Touted as a "hands-on plug-in control for Pro Tools," this standalone application could be a frustration-killer for anyone who finds themselves tweaking the multitude of parameters within plug-ins via mouse or trackball. It also opens up the possibilities of two-handed (or more) control when setting parameters, like recording automation for delays with regeneration and time modulation all happening at the same time. Mulligan is an intermediary application that allows Pro Tools (PT) to communicate with any MIDI hardware (featuring 8 knobs or more) for plug-in and simple transport and channel controls; PT sees Mulligan as if it's a MIDI controller itself. Get it? Once the relatively simple setup in PT is done (linking Mulligan as a MIDI controller), hit the Map All Knobs button in Mulligan and turn the first knob on your controller to the left. This maps the whole bank of 8 knobs, and now it's ready to control plug-ins. Click on a plug-in or channel (the top plug-in will be highlighted), and you'll see a blue line around the plug's GUI and insert point. Now your controller is active (via the "plug-in map controls" that PT offers). Nothing has to be modified in your PT sessions to make Mulligan function. Open and work as usual, and use Mulligan if needed, or not!

Knob assignment can be customized, as some plug-ins have several (scrollable via Mulligan) "pages" (banks of 8) while others might even have less than 8 control parameters. Because Mulligan uses the M-Audio Keyboard protocol for MIDI control (you know, the 8 knobs on the left side of the M-Audio keyboards), we get access to only 8 controls at a time, but a Heads-Up Display will pop up at the bottom of your screen (with size, placement, and font options) and it shows the 8 knob assignments' values for quick familiarity. Buttons on your MIDI device can be assigned to transport functions, as well as "current track" settings – level, solo, mute, pans, sends – and even fader control if you have that encoder.

What did I fear about using something like Mulligan? Over the decades, I've seen so many versions of DAW controllers out there, some as big as a console, with many of these now relegated to a landfill since OS and drivers changed around them. Plus, as a commercial studio owner, I found that freelancers (or even staff) wouldn't even touch the simple PreSonus FaderPort [Tape Op #59] that we had years ago. My first note to reFuse's Leigh Marble (also a way-back Tape Op contributor) was that I wouldn't have any use for Mulligan, as I didn't work this way. Then Leigh dropped by to demo it, and I changed my tune. Once set up, I can show this to any engineer, and they've "got it" right away. There's no complicated workaround, and Mulligan is (thankfully) not trying to emulate a whole console. Despite the extra features mentioned, it's intended to control plug-ins, and to give the user a quicker, more intuitive interface for dialing in sounds. Plus, the controller can be very small, even sitting nearby on our actual analog console at Jackpot! Recording. Nice.

In use, I felt there were many plug-ins that I'd prefer to remap knobs to feature my most-used controls. Note that this is not the fault of Mulligan, and that you can easily remap as noted above. Some plug-ins, like FabFilter Pro-Q 3 [Tape Op #132], feature 51 pages of possible controls – I understand why, and I know I could remap, but this sent me back to the mouse in a heartbeat; once again, not Mulligan's fault, but something to note when using this app. I love that when I open a plug-in with my mouse that a hardware button will be there to instantly solo/un-solo that channel. This alone sped up mixing. My left hand would be soloing and tweaking the plug-in while my right hand was ready at the mouse. I'm still feeling a little clumsy with all this, but I found it nice to have access to knobs – at times I'd try settings that I never bothered with while using a mouse.

I demoed Mulligan on a Behringer X-Touch Mini, the perfect format with 8 knobs and an array of buttons (hint: P-touch the transport function buttons), and I purchased one of these even though it's probably going to fall apart in a year. (Note that it had to have its encoders setup "relative" via a Windows computer.) Controllers reFuse recommended include the DJ TechTools Midi Fighter Twister and Kenton Killamix Mini (Who names this gear? Teenage boys?).

Hint: Once it's set up, open Mulligan before PT. Otherwise one needs to revisit the MIDI controller setup in PT. Opened properly, it's all ready to roll as long as your controller is already hooked up to the computer (oops). But the best part is now it's time to set aside our mouses and trackballs (to a degree!) and start turning knobs again!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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