Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 24

ROAD TEST

By Adam Gallant

Solid State Logic UF8 DAW Controller

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Solid State Logic ( SSL ) have been on a solid run with a handful of new hardware releases , including the UC1 , UV EQ module , the SiX CH Module , and more . In this issue we ’ ll touch on their latest DAW controller , the UF8 . I ’ ll go over some key features and give an overview of how it has sped up the mixing process and a few tips on how one may configure the unit in order to work more creatively and effectively .

The UF8 is a DAW controller that focuses on speed and customizability . It comes with software profiles to control the most ubiquitous DAWs ( Studio One , Cubase , Logic Pro , Ableton Live , and Pro Tools ) and can control up to three of them simultaneously . Configuring the controller to work with your DAW ( s ) of choice is extremely quick and simple as SSL have put out a series of videos that offer step-by-step instructions for each . SSL ’ s 360 software is the main dashboard used to customize the unit , and it ’ s where users configure how the UF8 will roll out all of the hot key commands via its many soft-keys .
The controller boasts eight 100-mm motorized faders with extremely high resolution ( 1024 steps ), nine rotary encoders , 43 customizable soft keys , and a handful of well-selected function keys that provide instant access to the most commonly reached for commands , like session navigation , automation types , and even plug-in and send selections . The unit ’ s casing is a thick , anodized aluminium and its ergonomics are pleasing and versatile . The UF8 ships with two legs that can be installed in different positions to prop the controller up at a variety of angles .
A rackmount kit is available and up to four units can be tethered together to give a full 32-fader suite . The motorized faders are silent ( aside from the boot up sequence ), and all of the rotary encoders are endless with a satisfying stepped feeling . There are eight display screens that offer information such as track names , customizable soft key names , UV metering , as well as a large variety of information that is dependent on how the unit is configured . The display screens are bright , easily readable , and the software does a great job of truncating track names to suit the display size .
If you are new to the world of DAW controllers , it is worth noting that there can be a learning curve when getting them implemented . In my experience , the more time invested into the learning and setup phase , the more controllers will speed up and inspire your work . Much of the mixing process can happen in a flash and so many of our regular moves seem to come from some sense of muscle memory ; the UF8 capitalizes on this .
With a few changes to my mix template , I was able to significantly speed up my mix time as well as increase the quality of the mixes I was working on . For one , I made VCAs of instrument groups , parked all eight VCAs at the end of my session , named them with short and easily identifiable names and , voila , I now have a well-organized , broad strokes way to automate eight instrument groups simultaneously . This setup makes for extremely fast and inspiring results when finalizing a mix whose balance has been set and where bus processing is doing some work .
Secondly , I mapped one of the five Soft Keys layers to navigate to markers in my session . I can now jump between choruses , verses , and anywhere with a single press of one of the eight soft keys that sit on the controller ’ s top row . There are five layers to the bank of configurable Soft Keys and by default in Pro Tools , Layer 1 is much of the transport controls one might expect . If you ’ re like me and are hardwired into using your computer keyboard ’ s numeric pad for most of the transport controls , I suggest customizing this top layer with your frequently used hotkey commands . For example , in Pro Tools you can save a lot of mouse clicks by configuring one of the soft keys to Cmd + Shift + B , which gives you a one-button
way to pull up the “ Bounce To …” window . When printing stems , this single-key command can be a real timesaver . In addition to the five layers of Soft Keys , we have three Quick Keys that live at the top left of the controller . These again , are configurable in the 360 and can be mapped to DAW controls or to keyboard commands for full customization .
Focus mode is a unique feature worth mentioning . It makes the large rotary into a mousescroll , so with one hand on your mouse and another on the encoder you can fly around plug-ins or in your DAW and adjust a lot of parameters without having to click the mouse . This may sound insignificant in principle , but in practice I have been amazed at how much time this saves and how it lets my brain focus on what I am hearing and less on what my hands are doing .
The UF8 is a versatile unit that will make itself at home in a variety of production and post-production applications and I ’ ve only scratched the surface of its potential . It makes for fast switching of inputs and outputs on a webcast , it ’ s an ideal tool for automating audio for video , and , as tested with us this month , it is most certainly a perfect tool for outputting music mixes at great speeds .
Adam Gallant has worked in all facets of digital audio production , from music composition to location and post audio for television and film . He currently owns and operates The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown , PE .
24 CANADIAN MUSICIAN