimes takes more clicks to perform certain functions than with other programs, but that's balanced by the fact that Cubase has made an incredible comeback - Cubase 5 adds a lot of really useful features, and leaves behind the days when it didn't keep up with the competition. Those who stuck with Cubase are surely glad to see that Yamaha has remained committed to what Cubase is all about, but Cubase 5 is sufficiently advanced it will likely attract new users as well.

          But there's also an interesting backstory behind Cubase's fallow period, and hopefully no one at Steinberg will think this is out of line. A reason why Steinberg's audio engine lagged behind is a sad one; several years ago one of the main engineers at Steinberg who worked on the audio end of things, Mark Badger, died suddenly from a congenital heart condition. They say no one's irreplaceable, but this is a small industry, and people who can tweak DAW audio engines don't exactly grow on trees. That's one reason it was very encouraging when Yamaha acquired Steinberg; if a company needed digital audio expertise, it would be harder to find a more compelling partner than Yamaha.

          Bottom line: Anyone who wrote off Cubase did so prematurely; Cubase 5 definitely delivers. Okay, now that I've got that out of the way, back to the CC121.
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          • The CC121 links automatically to whatever channel you select. However, there are also two channel select buttons that step up or down through the channels, so you can do channel selection from the CC121. This makes it easy to step from one channel to the next without having to use the mouse.

            The centerpiece of the CC121, at least to me, is the EQ control section: This basically takes the virtual EQ from the VST Audio Channel and turns it into hardware. The complement of controls is four knobs for gain, four for frequency, and four for Q. Each section also has an on/off switch (see the attached image).

            An EQ Type switch, when enabled, allows a stage's controls to adjust the EQ type instead of whatever it controls normally. An additional All Bypass switch bypasses all four stages simultaneously.

            Okay, no big deal, we've seen controls mapped to EQ before, right? But with the CC121, the feel of the knob acceleration is superb. Spin the knob, and the setting changes fast; turn it slowly, and you have exceptionally fine resolution. Because these are endless encoders, when dealing with fine resolution, you can do multiple turns to cover a relatively small range of control.

            In other words, the "mapping" between how the EQ changes compared to physical motion is very tight and has a great feel. For someone like me who considers EQ the most important part of mixing and mastering, this kind of tactile control is a treat - the implementation for controlling EQ is a definite CC121 high point.
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            • I should probably cover some of the more prosaic elements first and save the AI Knob until last, but it's just too darn cool not to mention right away. It's really ingenious and simple: For any given window with the focus, if there are automatable parameters in the window or you're dealing with a VST3 plug-in, whatever control your mouse hovers over - instrument parameter, mixer, button, effect, you name it - the AI knob controls it. You don't even have to click on the parameter; it's uncanny to float the mouse over various parameters, adjusting them as you go with the AI knob. I haven't seen this approach taken before, but it's a brilliant way to deal with hardware control of software parameters. :thu:

              But what if you want to adjust a parameter while moving the mouse around elsewhere, for example, to adjust a filter envelope amount while tweaking cutoff? You're covered there, too. Hover the mouse over the parameter, and click on the AI Knob's Lock button (see the attached image; now the AI Knob will adjust only that parameter until unlocked, and your mouse can go run off elsewhere.

              It's difficult to describe in print about how well this concept works; I even thought of maybe doing a short video, but I don't think that would get it across, either. It's a departure from the usual control surface philosophy where the idea is to avoid using the mouse, but in this case, the CC121 provides an extremely ergonomic mouse/knob combination. I wouldn't be surprised if other companies stole - I mean, were inspired by - this approach, because it makes a lot of sense.

              The VST3 plugs that come with Cubase of course work perfectly, but I was a little surprised that many other effects worked to some degree or another with the AI Knob (for example, the Virsyn VTAPE processors work just like the VST3 plug-ins included with Cubase, so I assume this means they're VST3-compatible). Several Voxengo effects worked as well, and the Cakewalk Linear Phase effects series worked too - but you had to actually click on the control, as hovering wasn't enough (and with the LP64 EQ, you couldn't change the EQ curve on the GUI, but could by clicking on the numerical fields). On the other hand, some effects were non-starters: Waves, URS, Guitar Rig, AmpliTube, PSP Audioware, etc. With Peavey's ReValver Mk III, the AI Knob scrolled up and down through the effects "rack" but couldn't change parameters.

              Line 6 POD Farm sorta worked, but like some other effects, the acceleration seemed to work in reverse: Small knob movements covered more range than spinning the AI Knob. Go figure.

              Given that Steinberg doesn't specify operation with other plug-ins, probably the best way to approach it is just to be thankful when a non-Steinberg effect works, and otherwise adjust parameters as you did before the CC121 joined your setup.

              Oh, and I almost forgot: There's also a Jog button for the AI Knob, which when on, turns the knob into a jog wheel - another nice bonus.
              _____________________________________________
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              • With the version 1.5 driver and firmware update for the CC121, the AI knob will support 3rd-party (as well as our own) VST2 and VST3 plug-in parameters that support scroll-wheel mouse functionality. There are also 1.5 updates for the MR816 series as well.

