LOUD Technologies claims to be the first company to negate Avid's hardware requirements for certain Pro Tools users, writes Mel Lambert. The soon-to-be-unveiled Mackie Onyx-i Series analogue consoles with built-in FireWire will not require any Avid-developed hardware; the mixer connects directly to a PC or Mac running M-Powered Pro Tools.
A newly-developed Mackie Universal Driver V1.0 reportedly circumvents the protection that links Digidesign/M-Audio systems to M-Powered DAW software.
And the way in which advance news of the break-through leaked to the media was ingenious. 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 analogue mixer with FireWire interface, a copy of Avid's M-Powered Pro Tools 8, a ransom-style note and a DVD. It turned out that the DVD held the mystery of this viral marketing campaign: a video clip purporting to be from a Mackie insider - complete with stocking mask and a pitch-shifted voice - explained that, uniquely, the new Onyx-i Series will run directly without the need for Avid hardware. The 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.)
The package with no logos or markings was sent out in mid-August to catch the attention of critical media outlets that could get word out fast via the internet, in advance of a worldwide launch on September 9, when full details of the i-Series will be available from the Mackie website.
"The new Onyx-i Series includes the 820i, 1220i and 1620i models - respectively, eight, 12- and 16-channel stereo models - plus the 1640i, a 16-channel/four-group offering with 16x16 bi-directional FireWire I/O that enables both multitrack recording and mixing," explains James 'Woody' Woodburn, Mackie product manager.
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 M-Powered software. Now owners of Onyx-i Series mixers 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 users that start with M-Powered systems often migrate to Pro Tools LE and HD rigs.
But Avid remains taciturn. According to Amy Peterson, 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."
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