Digidesign Focusrite - USB-Based Music Production System. Working with your computer through a single FireWire connection, Digidesign Focusrite pairs with an integrated control surface to provide you with an ideal, finger-friendly music production environment. Record, edit, process, mix, and master your projects with hands-on efficiency, then tuck Digidesign Focusrite under your arm, take it to a gig, and use it as an 8x4x2 digital mixer complete with EQ, dynamics, delay, and reverb with snapshots.
It offers novices and pros alike hands-on command of any project, easy connectivity via USB and integrated I/O, portability, dual mode functionality, and full session compatibility with other Pro Tools systems, from Mbox to Pro Tools|HD.
Digidesign Focusrite is a full-featured studio-in-a-box that works with your computer to give you all you need for superior MIDI and audio production. Comprised of a single unit that includes a comprehensive control surface along with analog, digital, and MIDI I/O, communicates with your computer via a single USB cable (included).
IT includes 2 modes of operation: Pro Tools mode, and Standalone mode. With the push of a button, your unit enters Standalone mode and becomes an 8x4x2 digital mixer, complete with EQ, dynamics, delay, and reverb with snapshots. In this mode, and your computer is no longer needed for digidesign focusrite command 8 to operate.
Digidesign already offer a rackmounting variant on their Digi 002 interface, which offers the Pro Tools LE audio interface component without the control surface, and at first glance, their Command 8 appears to be the reverse: the control-surface element of the Digi 002 without the audio interface. However, while the Command 8 is indeed similar to the 002's controller, the comparison doesn't do justice to the new unit's scope. Command 8 provides hands-on control of both Pro Tools LE and TDM software, with the same high level of integration and sophistication that we've come to expect since Pro Control, Control 24 and HUI. A significant departure for Digidesign, moreover, is that Command 8 is not just for Pro Tools: it also runs stand-alone as a MIDI controller for any other capable software.
All Command 8's communication with the computer is via a USB connection (another contrast with the Firewire-based 002). Additionally, there are two standard five-pin MIDI output ports, and one input. As well as enabling use of the controller in a hardware-only scenario, these connections turn the Command 8 into a general-purpose MIDI interface. During testing, I hooked up my main keyboard via the MIDI input, and declared it in OS X's Audio MIDI Setup window. This worked without a hitch, and proved a really useful addition given that I always seem to be short by one USB port. In Pro Tools, the only setup procedure required is to inform the system of the Command 8's presence via the MIDI Controller page of Peripherals Setup. Surprisingly, you can't use more than one unit at a time in Pro Tools; in fact you can't use any other MIDI controller alongside Command 8. However, you can attach a Command 8 in addition to a Pro Control, Control 24 or Digi 002 and use it for extra faders. One interesting suggested use for this is to have a unit in your live room to provide remote control over transport and monitoring levels.
The Command 8 includes audio inputs and speaker outputs, allowing it to be used as a monitor controller.
As well as MIDI connections, the rear panel sports a number of quarter-inch audio sockets. These do not constitute an audio interface for the computer; you still need separate audio hardware. Instead they are simply the connections for a built-in monitoring router, which can take two stereo feeds (usually your main mix and some other source). This then gives you control of main speaker and headphone monitoring levels from the Command 8's front panel.
Anyone who's used to Pro Control will be able to pick up the Command 8 very quickly, as the functionality within Pro Tools is so similar, and many of the same features are present. This alone should tell you that the unit is good value for money. Obviously, some of the higher-end features are not the same, such as a separate plug-in control section, scrub wheel, or surround monitoring capability. The only things I'd miss day-to-day, though, would be Pro Control's automation enable and auto-suspend buttons — and the faders of course.
The Command 8 has a wide-ranging appeal. It's inexpensive enough to appeal to smaller music setups, where it will be great for controlling soft synths, and where the ability to flip between controlling Pro Tools and other software is a real bonus. Project and pro studios can either use it as their main Pro Tools controller, or as a remote control to add extra transport and monitoring control, not to mention MIDI connections. Mobile rigs, or smaller post-production rooms will also be a natural niche for the Command 8, especially where a TDM system is preferable to the integrated 002 system. I personally think it would make a great live controller for programs like Live and Reason. The thing that impressed me the most with Command 8 is that the stand-alone MIDI controller mode is not just an add-on or afterthought to the Pro Tools functionality. The unit stands tall alongside other generic controllers and should be on your shortlist, even if you don't use Pro Tools.
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