                In addition, the AI knob that appears on the new CI2 USB Studio interface supports VST2 and VST3 plug-in parameters that support scroll-wheel mouse functionality.

                There is a new CI2 video posted at http://steinbergnorthamerica.com/hardware/ci2-usb-interface.

                I will be sending Craig a unit for review very soon.

                Thanks.
                <div class="signaturecontainer">Best regards,<br />
                <br />
                Brian McGovern<br />
                Steinberg North America</div>

                Comment


                • With the version 1.5 driver and firmware update for the CC121, the AI knob will support 3rd-party (as well as our own) VST2 and VST3 plug-in parameters that support scroll-wheel mouse functionality. There are also 1.5 updates for the MR816 series as well.


                  I was just about to add a note about using the AI knob with VST2 plugs that do scroll wheel support. I thought I had downloaded all the docs for the update, but there was an extra doc on new features that's different from the release notes or operation manual PDF, and I learned about the VST2 operations there.

                  So...thanks for pointing this out! BTW I'm pretty sure the MR816 part of this review includes the 1.5 updates.
                  _____________________________________________
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                  • Here's another goodie from the 1.5 update: The EQ controls can change identity and become Quick Controls as well as control sends. You enter this mode by pressing down on the the EQ Type and All Bypass buttons simultaneously; the EQ Q knobs operate Quick Controls 1-4, and the EQ Frequency knobs control Quick Controls 5-8.

                    When in this mode, you can press the EQ Type or All Bypass button; the selected button will flash, and each button provides different options. When the EQ Type button flashes, the EQ On buttons turn toggle sends 1-4 on or off, and the G knob controls the send level for the respective sends. Selecting the All Bypass button provides the same functions for sends 5-8.

                    If you want to go back to controlling EQ, you just press the EQ Type and All Bypass controls again. I must say, this is a great feature that makes it much easier to set up sends for a track.
                    _____________________________________________
                    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                    • One more thing about 1.5: If you press both Channel Select buttons simultaneously while a folder track is selected, you open the folder track. If an audio or instrument track is selected, this opens up the automation track. These are toggle functions, so you exit by again pressing both Channel Select buttons simultaneously.
                      _____________________________________________
                      There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                      • This is totally straightforward. As shown in the attached image, there are dedicated buttons for stop, play, record, fast forward, rewind, jump to beginning (or to previous marker if markers are present), jump to end (or to next marker), and loop on/off. Not much to say here, except that this is obviously faster than mousing around on the transport.
                        _____________________________________________
                        There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                        • Before we go any further, one thing I completely forgot to mention is that like the MR816, the CC121 works with 64-bit Windows. There's no Snow Leopard 64-bit compatible update yet that I know of, but I suspect that as Steinberg has committed to 64 bits, it won't be too terribly long before we see 64-bit Steinberg apps for the Mac. (That's not based on inside knowledge, I'm just speculating...Brian, any official Steinberg statements on the subject?)

                          I didn't get a chance to test out the CC121 with 64-bit Windows, as Cubase 5 is installed on my XP machine. However, based on reactions from users, it seems 64-bit operation works just fine with Cubase.

                          Also, I started to realize that some of the CC121 functionality varies depending on which version of Cubase you have. There's a comparison chart on Steinberg's site along with info on all the various updates, but I've attached the comparison chart here as well so you can download it without having to leave this page.
                          _____________________________________________
                          There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                          • Thanks Craig. Here's is our official statement on Windows 7 and Snow Leopard.

                            Windows 7 and OS X 10.6 Support
                            Steinberg has outlined its plans to ensure compatibility for its current product and technology palette to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and Windows 7. A three-phase development and testing plan has been implemented to ensure compatibility with the new operating system versions.

                            In Phase One, the current development phase, Steinberg is testing all current products on both Windows 7 and OS X 10.6. Phase Two will see any development work resulting from compatibility testing during Phase One. This stage will also see the certification of some products straight away, should all stringent testing be passed satisfactorily. Phase Three will see testing and release of any compatibility updates developed during Phase Two, and certification of the rest of the product range not already certified in Phase Two.

                            The ongoing process is slated to span several months; further information on the progress of individual products is to be made available on the forums at cubase.net and nuendo.com as the implementation plan progresses.

                            Thanks.
                            <div class="signaturecontainer">Best regards,<br />
                            <br />
                            Brian McGovern<br />
                            Steinberg North America</div>

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                            • Thanks Brian! That all makes total sense. What I've heard from other developers is that if their stuff worked with 64-bit Vista, it didn't take much to get it to work with W7. Hopefully you'll have the same experience, and I assume your work with 64-bit Windows will give you a jump on getting up and running with Snow Leopard.
                              _____________________________________________
                              There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

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                              • To the Steinberg folks, isn`t it time to shed some light on the CI2 unit ??
                                It`s not that long `till it`s being released..
                                I find it strange that no one can come up with details about the preamps & converters. Are they different in quality to the MR816 ?

                                I think I`ll be getting the RME Fireface 400, as I seriously doubt the CI2 can compare in sound quality. (I know the CI2 is alot cheaper).

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