I’ve created a custom Propellerhead Reason remote map for Mackie Control (Mackie Universal Control) mixers, such as ones used by my Behringer X-Touch or the Mackie MCU Pro. The remote map, called MJ Enhanced Universal Control, fixes problems like buttons being mapped in wrong areas, reduces clip LED’s getting triggered, functions missing entirely (like the EQ Q knobs) while adding enhancements and new features, like comp and gate LED meters, time displayed by default and global solo and mute off functions. This enables you to control the entire virtual SSL mixer and channel strip settings (including channel selection!) without extra prep work (like the BCR2000 method required). An optional Lua codec also enhances the channel VU meters. This article serves also as a guide / general commentary and I’m sharing it free…
The MJ Enhanced Mackie Universal Control setup took a very long time for me to do. This mapping file and article are written based on my experience with Behringer’s X-Touch mixer. The X-Touch is designed to work in Mackie mode for programs like Reason, Ableton, Logic, etc. Unlike Behringer’s odd Propellerhead partnership with the BCF2000 and BCR2000 line of controllers, the X-Touch was designed to work exactly the same as other mixers under the Mackie Universal Control setup (same as Mackie MCU Pro models). Comparing the way Reason and other programs interact with the X-Touch, with the exception of the clip LED (that my layout tries to reduce), all screw ups appear to be on Propellerhead (this isn’t the first time).
Why Propellerhead screwed up with the Mackie Universal Control protocol
I thought Propellerhead’s implementation of the Behringer BCR2000 was bad, but at least it was just the layout and still functioned properly. With the Behringer X-Touch, Propellerhead screwed up the actual placement of what button is mapped to what. Whoever coded the direct MIDI CC number data screwed things up also. For software that costs $400 each user and updates that cost $130, this is just plain wrong.
Propellerhead caused many functions to not work
Many features of the X-Touch that work in other DAW’s don’t work in Reason, even when remote mapped. Some buttons won’t light up even when they’re successfully remote override mapped. It took me a long time but here’s a rendering I did of which buttons do and don’t light up in Reason.
This may not seem like a big deal, but you need a button to light up to know if it’s on or off. If a button doesn’t have a light, I tried to avoid using it (and those I used were functions that mostly don’t require on / off status)
Who should use the MJ Enhanced Universal Control
If you use Reason and have a mixer that communicates as a Mackie Universal Control, you should use or at the very least try it (as I’ve made it 100% free, just like my music). I focused this layout for the Behringer X-Touch so everything is geared towards it.
Using the X-Touch and the MJ Enhanced Universal Control layout makes production, mixing and mastering so much more efficient. Not to mention it’s so, so much fun. I no longer click any fader, knob or button on the mixer screen, I control it all from the X-Touch. I only need to click the virtual SSL mixer to rename, reorganize or delete tracks. The digital scribble screens, illuminated buttons and channel strip track selection (impossible with the older BCR2000-method I invented) make this process super slick.
What the MJ Enhanced Universal Control fixes or adds
I added a clipping indicator and reset button where the scrub button is located. Reason has no way to manipulate clips, notes or other things from MIDI controllers, so a scrub function isn’t needed at all in Reason (and scrubbing the song’s position is pointless).
I poured over the design for weeks to come up with the most intuitive layout given the constraints of the mixer and software. Things are where you expect them to be. Propellerhead had screwed things up; the EQ section was on the send button and the mastering section was on the EQ button.
In my layout, hardly anything is placed behind the push encoders (the push knob buttons) because you can’t see when the functions are on or off until they’re clicked and changed (that’s generally bad design).
When changing the loop positions using the “drop” and “replace” buttons, touch the magnifying icon button at the center of the move arrows to return back to normal mode. Here’s a description of what buttons do for the MJ Enhanced Mackie Universal Control. Click image for larger view and make sure to zoom in.
Fuller text descriptions
Propellerhead cut text super short, much shorter than it needed to be, or they needlessly spanned text across multiple LCD windows making text look ridiculous. “Makes t ext app ear lik e garba ge.” Most of the time, Propellerhead didn’t even use the full 7 characters.
My layout uses the full 7 character space of MCU Pro’s, X-Touches, etc. I also call out text descriptions of what the knobs, buttons and even push encoders and meters do (Propellerhead only called out the knobs, sometimes not even doing that).
