Although control surfaces like HUI and MotorMix are made to interface nicely with Pro Tools, Digidesign makes its own Pro Tools control surfaces for high-end, deep-pocketed customers who need a more robust hardware interface.
ProControl, Digidesign's first control surface for Pro Tools, is intended for high-end post-production and music facilities, a fact reflected in its extremely high-quality mechanical components, expandable architecture, and high degree of configurability (see Fig. A). Each of the eight channel strips provides a 100 mm touch-sensitive, motorized fader; Mute, Solo, and Select buttons; an eight-character scribble strip; a rotary encoder; and several controls for automation and plug-in editing control. Other controllers include a Scrub/Shuttle wheel and an x-y track pad. ProControl can automate all automatable parameters in Pro Tools, including plug-ins.
ProControl communicates with Pro Tools through a 10Base-T Ethernet cable connected to the computer rather than through MIDI, as third-party surfaces generally do. In that way, it gains the bandwidth necessary to accommodate meter and fader data, which can be substantial with larger configurations. The network connection also allows you to control a Pro Tools system in one part of a multiroom studio with a ProControl located in another section of the facility.
ProControl's monitoring and talk-back sections are the only places where audio passes through the control surface. The monitoring section is fed by analog outputs from Pro Tools, and its function is mostly to provide a master monitor-volume control and amenities like dimming when talk back is used. Eight inputs in the monitor section can be configured as four stereo pairs or for surround monitoring. The master volume control affects a maximum of six channels, so it can act as a master for 5.1 format mixing.
You can expand ProControl with two optional add-ons. Each Fader Pack ($6,495) adds 8 faders (as many as 48 faders), and the Edit Pack ($7,495) adds 2 motorized, touch-sensitive joysticks for surround panning; 8, 40-segment meters; a QWERTY keyboard with color-coded keys; a 2-button trackball; and 20 dedicated function buttons.
Control/24 looks somewhat like a traditional large console (see Fig. B). It's substantially larger than ProControl, and its big footprint may pose a problem for small desktop studios. Although it has much of the same functionality as ProControl, Control/24 boasts lots of analog inputs and 24 touch-sensitive, motorized faders. Its construction and control capabilities, however, are not quite as robust as ProControl's, and it's not expandable.
In addition to the faders, each channel has a four-character scribble strip; Mute, Solo, and Select buttons; and a rotary encoder. The encoders can be used individually for adjusting channel parameters or in aggregate as a horizontal row of parameter controls for a plug-in.
Sixteen Class A Focusrite mic preamps as well as two DI inputs make Control/24 a good bet for tracking on Pro Tools. The monitoring section features 12 mono inputs that can be configured as 6 stereo inputs; 2, 5.1 inputs; or even 3, 4.0 inputs — an arrangement more flexible than with ProControl.
Other utility features include an independent submixer, which mixes eight stereo inputs down to a stereo pair; a talk-back return to allow monitoring of the talent through a mic hung in the studio; and two ¼-inch assignable switch connections.
Like ProControl, Control/24 communicates with Pro Tools via Ethernet. Both surfaces also feature illuminated switches for quick operation in low light, and Control/24's automation capabilities are virtually identical to ProControl's.