Monitor Controllers - Looking for a 1-trick pony

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AK Audio
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Monitor Controllers - Looking for a 1-trick pony

Post by AK Audio » Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:48 pm

I've done a few searches on this topic but haven't quite found what I'm looking for, so if I've missed something I apologize for clutter of the message board and please point me in the right direction.

Context: I'm just upgrading from a DAW to some Apogee converters & PT9. Everything is going swimmingly, except that I now need some form of external monitor control device between my Apogee converters & my KRK active Rocket 8's. My setup is pretty mobile - for projects I'll move my gear for a week or so at a time and use the speakers for playback. I simply can't afford the Grace or Crane Song units, and frankly I've got more important fish to fry.

My needs: I already know the Rocket 8's aren't great. I basically just track with my setup and I don't really do much in the way of mixing - just playback for basic editing (essentially non-EQ work), as well as some very rough mixes so bands can practice for over-dubs & such. Because I move my stuff around I'd like something with a smaller footprint. I also have a separate unit for headphones cues whenever necessary so that feature isn't a "must".

In the > $100 category:
T.C. Electronic "Level Pilot" - http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=501108
S.M.Pro "Nano Patch" - http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=180226

In the < $100 category:
Mackie "Big Knob" - http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=700343
JBL MSC1 - http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=580380
Presonus "Monitor Station" - http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/pr ... sku=241727

The Dilemma:
Having used cheaper S.M.Pro (headphone) monitoring gear in the past I know that it significantly altered the sound. I was not a fan, so I'm reluctant to go for something so cheap. The T.C. unit seems small but I have absolutely no clue about its functionality and think it may be too good to be true.
I'm never really impressed with Mackie gear, but I know they're pretty popular units so perhaps I could pick one up pretty cheap? The Presonus seems like overkill and I'd rather not clutter up my desk unless it's really superior quality. The JBL's are interesting - I don't believe in the "magic" of RMC, but I figure it may be a useful bonus feature considering I take my setup to so many different locations. Thoughts?

The question:
My price range is basically around the $300 mark, but I'd love to save money if I can. Someday I'll upgrade to better speakers, but for now I have occasional access to a studio with a MUCH better system for mixing. But for now I need to control the volume/mute my monitors. Does anyone have any experience with the above mentioned equipment? I'm not afraid to buy used gear, so is there anything I've missed out there? Advice is much appreciated.

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ChrisNW
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Post by ChrisNW » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:08 pm

There are a lot of options out there but I have to recommend not skimping on this stage of your monitoring signal path. For about a year I used an SM Pro Audio product until I began to suspect it was coloring the sound despite it being passive. I also found the stereo image would lean to the left when monitoring at super quiet levels.

I recently bought a Coleman Audio monitor controller (the CMC4). It's not passive but its apparent lack of coloration has been a significant upgrade to my monitoring. Also, I'm able to perceive a balanced stereo image with the main level nearly all the way down.
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Post by lionaudio » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:46 pm

I have the Big Knob, and it colors the sound. I am looking for something else soon. It's not really that terrible once you are aware of HOW it changes the sound, and are able to compensate for the change, but I'd rather have something that is accurate

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kittonian
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Post by kittonian » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:02 am

If you're not already familiar with it, I would highly recommend checking out the SPL 2Control. You can hook up two pairs of speakers (and an optional sub woofer), have multiple input sources (DAW and external unit), control the volume/mute, plug-in two pairs of headphones (each with its own separate volume control), and it even has the Crossfeed control on the far more expensive Phonitor headphone amp.

Plus, it doesn't color the sound in any way and is very cost effective. Here's a link:
http://www.audiolot.com/proaudio/sales/products?id=277
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DrummerMan
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Post by DrummerMan » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:29 am

Pardon my ignorance, because I've never used one of these kinds of things before and I'm possibly misunderstanding their function, but why do you need a monitor controller? It seems, if I'm reading correctly, that you have one output from your converters and one pair of powered monitors. That would seem to me like a perfect recipe for just going straight from interface to monitors, no? What am I missing here?

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Post by farview » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:46 pm

DrummerMan wrote:Pardon my ignorance, because I've never used one of these kinds of things before and I'm possibly misunderstanding their function, but why do you need a monitor controller? It seems, if I'm reading correctly, that you have one output from your converters and one pair of powered monitors. That would seem to me like a perfect recipe for just going straight from interface to monitors, no? What am I missing here?
Eventually, you will want control the monitor volume without using the master fader in your DAW. So, for that you will need a volume control.

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iC
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Post by iC » Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:15 am

kinda silly question, but the advert blurb for TC Level Pilot mentions it as a solution for powered monitors. There's no reason why i couldn't use this before my Hafler amp feeding my tannoys, correct?
or am i missing something ...
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Post by AK Audio » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:41 pm

iC wrote: There's no reason why i couldn't use this before my Hafler amp feeding my tannoys, correct?
or am i missing something ...
I don't see why it wouldn't work for that - I think they advertise it that way because some people may otherwise think it's a passive attenuator that could go between the amp and the speakers... never underestimate the power of ignorance!

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Post by AK Audio » Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:38 pm

Thanks for the feedback, it's greatly appreciated!

From what I've gathered, the Mackie, SMPro, and Presonus are essentially guaranteed to color the sound - I couldn't find info on the others.
The Coeman looks interesting, but unfortunately it takes up precious rack-space in my portable setup.

The SPL-2 has me interested, but I'm curious about its size/weight. It doesn't seem too massive, and looks like it's worth checking out! It's got great reviews, now I just need to find a used one.

Anyone else care to weigh-in?

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Post by Ryan Silva » Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:24 pm

AK Audio wrote:Thanks for the feedback, it's greatly appreciated!

From what I've gathered, the Mackie, SMPro, and Presonus are essentially guaranteed to color the sound
:shake:

The Presonus Central Station (rackmount) is completely 'Passive' so no; it shouldn?t color your sound. Not sure about the Desktop Version

That being said, I have owned two of them, one for a Video Editing suite, one for my Recording studio.

They are absolutely fantastic in design, functions, interface (good Metering), but there speaker outs crap out after awhile, at least the older models. PreSonus says they have taken care of this in there new versions. I have had a new one for 6 months, no troubles yet.
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Post by ott0bot » Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:31 pm

I own the TC Level Pilot, and is functions exactly as stated. I used it to control the level of my Lynx Aurora, which was hooked up to a Digi 003r. I have a pair of active KRK speakers as well. It sounded just like it should, and the potentiometer is solid metal and moves with ease. No noticable coloration to my ears.

A few complaints. There are no markings on the unit...so recalling exact volume levels for checking mixes or "mastering" is a bit annoying. There is no mono button....which I use for mixing all the time so you have to make it mono in the DAW. It has no headphone output...so I have to use the 003r anyway...or mult the signal on a patchbay. The break out cables are only xlr...and my patchbay is trs...that's mostly my issue.

Side note, I swtiched back to using the 003r to control the monitors since clocking the 003r to the lynx has improved the sound, and for ease of use it's just better for me. My room with my speakers didn't have a huge impact on the d/a to my ears.

So...if you want a only passive attenuator that doesn't color audio and no other functions...then this is good device. But, if, like me, you'd like a little more funtionality...they I'd save your pennies and get that Grace unit, or maybe the Antelope Zodiac.

In fact....I may be interested in parting with it, since it's just sitting in a box. PM me if you go that way.

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