Softube Console 1 Mk2 with REAPER review

Console-1-header-image

Why buy a Console 1?

I’m sure every old school engineer/producer who has had the privilege of working with a traditional, large-format analogue console will agree that the job goes much quicker than mixing with a mouse and a keyboard in the digital domain. Console-style mixing creates a synergy between the user and the board because everything is in the same place, with the same layout and is always on display. It goes without saying that it’s easier to reach out and adjust a physical EQ,  than having to grab a mouse, open a window , load a plugin and tweak each knob one at a time. Softube Console 1 is aimed at bridging the gap between hardware and software mixing.

But wait, isn’t the Console 1  just a fancy controller? Yes, it is. And furthermore it’s non-programmable. And that is the genius of the Softube Console 1 Mk2. It’s simplicity just makes it so easy, intuitive and comfortable to use. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

The Hardware

The unit is ruggedly built with a metal face plate. The knobs have a good feel and the overall impression is one of quality.

Softube Console 1 with custom colored knobs

REAPER Integration

REAPER and Console 1 are fully integrated as long as you use the VST3 format (not the VST2). That means that track names in the DAW are transmitted to Console 1 and when you select another track, in either REAPER or Console 1 they are automatically synced. This is important. I know that other DAW’s do not enjoy these features so the REAPER developers deserve a big thank you for that.  You can even adjust the DAW track fader using the ‘Output’ knob on Console 1. Solo and Pan also worked out of the box.
The Console 1 software seems to be very stable and I have not had any issues during the two sessions I’ve been using it. It just works.

The SSL 4000 E sound

The SSL sound

Softube Console 1 comes pre-loaded with the SSL 4000 E Channel expansion by default. It sounds stellar. Nuff said. The Drive knob adds some harmonic distortion to the signal and is complemented with the ‘Character’  knob for dialing in the desired frequency. Brilliant.
Other extensions, such as the British Class A, the SSL XL 9000 K also sound fantastic. Not tried the others yet but they can all be downloaded and demoed on Softubes site.

Customizing and Modding the Softube Console 1

Colored knobs on the Console 1

Custom colored knobs for the Console 1
Custom colored knobs for the Console 1

Being as I own the 500 series SSL 611EQ and the 611DYN Compressor units I thought it would make sense to color-match the knobs.

Where to Find Replacement knobs

First I contacted https://www.okw.co.uk/en but was informed that I needed a UK address for delivery and for the invoice. No good, I’m in Sweden. Gearslutz mention https://www.thonk.co.uk. Other users have used colored stickers on the original knobs and even colored loom bands. In the US it would appear to be easier to find replacement knobs but for us Europeans it seems we are somewhat limited. After further research I found https://www.tme.eu/en/ in Poland who sell the exact same knobs as OKW. Two days later they arrived by DHL. The cost for approximately 20 knobs and a selection of colored caps was around 60 Euro including delivery. Nope, not cheap.

Knob dimensions

The original knobs are ‘pull-off’ and are 6mm D-Shaft in shape. Note that regular, rounded-shaft knobs will also fit on a D-Shaft.

This is an image showing a D-shaft fitting. This knob is slightly wider than the ones I eventually chose for my Console 1.
This is an image showing a D-shaft fitting. This knob is slightly wider than the ones I eventually chose for my Console 1.

What is an Encoder Knob?

It’s important to realise that the Console 1 (at least the recent ones) use ‘Encoder Knobs’. Encoder knobs spin continuously and have therefore no need for pointers. Be careful to order both knobs and colored caps without pointers.

These OKW knobs pictured below are knurled and are available in black (A2513060) or grey (A2513068).

Black and grey knobs. 13.5 width at the base.
Black (A2513060) and grey (A2513068) knobs. 13.5mm width at the base. 15.5mm in height. 6mm D-Shaft. Available from tme.eu.

Colored Cap Replacements

Colored caps are available in an assortment of colors and are ordered separately. These are simple ‘push on’ caps. I remember finding out the hard way that they also need to be aligned with the knob before snapping down into place. There’s a larger cutout on the underside of the cap which needs to be aligned with the knob. Mount the caps on the knob before mounting on Console 1 to save pushing down unnecessarily on the Console 1. These caps are a little fiddly.

Coloured caps for the above knobs. Choose the ones without the line as the Console 1 uses encoder type knobs (they turn continuousely).
OKW colored caps for the above knobs. Choose the ones Without Pointer as the Console 1 uses encoder type knobs (they turn continuously).

Below is a table with all the items I ordered from tme.eu.

Black knob A2513060
Grey Knob A2513068
Green Cap A4113005
Red Cap A4113002
Blue Cap A4113006
Black Cap A4113000
Yellow Cap A4113004
Grey Cap A4113008

I did not replace all the knobs, just the ones that were specific to the SSL coloring code and a couple more.

After fitting all the knobs I noticed they did not sit fully flush with the board. The nut holding the pot in place is still visible. This doesn’t really bother me but I noticed they (tme.eu) also sell ‘Nut Covers’ that might do the trick. Here’s an image. I’m really not sure if they work but I’ll order some next time around, test and update my findings. Here’s the bumf:

Softube-Console-1-Nut-Cover-A7513000
Nut Cover (Black) A7513000

Homemade Wooden Stand – Softube Console 1

Although there is a slight angle on the Console 1, I felt I needed more. Ready-made stands are available on eBay and cost around 60 Euros, I decided to make my own.

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I found a cut-off piece of oak wood countertop which I used to make two side pieces for the Console 1. I experimented with different angles on a scrap piece of wood and made a prototype of the side piece. Using this I cut two sides from the oak wood. I then attached a piece of wood between them at the right distance to hold them together and dropped the Console 1 into place. Gravity is keeping the unit firmly in place.

Softube – Buy Console 1, get British Class A for free

Register a new Console 1 between January 1st and April 30th 2019, and you’ll not only get the included Solid State Logic SL 4000 E-series console emulation, but also our much admired British Class A For Console 1.

Click the image below to see the offer on Softubes site:

Register a new Console 1 between January 1st and April 30th 2019, and you’ll not only get the included Solid State Logic SL 4000 E-series console emulation, but also our much admired British Class A For Console 1.

In Summary

The Console 1 is one of those few pieces of hardware that really help to bridge the gap between traditional console recording and the DAW. It’s reasonably priced and very well built. Bear in mind it’s up to the DAW manufacturers to implement the necessary code for Console 1 to fully integrate with your DAW. REAPER is one of the lucky ones.

Finally I’d like to add that I am in no way affiliated with Softube though I wouldn’t have anything against it. This review is, as always, just my unbiased, honest opinion.