Unveiling S6—The Next-Generation Professional Sound Mixing Solution

By in Pro Mixing, Topics

Welcome to the inaugural blog entry for Avid S6! If you want to stay up to date with everything S6, this is the place to get insight into the control surface, the latest info on software updates, breaking news, and more.

So, about S6…

We’ve been on a super fun, hi-tech journey in Avid Pro Mixing over the last 15 or more years, which brings us to today and the exciting launch of the new S6 integrated control surface. Looking back to the early days of professional control surface mixing, we launched ProControl in 1998 with Pro Tools|24 systems (running Pro Tools 4.2 software), then Control|24 in 2001 with Pro Tools|HD systems (running Pro Tools 5.1). In 2004, the groundbreaking days of ICON D-Control and D-Command captured the industry, powered by Pro Tools|HD Accel (running Pro Tools HD 7) and most recently Pro Tools|HDX.

While ICON is the best selling large-format mixing console of all time and was a huge part of changing the professional mixing paradigm over the last 10 years, many of our customers were willing to share their thoughts on how the next-generation surface could even be better. This, of course, is the well-traveled path of the evolution of mixing desks throughout time, and we were more than willing to listen. If you want to learn more about Avid’s leadership and innovation in the professional mixing space, please check out my Avid Pro Mixing: A (R)evolution in Mixing white paper.

Avid S6 Professional Sound Mixing

Before designing what would become S6, we wanted to thoroughly understand our customers’ challenges and needs. So we conducted a series of interviews, which resulted in very similar responses across many pro music and post mixers, as well as chief engineers at major facilities. The responses can be summed up into these key points:

  1. The world is ready to move beyond the traditional monolithic console model. Mixers desire a high-density, ergonomic, expandable system with easily configurable workflows. Ergonomics (such as reach, tactile interaction, and visual feedback) are paramount to the mixer and should not obstruct or interfere with the sound.
  2. The surface should build upon proven Pro Tools workflows, but have the flexibility to control other Avid and third-party apps as well but in a deeper way than just the HUI protocol.
  3. It should have rich visual feedback like professional metering, EQ curves, panning feedback, routing, scrolling waveforms to cue the mixer, and more.
  4. It should be designed around a set of small modules that can be configured together, enabling users to scale or grow their system.
  5. It should be scalable in both width (number of channels) and depth (channel features and controls).
  6. It should include a base set of modules such as faders, knobs, a touchscreen, processing modes, transport control, and a sliding integrated QWERTY keyboard that can move with the mixer.
  7. Features should be updated and added easily with software over time.
  8. It should connect easily together and be simple to set up, much like ICON was.
  9. It must be high quality and cover a wide variety of physical sizes and price points.

Most all of the interviews ended with a final thought from our users: “ICON is great… The Euphonix guys are also doing some cool stuff with EUCON, hybrid DSP mixing, and [their consoles] have some great ergonomics and visual feedback—you should look at them… Heck, you guys should buy them!”

And so, while I was part of the internal next-gen ICON team, I was brought onto another team to look at the viability of acquiring Euphonix. Not only did the Euphonix portfolio nicely blend with Avid’s into a wider, more powerful series of consoles and control surfaces, but adding EUCON to the Pro Tools/Pro Mixing world greatly improved workflows and flexibility for our customers. The clincher was that Euphonix was also on a very similar path to a next-generation modular, scalable mixing surface and were further along in the design process. The bottom line on the acquisition—it was a win-win-win situation.

(Fig 1-2) Studying the reach, ergonomics, and appropriate visual angles of the mixer at work for S6.

With our acquisition of Euphonix in April 2010, project codename “GoodWaves” was started, bringing together the ICON, Pro Tools, and Euphonix teams to design and build the next-generation modular mixing surface that delivers superior ergonomics and intelligent studio control, providing an intuitive, immersive experience for the modern sound engineer.

We hope that you can see it and touch it in-person soon, and ultimately that you’ll be as excited about it as we are. Thanks for your help and input in making S6 a reality. We want to hear from you, so feel free to comment and share your thoughts. More S6 blogging soon…

Cheers!

Marketing manager for Avid Post Audio and Pro Mixing, I am also a veteran engineer/recordist/editor. I've worked on music scores for dozens of feature films, including Ice Age, Collateral, and The Spirit.