The Rebuild: ICON D-Command demo

DCommandES

A while ago I visited Avid/Digidesign to get a proper D-Command ES demo. I’ve fiddled with them a little, but if I’m going to spend the dough I’ll want an experienced user showing me around. I got to spend some time with it and even though I had no way near as much time to write a proper review of it I figured I should at least share my experience with you.

I’m not sure what the major reason is for people to buy a D-Command, but the main reason why I’ve been looking at it as an option is for the more common tasks such as basic EQ and compression. My biggest gripe with all the low- and mid-end solutions I’ve tried is that they have no good solution for the tasks you do most of the time. A perfect example for this is that pretty much every EQ maps differently to say a Mackie controller or an 003. Controllers such as the D-Command have a dedicated section for this and in theory the low pass filter is always on the low pass filter knob.

I was also interested to see how well it would do on the editing side of things (even if I didn’t expect it to be as quick as a mouse) and of course the rest of the integration with Pro Tools.

To start with, I was satisfied with the way it handled plug-ins and general Pro Tools tasks. I think I would work very fast on up to three plug-ins at the same time with only a couple of days of experience. Both the dynamics and EQ sections seemed good, and the way one could use a third plug-in on the faders made it look like a great option for mixing. Unfortunately, not all plug-ins are mapped to the D-Command, so one couldn’t expect every single plug-in to work flawless with the dynamics and EQ sections. Still, it appears to me to be miles ahead of the lower end options available.

dcommanddyneq

Dynamics and EQ sections… And a little more.

I am however concerned with how much I would be using it for editing. While it most certainly could be used for editing, I believe that even with practice it wouldn’t be really close to what a mouse and screen would be. I have from time to time tried to replace the mouse with a control surface but there’s no doubt that when I need to work fast and accurate I always reach for the mouse. I think that this would be the case even with a D-Command.

There’s a problem with this, actually it’s both a problem and a benefit, for a D-Command setup to really work you still need the keyboard and the mouse, therefore you’ll probably want to separate between recording, editing and mixing. This could be a benefit if you want to make records the traditional way, that is record and edit then mix. We discussed this at the demo, and I think that this approach can most certainly lead to musical mixes, possibly even to a different type of mix which has kind of grew out from the DAW environment. This second way of mixing is kind of mixing as you go. You record a track, you edit and EQ it a little, you record a second track and do the same thing, maybe go back and change a little on the first track and so on. When everything is recorded you pretty much have a full mix. While I’m not sure if I prefer one way over the other (I use both approaches) I’m concerned that the D-Command wouldn’t come to it’s full right in the latter approach.

As a mixing tool, however, it seems to be right on the money. Besides what I’ve already mentioned, one thing I really like about the D-Command is Custom faders. The possibilities to group tracks for instance, makes even a small eight fader setup a good mixing tool. I was a little underwhelmed by the soft keys however. In this day and age I would most certainly want to be able to assign macros to soft keys which unfortunately is currently not possible on any Digidesign interface as far as I know. Hopefully this is something that could be remedied in a software update.

At the moment I don’t see the D-Command as a spot on investment for me. If I was doing more traditional mixing it would be another thing but right now I’m afraid it wouldn’t be used to its full potential. I will however keep it on the list a while longer because I still need much better functionality than what I currently have at my disposal.

Feel free to share your on ICON experiences if you like.

Many thanks to Anders who always helps me out with things like this.

Comments

  1. Nando says

    I think it’s time for a CSI approach. Digi should hookup with microsoft. They built most of the stuff for CSI.

  2. says

    this actually sounds like the d-control i’ve used, i’m pretty sure that digi did some improvements on the new ES boards but just didnt bother to learn (not gonna have the money to buy one anyway).
    i’ve heard people saying (and i agree)that ICONs are great mixing boards, but maybe not great for recording because of its great flexibility–every knob and fader COULD mean something different and its hard to quickly memorize. when you wanna keep it simple and use it as an analog board…its just not that kind of concept. for me it ended up that i mouse/key most stuffs but use the faders a lot (thats why i got myself the command8)…however, maybe it’s just that i never really got to be good at an ICON and just too lazy to go through all the learning of it

  3. Roll says

    I like my D-command, but i’m agree that you need a keyboard somewhere. For me it’s the biggest improvement of the D-control.
    the two functions i use the most is the custom fader and the preview/snapshot mode.
    I cannot live without it anymore

  4. says

    shawnzhangmusic,

    >> “for me it ended up that i mouse/key most stuffs but use the faders a lot”

    I think if one really wants to be able to fully grasp something like an ICON he would need to more or less get rid of the keyboard and mouse and force himself to learn it inside and out. But the learning curve sure would be frustrating!

    Roll,

    I can definitely see how snapshots are addictive. It’s dangerous to try new workflows, you might end up liking them! ;)

  5. says

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