Product Review: Page (1) of 3 - 06/06/05 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

Mackie Control C4 and Logic Pro 7

An intuitive hardware accessory for editing effects and plugins By Frank Moldstad

No matter how good the virtual mixers in DAW programs get, there's no substitute for the real thing.  That's why external hardware controllers have become popular -- it's easier to turn a physical knob than it is to click and drag a virtual knob onscreen, and it gives a finer degree of control.

Nearly every DAW application can now be controlled by some type of external hardware device, from controllers made by Mackie, Tascam and Yamaha, to Digidesign's proprietary mixer/controllers for Pro Tools.

But Mackie has been doing control surfaces since 1997, when it pioneered the HUI (Human User Interface), a controller developed specifically for Pro Tools that featured an open protocol for hardware-software interfacing. The HUI protocol predates the MC protocol by nearly four years, and the Mackie Control Universal includes the HUI protocol, as well as the Mackie Control and Logic Control protocols (hence the Universal designation). Since then, the Mackie Universal Control protocol has become the most widely used DAW control standard on the market, using standard MIDI ports to communicate between the controller and a computer.

Now Mackie has released a more specialized controller, the Mackie Control C4 (MSRP $1,299). This device is dedicated to controlling DAW plugins, effects and virtual instruments. Although the existing Mackie Control Universal (MCU) devices are able to control these functions, the C4 has far more extensive display and mapping capabilities for this purpose. Specifically, the C4 allows you to see 32 plugin parameters simultaneously, each assigned to a dedicated knob, compared to only eight at a time with a Mackie Control Universal or Logic Control surface. Most plugins don't have close to 32 parameters. For those that do, such as Logic Pro 7's Sculpture soft synth, additional display banks can be accessed by pressing a forward arrow, which brings up another 32 parameters.


I used the C4 with Apple's Logic Pro 7, and found the experience to be an absolute pleasure. Not having to open and close plugin windows to adjust settings with a mouse makes the mixing process faster and more enjoyable. It's easy to make small tweaks to a number of plugins back-to-back by switching from one channel to the next. Everything's laid out in front of you. While analog mixers provide tactile control of the effect sends and returns, this goes much further by providing physical access to every effect parameter in one place

Setting up the C4 in Logic Pro 7
To connect the C4 to a computer, you need a MIDI interface with one MIDI In port and one MIDI Out port. After launching Logic Pro 7, I powered up the C4 and it was recognized right away. The C4 can be used as a standalone controller, or as an addition to a Mackie Control Universal/Logic Control/Extender system. It is highly recommended that new users download PDF documents from the Apple and Mackie websites that are specific to Logic Pro 7 and the C4. The Apple document lists the function of every C4 function in Logic Pro 7, for instance, while Mackie has a downloadable C4-specific setup document.

The integration of the C4 hardware and Logic Pro 7 is extremely good. Mackie's controller instructions are coded into DAW programs by Apple and other DAW developers. Currently, DAW platforms supporting the C4 include Logic Pro 7, Cakewalk's SONAR 4 and Mackie's Tracktion 2. Other applications supporting the C4 will be announced soon.

One of the first things I did after set-up was to update the C4's firmware from the installed version 1.01 to version 1.02. This is a simple process involving the download of a 24KB Zip file, and importing the unzipped file into MIDI channel one in Logic Pro 7. When the play button is hit, a series of dots appears on the C4's LED display, and after the file has finished playing, the C4 will reflect the update on reboot. 

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Related Keywords:Mackie Control C4, Logic Pro 7, Mackie Control Universal, DAW control

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