Focusrite Control 2802
It’s a logical extension and development of the thought processes introduced in the Zen,
most particularly adding DAW control. GEORGE SHILLING had an Audient delivered that
became a Focusrite during the course of his review.
n a slightly surprising move, Audient has
handed over production and marketing of
its ASP 2802 console to Focusrite, which
has rebadged it as the Control 2802. The
review model arrived as an Audient but there is no
indication that the difference between the two models
will be anything other than the screen print on the
surface. Focusrite and Audient will work together on
developing and delivering new designs, bringing Dual
Layer and other technologies to a wider audience
than Audient could access on its own. This in turn
allows Audient to strengthen its position in the studio
market and develop key new products, such as the
ASP8024DLC, that use this same technology.
The Control 2802’s Dual Layer system provides
fader control for common DAWs and, by flipping
modes, good old-fashioned analogue faders for the
console’s eight channels. Despite its compact size, there
is a lavishly featured centre section. There are some
familiar ideas and some parts appear almost identical to
the more expensive and larger Audient Zen, but this is
not simply a cut-down Zen. The larger console features
a unique automation system; the 2802 expands that,
and also includes fully featured DAW control with fader
banking (see sidebar), which the Zen lacks.
The construction of the Control 2802 is
conventionally wedge shaped, and like its big brother
Zen, the build is solid and weighty. Macho mottled
rough black Hammerite-style metal panels flank the
unit, and full-size generously-spaced faders dominate
the surface panel.
At the top of each channel is a clear LED meter
relating to the channel input, or globally switchable to
show Direct Outputs. However, they can also switch
resolution to show DAW meters. The channel strips’ assortment
of knobs and switches mainly relate to signal routing:
there are no sonic manipulation tools such as EQ or
dynamics apart from the mic preamps’ 75Hz high
pass filters. The preamps sound great, they’re quiet
and clean, but have power and guts. I especially
enjoyed recording drums through the 2802, where
they engendered a superb immediacy and punch.
Polarity reverse and 48V phantom are provided; and
the switch for the separate Line input is sensibly
located at the top here too.
The mic gain knob goes from 6-60dB and that’s
plenty for most instances and in the following input
selection there is a further handy +/-15dB Trim knob.
The DAW button switches the channel source from
Line/Mic to a second line input intended for monitor
outputs from the DAW. Between the mic preamp and
this though are a couple of pushbuttons to configure
the direct output of the Mic or Line input. This provides
for the signal to be tapped in four different ways. Post
means post-fader, post-mute and post-insert. Pre-Ins
is, as you might expect, before the insert and fader
to provide a clean feed, but still allowing use of the
Trim knob, perhaps using the insert for monitoring
purposes, say to give a vocalist extra compression in
the cans without committing to tape/DAW. Pre-Fader
mode is useful when you do want to record with the
insert but perhaps use the fader to provide a monitor
balance. For purists, the fourth mode, ‘Channel’ takes
the direct output immediately after the mic preamp.
This is the cleanest feed and pulls the signal from
before even the Trim knob. You can then use the DAW
return in the channel for monitoring while recording
the mic preamp output. These options can be quite
a bit to take in, but the excellent manual explains
everything clearly in plain English. Suffice to say
that this flexibility makes recording and monitoring
possible in all sorts of different ways.
Next is a useful Insert enable/bypass. The Stereo
Cue (with level and pan) has a Pre/Post button, and
an Alt I/P button (more below). Two further mono
Aux knobs are below this, each governed by global
Pre/Post selection in the centre section. Finally, above
the fader panel is the centre détented Pan knob and
Mix route button, determining whether the channel
output is sent to the main stereo bus. Faders have a
professional feel and nice big illuminating Sel, Cut and
Solo buttons.
With just eight main channels it’s likely you would
create a Cue mix in the DAW (using the 2802 faders
May/June 2011
in DAW mode) while using the onboard Cue sends to feed the live
mics to the headphones. This is made especially easy here with
dedicated DAW mix and FB inputs (on XLRs) that can be combined
with the Mix, Aux and Cue buses, and an External source and an
‘i-Jack’ as required, in the CR and FB monitor sections.
On the rear, each channel has an XLR for mic input, and separate
balanced jack sockets for Line input, Insert Send and Insert Return.
The Direct Outputs from each channel are provided on a 25-pin
D-Connector. There are XLR outputs for Mix Output, Main and Alt
Speakers, Auxes 1 and 2 and Stereo Cue. The Headphone output
on the rear (which might have been handier on the front) can be
sourced from FB or Control Room signals and has its own gain and
mute controls. A D-Connector is also used for the DAW Inputs. These
can either be used for pseudo-in-line functionality, or summed into
the mix (by pressing Alt IP and assigning Cue to Mix in the centre
section) for another set of eight (non-automated) channels, with
level and panning set using the Cue controls.
