Mackie Control Universal Pro Hands on Review

Mackie Control Universal Pro | Tim M.

The Mackie Control Universal is an iconic piece of equipment.  As a MIDI controller, it competes well with rival controllers from Tascam and Digidesign and its layout and features have given it a permanent place in professional studios and project spaces alike.  Die hard Mackie fans would have a hard time imagining what upgrades could have been done to the MCU that would facilitate the need for MCU Pro and the truth is there really isn’t much that could be done to improve on the Mackie Control Universal.

The Mackie Control Universal Pro is a sturdier piece of equipment than its predecessor.  The original MCU was encased in plastic, whereas the Pro has metal casing, making it look and feel like a more serious board.  It’s intuitive layout and hands-on control gives it a distinctly analog feel which can be a real turn-on for those working with digital workstations.  The shape of the Pro is slightly different from that of the original MCU.  It’s a bit sleeker, making it an easier fit for lining up beside extenders and other pieces of equipment.  Also, the Pro comes with a USB port, which is a big bonus for those who have been hoping and praying for the day when we could all do away with the need for a MIDI interface.  Even still, for those who prefer it, the MCU Pro can still be hooked up using MIDI DINs.  My all-time favorite feature for any piece of recording equipment (particularly as someone who’s been using DAWS since the 1990s) is the fact that the Pro is class-compliant and needs no drivers.  Yet, despite the USB connector, the MCU Pro actually has more regular MIDI I/O than before – three pairs of ins and outs wherein one can connect C4/Extender Pros, synths and other hardware.

Mackie Control Universal Pro top

The MCU Pro comes with several DAW overlays for the board including Pro Tools, Cubase, MOTU Digital Performer, Tracktion and Cakewalk.  Other overlays for applications like Reason, Ableton Live, Adobe Audition and several others can be ordered separately.

There is no distinction between the layout of the MCU and Pro versions. There is, however, improvement with button design and responsiveness, the newly weighted jog wheel and fully-illuminated caps on the Record Arm, Select, Mute and Solo buttons.  The Pro is a bit more comfortable to work on than the original MCU.

Mackie Control Universal Pro Extender

Mackie Control Universal Pro Extender

Build on your MCU Pro with Mackie’s Extender Pro and C4 Pro add-on units.   You can connect up to three expansion units directly through the MIDI I/O on the back of the MCU Pro and of course, more can be added via MIDI interfaces. The number that can be added depends on your available DAW desk space. The Extender Pro comes equipped with eight channel strips and a display screen. The C4 Pro has 32 rotary/push-button V-Pots, with each of its four rows having its own LCD display.

All in all, if you’re already armed with the firing power of the original Mackie Control Universal, the difference between the MCU and the Pro version is relatively negligible.  If you’re in the market for a controller on the other hand, the additional features offered by the Mackie Control Universal Pro may be worth the investment.

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