I typed out descriptions the way it makes sense to us, Reason users. Knobs on the virtual SSL mixer are labeled the way they appear.
Also, absolutely no static text spans across LCD screens, so no words get split between two strips. Hallelujah…
And finally, every single section (TRACK, PAN, EQ, etc) shows a channel’s corresponding digital scribble strip. Propellerhead had two sections not show channel strip info and it was the biggest reason someone would end up lost at where they currently were in regards to channel bank, channel number, etc. Ensuring digital scribble strips appear anytime no matter what you’re doing is vital to being intuitive.
Button colors match their function (X-Touch specific)
It wasn’t easy figuring out placement, but I made sure each button matches the color of the function you expect. The clip indicator lights up red. The “mute all off” button is red to match the mute buttons, the “solo all off” button is amber to match the amber solo buttons, etc.
Practically every single thing of the virtual SSL mixer is mapped, including oddities like Filters to Dyn buttons. 99% of everything on the virtual SSL mixer is mapped; the other 1% you don’t want mapped.
EQ “Q” knobs
Get this stupid crap; Propellerhead added all this garbage like FX Pre’s and Inv button controls but they didn’t include the “Q” knobs for the EQ! How can they leave out the Q knobs??
Yeah, I fixed that backwoods crap, Q knobs are now part of the EQ settings.
The “EQ On” and “E” also have dedicated LCD displays, too, so it’s easy to see when the buttons are on.
Added comp & gate channel meters
I added comp and gate channel meters. These function automatically and are linked to the virtual SSL mixer’s comp and gate channel LED’s. There was no code in the Universal Control remote map file for this, but in creating the technique for the BCR2000, I was able to get it working here too.
VU meters in every section
Propellerhead only had channel VU meters in three of the five sections. Now, every section displays the channel VU meters as they should.
Pacified clipping LED’s glitch
Master compressor gain reduction and master out displaying on 3 of the VU’s was mainly causing this (Behringer’s fault, not Propellerhead’s). When the master out in Reason clipped, it activated clip LED’s on the X-Touch. The Mackie protocol apparently doesn’t support a method for resetting the clip LED’s.
I fixed this by reassigning the VU meters for the channels as they should have been from the start. It doesn’t mean you can’t get an individual channel’s output to be so loud where it won’t trigger the clip LED, but that typically shouldn’t happen. Now, when the main VU out clips, it won’t trigger individual channel clip indicators.
95% of all functions have text descriptions
When hitting the “select” button for a channel and going into the different modes, when a knob has a function, it’s clearly labeled what it does. Nearly everything is called out and, if it’s not, it’s intuitive enough to figure out what it is.
Changed the time display
This one’s a big time saver. Propellerhead programmed the display to show the annoying bars mode (”34.3.2”) instead of time (”1:34”). Time should always be displayed by default. Bars can be very useful for recording rhythm on time, and so is the metronome (click). But you don’t want the metronome to be on by default and the same for bars. And those of you thinking you can judge a song’s time by bars, you can’t because tempo changes a bar’s time.
I’ve changed this so now it displays time by default (a major time saver in my book).
Disabled the confusing 1-8 channel LED display
Propellerhead tried to get the LED time display area to show what channel number you’re currently controlling.
The problem is that Propellerhead didn’t create the needed code. Channels 1-8 display correctly, channel 2 displays “2” on the LED. But when you move to another channel bank and select channel number 10, the LED will display “2”. Channel 11 displays “3”, channel 12 displays “4”, channel 17 ”1”, channel 18 “2” and so forth.
This does way more harm than good so I removed this broken functionality. It doesn’t help you know which channel bank you’re on, but it doesn’t make you more lost.
(Tip: I add a number to the first channel of a channel bank in Reason so I can always see which channel bank I’m on. “1Keys”, “9Flute”, etc. So each track on channels 1, 9, 17, 25, etc. It’s unrealistic to number every single other channel though because seven characters is already too limited for channel names.)
“All solos off” and “all mutes off” functions added
This wasn’t present before. Red “SAVE” button for mutes and amber “TRIM” button for solos.
