A few weeks back, before we had this shiny new forum, I posted over on the old Cakewalk forum asking if anyone could tell me how well an Icon QCon Pro X control surface would work with CbB. I got a good number of helpful responses, some of which recommended the Behringer XTouch. Someone also mentioned the Icon QCon Pro G2, which unlike the Pro X, officially supports CbB (though they still call it Sonar on the Icon website).
Long story short, I ended up getting a G2, and wanted to post back on how well it's been working, as no one in the previous discussion had tried one.
And... it works very well! It even allows navigation into the FX bins to any plug-in, which I call out specifically because I think I remember reading that there was a point in the recent past where one could not navigate past the first plug-in with the MCU and/or XTouch. In fact, the G2 has so far successfully controlled every parameter of every plug-in I’ve tried it with (about 6 or 7 plugs so far).
As I've never used an MCU or an XTouch (or any dedicated surface), and the G2 didn’t come with any DAW-specific documentation (and I couldn’t find any online for using it with CbB), I had to go through the MCU .chm help file (found in the same directory as the Mackie Control DLL) to figure out how to use everything. This was difficult because the G2 has different button names as well as a few differences in available buttons as compared to the MCU. These differences meant that, in some cases, I was reduced to just stabbing random buttons to see if I could get the G2 to do something described in the help file.
But I’ve now gone through the whole help file and tried 99% of the functionality described therein. The results? The G2 can do just about everything the original MCU can do. I found only a handful of functions referenced in the help that either don’t work on the G2 or work slightly differently, though some of that may be due to me not finding the right button combo, bugs in CbB or the Mackie Control DLL, or to changes in CbB since the help file was written (examples of that last category are: the duplicate track function opens the Duplicate dialog instead of directly duplicating a track and one of the hide track functions opens the Track Manager). Really, though, all the discrepancies I found were quite minor IMO.
Anyway, because it took so long to figure out the G2’s functionality, I decided to make a spreadsheet that includes most the functions I tested (I left most of the really obvious ones out, and didn’t bother mussing much with entering digits into text fields… because that’s what keyboards are for) and the G2 button combos required to execute them, as well as a list of the functions that didn’t work. I'm going to post it here in case it may help someone with a new G2 (or in case anyone is curious).
Before I do that – and keeping in mind that I’ve never used an MCU – here are the biggest downsides of the G2 as compared to the MCU (and I think the XTouch would not suffer from these, but this is based only on viewing photos of it).
There is no 2-character "Assignment" display. On the MCU (and, from pictures, on the XTouch as well), this tells you what state the device is in. However, this isn’t that big a deal, as the G2 indicates some of the info that would otherwise be displayed on the Assignment display in other ways (e.g. via lighted buttons or by what’s displayed on the scribble strip). Still, there are a few states that are maybe not obvious, which can lead you to think you're in a state that you're not. But I've not been much hampered by this.
Back on the MCU (and, I assume, on the XTouch) one could easily switch with a single button whether the channel/bank change buttons would change the track/bus assignments or instead change the parameters assigned to the encoders (or, if working in the FX bin, the plug-in whose parameters are available for assignment). Further, I think which of those states you were in was clearly indicated by the Assignment display or by an LED or button backlight. On the G2, though, you must be in a toggled shift mode (Layer 2) and then hit a completely non-obvious button to toggle between these two sets of channel/bank change button functionality. The button differences aren't the problem, though - the real issue comes from the fact that there is zero indication of which mode you’re in until you try to change the channel assignments, only to have the parameter assignments change instead, or vice versa. With that said, as soon as it happens you know due to the scribble strip changing or fader movement, at which point you can easily recover by hitting the opposite bank/channel change button to get back to where you were.
On the positive side, here is an important advantage that I think the G2 has over the XTouch: the scribble strip info is presented on a large, upright, bright and easy-to-read display, while the XTouch's strips are claimed to be, per several reviews I read, hard to read (they appear to be small and are laid flat on the device such that they are far from perpendicular to your eyes). This was one of the main reasons I went for the G2 over the XTouch (again, though, keep in mind I’ve never tried the XTouch).
Okay, that’s it – I hope the spreadsheet* is useful to someone. Also, if anyone is thinking of getting one of these, I'd be happy to answer some questions.
Oh, I should also state that I’m using a Mackie DLL modded and compiled by msmcleod; to get it, go to the post I linked to in the first paragraph and search for his username – he gave a link to the DLL in response to my OP. I think you can also get the compiled DLL on github, and I think I saw him post here on the new forums that he’s made further changes (though that might be a different user).
*Note that the spreadsheet is something I threw together quickly, and I’ve not yet proofread it or edited it for brevity/clarity (and it could use some of the latter).
Icon QCon G2 Pro Control Map3.xlsx