By Mel Lambert / content-creators.com
New York (August 24, 2009)--Loud Technologies claims to be the first company to crack Avid's hardware requirements for certain Pro Tools users, as its upcoming Mackie Onyx-i Series analog consoles can reportedly connect directly to computers running M-Powered Pro Tools without any Avid-developed hardware.
A newly-developed interface driver--the Mackie Universal Driver V1.0--reportedly circumvents Avid's hardware protection that links Digidesign/M-Audio systems to M-Powered DAW software.
The company broke the news by creating something of a mystery about the feat: Imagine the surprise when a mysterious black carton arrived recently via FedEx at the offices of several internet portals serving the pro-audio industry. The package contained a new Mackie Onyx 820i analog mixer with FireWire interface, a copy of Avid's Pro Tools 8 M-Powered DAW software, a succinct, ransom-style note and a DVD.
It turned out that the DVD held the mystery of this cunning viral marketing campaign: a video clip purporting to be from a Mackie insider - complete with stocking mask and a pitch-shifted voice - explained that the new Onyx-i Series will run directly with M-Power Pro Tools without the need for Avid hardware. (As well as other DAWs, including Apple Logic Pro, Cakewalk SONAR and Steinberg Cubase.) The companion DVD also held a copy of a Windows- and OSX-compatible Mackie Universal Driver with full installation instructions. (The driver is incompatible with current Firewire-equipped Onyx Compact mixers, which the new series replaces.)
The package was sent to 17 portals around the world in mid-August, with no logos or markings. The intention was to catch the attention of critical media outlets that could put out word quickly via the internet, in advance of a worldwide launch on September 9, when full details of the mixer series will be available from the Mackie website. As James "Woody" Woodburn, Mackie product manager, reveals, "The new Onyx-i Series includes the 820i, 1220i and 1620i models--respectively, eight, 12- and 16-channel stereo analog mixers--plus the 1640i, a 16-channel/four-group offering with 16x16 bi-directional Firewire I/O that enables both multitrack recording and mixing."
The implications for Mackie are significant. Until now, Avid has only sanctioned Pro Tools to work with hardware from Digidesign and its sister company, M-Audio, and then only with custom-developed M-Powered software. Now owners of Onyx-i Series analog mixers with Firewire can run M-Powered Pro Tools in studio and live applications, a market that Mackie obviously sees as largely untapped. And, in the long run, Avid will surely benefit from the synergy, given that a proportion of users who start with entry-level M-Powered systems often migrate to more powerful Pro Tools LE and HD rigs.
But Avid remains taciturn. According to Amy Peterson, the firm's Manager, Corporate and Segment PR: "Avid (Digidesign) has not approved or tested Mackie equipment to be interoperable with any of its solutions. Pro Tools M-Powered is only licensed for use with our M-Audio peripheral products."
Recall that in late 1996, Digidesign and Mackie co-developed, respectively, the HUI (Human User Interface) protocol and controller, which utilizes multiple MIDI-type connections to carry commands between controllers and Pro Tools. Using a series of data commands for fader and knob positions, plus switch/button closures, HUI enables more precise control of Pro Tools mixing, routing, editing and DSP functions; it also operates at high bandwidths via USB and Firewire connections.