You might think this could get confusing as the buttons are labeled “save” and “trim”, but it isn’t because the buttons around those sections are all typically dark. Once you hit mute on a channel, a new red button lights up on the side of the normally dark area and your brain instantly registers that with being the “all mutes off” button, same for the amber “all solos off” button.
Remapped layouts and added various buttons
I remapped a lot of the goofy layouts. Now the dim -20dB is on the group button, click on the click button, preclick to the right of the click button (confusingly called the “solo” button), loop on the cycle (loop) button, undo on the undo button and redo appearing beneath it on the enter button (the mixer has no “redo” label button anywhere).
I added the most useful functionality Reason’s code allowed for while focusing on trying to make the button labels make logical sense.
Automation write / “WRITE” (self-explanatory)
Alt take / “ALT” (self-explanatory)
Overdub / “OPTION” (think ”O” for “Overdub”)
Auto-quantize / “LATCH” (MIDI notes “latch” in place)
Tap Tempo / “TOUCH” (“touch” repeatedly for “tempo”)
Some features did more harm than good
Just because something can be mapped to a button, doesn’t mean it should. Car manufacturers could place additional buttons to control the car’s horn in the back seats… but they don’t do it because some things do more harm than good. Same is true with Reason.
Here’s some of the things that could be placed and why they weren’t.
Changing mastering / device / FX patches
There’s no labeling for these buttons and, in testing, songs were nearly ruined accidentally changing patches without realizing the wrong buttons were hit before saving projects. Nightmare.
There is a “SAVE” button on the mixer but this is way too dangerous of an option to have as a one-touch button. Since I can’t add in a two button press combination sequence, there’s no save button functionality. You’re welcome.
MIDI track mute / solo
This is one of those features that seems like it would work well, but it doesn’t because of the nature of having to be on a selected track in the sequencer and issues with multiple MIDI lanes, etc..
There’s no dedicated button label for it and, in testing, MIDI tracks were constantly getting accidentally muted and unmuted so I removed MIDI track mute / solo functionality.
Tempo Up / Down
Seems like it would be a useful function, but there’s no button labeled and, in testing, it was too easy to accidentally change the tempo.
Tap tempo, on the other hand (“TOUCH” button) makes more sense as pressing it once or even twice in a row accidentally won’t change the tempo. And if using the tap tempo feature, having a button to press is more ideal than clicking a mouse or tapping a touchpad.
Target Track Enable Monitoring
This would be useful on the mixer, no doubt… but accidentally activating this feature can cause screeching feedback and there’s no clear button label to assign this to (making accidental presses even more likely).
Automation As Performance Controllers
This is the feature where automation data will be inside MIDI note clips instead of outside. I hate automation data being inside MIDI note clips and, since there’s no clear button label for this, it isn’t included.
Optional Lua codec install for Behringer X-Touch mixers
Enhanced VU meter behavior
The VU meters of Reason don’t reflect the VU meters of the X-Touch that well (Mackie MCU Pro’s don’t even have VU meters). Channels on the X-Touch look much more quiet than they do on the virtual SSL (this is a Reason issue and not an X-Touch issue).
I modified the Lua codec to make the levels act differently. The VU display is more prominent at lower levels.
It works out well for me but it may not be right for you; if you’re not using an aggressive mastering suite you may not want this. Remember, this Lua codec is optional and not needed for the MJ Enhanced Mackie Universal Control map file. Feel free to test the Lua codec out and restore the original Lua file if it doesn’t work to your liking.
Things Propellerhead didn’t code support for at all
Color-changing digital scribble strips
This one isn’t on Propellerhead. Color changing scribble strips aren’t part of the Mackie protocol and X-Touch’s only show multi-colored channel strips when connected to xAir mixers *rolls eyes* and no other DAW’s. For all intents and purposes, pretend the X-Touch doesn’t even have color changing digital scribble strips.
These features are supported by other DAW’s but Reason lacks general zoom controller support (not just Mackie). Reason needs an overhaul to support things like this.
Keyboard key functions
Same situation here; Reason’s remote mapping can’t assign functions like ”F6” (rack view), “Z” (zoom view), “F8” (tools pop up) or a host of other useful things. (MIDI keystroke translation programs exist but they run like crap and don’t work in most situations. Man-in-the-middle solutions like those from Retouch Control work great however.)