If you are using the DAW as the main channel source, pressing the
Alt IP button takes the Mic/Line signal through the Cue section. Either
way, that’s 16 inputs at mixdown, but there is a third D-Connector
for bringing in yet another eight channels of audio into the equation
for mixdown summing. These are configured as four stereo pairs that
feed the mix bus and/or Cue via overall Level and Pan knobs, and
there is even the option to Mono them. Two stereo FX Returns are
also provided with similar controls, their inputs on balanced jacks.
So adding all that up, it’s a bountiful 28 inputs to sum at mixdown.
Automation and
DAW control
The 2802 connects to the
DAW computer via Ethernet.
Setup is straightforward;
you must install the AuNet
software and have that
running in the background;
it indicates to the console
when it is connected but
network and DAW setup is
achieved on the front panel
of the console using the OLED display and associated encoders. Host
software supported is currently Pro Tools, Cubase/Nuendo and Logic.
With Pro Tools selected it was a simple matter of enabling the MIDI
inputs for Automation and/or Control Surface. For the latter, HUI
protocol is used and set as normal from the Peripherals dialogue in
Pro Tools. Flipping from analogue faders to DAW faders is simply a
matter of pressing the DAW button, which then lights up red, and the
faders zip to the correct settings. Large coloured brightly illuminating
buttons for Select, Mute and Solo above each fader make operation a
breeze, and the fader motors are snappy yet smooth. The ninth fader
is merely an analogue master fader for the console and is not part of
the computer layer.
Full transport controls are provided including a smooth jog/shuttle
wheel, and along with Fader, Mute and Select on each channel, a
number of other functions are possible using the four rotary encoders
and OLED display, and a number of smaller buttons. The channel
May/June 2011
Ah, that explains the model
Useful monitoring functions
include Variable Dim, left
channel polarity flip, Mono
and Alt Speaker level trim. Solo
modes are comprehensively
covered, including variable SoloIn-Front. There is an in-built
Talkback mic and a nice big TB
button with level knob, sensibly
located away from the mic, but
there is even an external input
with switchable phantom power
for an external talkback mic.
The Bus Compressor is a
great feature. It blatantly takes many of the controls and settings
from another well-known bus compressor, but adds some in-between
positions and even provides a dedicated parallel compression Blend
knob. It sounds great and is a terrific way of adding some mastering
‘glow’ to the mix. Furthermore, its inputs and outputs appear on
the rear panel so it is available for tracking or other use. If you
fancy some different mix processing there is, of course, an Insert,
and even this is switchable with an extra button to Sum dry and
processed signal.
The Control 2802 covers many bases with very few compromises.
The design team has done its homework and addressed just about
every need of the hard-working engineer who wants to break out of
the box, in a compact, sturdy and affordable package of remarkable
high quality. n
Abundantly featured; extremely flexible and powerful;
great centre section with bus comp; excellent mic
preamps and clean, punchy sound.
Scribble strips not directly over faders and only four
service eight faders; some DAW functions are fiddly; no
signal processing other than summing and routing.
Select buttons have a number of possible uses and modes for DAW
control and for the analogue layer that can be set with dedicated
buttons, such as Record Enable. There’s a clever way of selecting
DAW automation modes in conjunction with the OLED display and
encoders — by pushing the encoder with the appropriate label you
can apply any of Pro Tools’ automation modes to selected channels.
Once proficient with this, it can be quicker than using the drop-down
menus, although you are hampered slightly in identifying tracks by the
lack of scribble strips directly on the channel fader strips.
A similar function is available for creating and suspending Groups.
In the analogue layer, Select button functions are available for setting
unity gain, SIP Safe and Automation Safe. Four arrow keys provide
window scrolling and (using Shift) zooming. Four function buttons are
set up to open and close Edit, Mixer, Plug-in and Transport windows
in Pro Tools, but why not another four with the Shift button such as
Big Counter, Markers, Automation Enable, etc? Auxes can be selected
and controlled, usefully flipped onto the faders, and even assigned,
but like Plug-in assignment and editing on the 2802 that task is rather
fiddly and less direct than just using a mouse.
To automate the analogue console faders, you must set up 8
dummy MIDI tracks within Pro Tools, as the console uses Mod Wheel
controller data for automation fader moves. It’s a simple matter then
of recording and playing back the tracks, the only proviso being that
you cannot easily draw MIDI controller data in Pro Tools with the pencil
tool, so to edit moves it’s either copying and pasting or performing
the move again. I understand that an audio plug-in called FaderLink
(RTAS for Pro Tools) is in development that will include controls to
enable you to write and read Pro Tools automation to the associated
channel, negating the requirement for dummy tracks and I suspect
that this will be substantially better.