We already know the view changing function keys aren’t available, but there’s also no way to set up view changing directly in the remote map files. In future updates, Reason needs these aspects updated, not more bloated synths.
Dedicated bus control
There’s no function in Reason to switch to just bus channels. Too bad… Reason is begging for behind-the-scene updates!
The people on the payroll at Propellerhead are… well, they’re a special group of people. The time display? If something is a minute and 3 seconds long, it should be displayed “1:03”. Or, in other DAW’s, time is displayed on the X-Touch as “001 03” or some (smartly) add nanoseconds “001 03 38“. Makes perfect sense. Propellerhead? They display it as “0 1 3”. It looks and ticks by like it’s at “13” seconds since Propellerhead stupidly didn’t code in any zeros between the “1” and ”3”.
So the time display looks a little confusing at times. And, no, the code for time is locked deep inside Reason and isn’t something I can change apparently (not to mention, I’m not a coder, know zero code languages and have gotten all this working by sheer ingenuity, trial-and-error and a Pepsi addiction).
How to install the MJ Enhanced Mackie Universal Control remote map
Extract the MJ_Enhanced_Universal_Control_Remotemap.zip. I included two files, the remote map file and the Lua codec. I also included the unaltered, Propellerhead version files. Navigate to the location of Reason’s Mackie map files. For macOS, it’s Macintosh HD\Library\Application Support\Propellerhead Software\Remote\Maps\Mackie. The files will be hidden on Windows (here’s how to unhide them) at C:\ProgramData\Propellerhead Software\Remote\Maps\Mackie\ .
Make a copy of your original file and then simply replace the “Universal Control.remotemap” with the one from the “MJ Enhanced Mackie Universal Control” folder. On Windows, you may have to click an authorize pop-up box. If Reason was open, either restart it or go to the control surface’s preference area, uncheck “Use with Reason” and recheck it to take effect.
How to install the optional MJ Enhanced Mackie Universal Control Lua codec
Navigate to the location of Reason’s Mackie codec files. For macOS, it’s Macintosh HD\Library\Application Support\Propellerhead Software\Remote\Codes\Lua Codecs\Mackie\. The files on Windows will be at C:\ProgramData\Propellerhead Software\Remote\Codes\Lua Codecs\Mackie\ .
Make a copy of your original file and then simply replace the “mackiecodec.lua” with the one from the “MJ Enhanced Mackie Universal Control” folder. Restart Reason.
Hopefully this post inspires change
Hopefully Propellerhead sees this and does the right thing by focusing on adding hardware support, like they used to do years and years ago, and also overhauls Reason to add in more advanced controller support that other DAW’s, such as Logic and Live, have had for years.
And hey, people at RetouchControl… feel free to take the things I’ve pioneered here and expand on them with a man-in-the-middle style program that adds things that aren’t possible to hack in the map files, such as tool use, keyboard functions, zoom, clip movement or whatever you clever people can think of. (Focus on keeping the mixer a mixer, don’t need it to be a universal controller, the Ableton Push is better for that).
Getting the X-Touch was one of the best purchases I’ve made. It helps make my music come alive. When people come over, of all the hardware of my small, corner studio, the Behringer X-Touch is the always the thing that people remember the most. The faders are louder than the Mackie MCU Pro, but that’s a moot point as I never, and I mean never, notice since music is always playing (headphones or speakers) when the faders move. The digital scribble strips disqualify the Behringer BCF2000 and Behringer X-Touch Compact, and the VU meters, design and price put it ahead of the Mackie MCU Pro. The Mackie MCU Pro had a matching extender… and now the X-Touch does too with the X-Touch Extender.
And the sides of the X-Touch and X-Touch Extender can be removed so that they rest flush against devices. I recently took the sides off the X-Touch and it looks much sleeker and fits flush with the Ableton Push.
Just like my music, I’m sharing this 100% for free
I’m sharing this with people for free because I want others to have a good experience with Reason. If you liked this, check out my music on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube and other places. If you hear something you think people will enjoy, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with them. If you got Twitter, follow @MixerJaexx ‘cuz I need more people to tweet to.
Here’s G.T. Bray, one of my ambient songs created with this remote map. Click play…
Later. – MJ