Monitor Controllers - what are we looking at currently?

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Monitor Controllers - what are we looking at currently?

Post by jgimbel » Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:13 pm

There are so many different products, many with different features, different price ranges, etc. Many threads online, especially on other forums, about various monitor controllers, but not a whole lot on Tape op. Moving this topic from the Small Active Monitors thread so as not to hijack. So what have you got? What are your thoughts on active vs. passive for headphone/speaker outs? What are you controlling/routing to and from?

While I'm not starting this thread just to find something myself, I am currently looking to pick up something to take one stereo out from a Lynx Aurora and have it go to one pair of monitors (hoping to just have a knob for the monitors' volume) and also to a headphone amp, and if possible, its own headphone out too. Presonus Monitor Station looks good for features, assuming the Cue Out can go to another another headphone amp, though it's all active. Using an active headphone amp right now and don't have any problem using that, though my speakers right now are coming from passive outs so moving to active would be change. Worth paying a bit more for the passive Central Station? Anything else seem better? Talkback would be great, but the monitor control, out for headphone amp, and its own headphone amp are the priorities right now for what I'm looking for.

Regardless of my situation I'm curious to learn what people are using for what situations. We all love to talk about mics and rack gear but routing and the equipment used for it can be more difficult to sort through.
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Post by Jeff White » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:58 am

Jesse, as noted in the monitor thread, I'm in the same situation. I like having multiple pairs of monitors. I track through them at times (like you, in a treated basement) and I like to get some good levels out of them, switch between mains and NS10s, check in mono on my Avantone, etc. Anyway, the Mackie Onyx 1220 that I have been using for the past year is really great for routing to everything from the computer, but totally overkill for the job. Plus, though it sounds good (I auditioned several small format mixers and it was best), I know it is not as transparent as this audio path could be. It is, however, a huge step up from the colored sound of the Adcom passive speaker switcher that I was using before it. But after a year, I'm ready to move on to something better for the job.

I'm considering the Presonus stuff, but again, not sure which to pick up, and, aside from the Big Knob (stupid name), I am clueless to anything else on the market in the sub-$500 price point. I would like to have at least 3 sets of monitor outputs, and the ability to bring in a feed from my Metric Halo 2882, from a 16-24 channel console/tape machine combo (which is happening this winter), as well as a turntable (i can always get a stand-alone phono amp). Aside from meeting these criteria, I want it to be as transparent as possible.

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Post by RoyMatthews » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:12 am

I know I'm not adding much to the discussion but I've always wondered why we don't see master channels of old consoles reracked as monitor controllers. People do it with input channels for the preamps and eq sections so why not a master channel? Maybe it's easier to to with an input channel. I don't know electronics.

More on topic I loved the Presonus Central Station back in the day. It just seemed to have the right amount of everything and sounded pretty good. All of the monitor controllers today leave me wanting for one more input or speaker output. I'm pretty sure it's discontinued right?
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Post by Jim Williams » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:07 am

Using the master module of an analog console is what I've done the last 40+ years. There is a good monitoring path in my analog master module.

Perhaps the difference is that it is still attached to the rest of the console.

Those Presonus Central Stations sounded horrible when I auditioned one here. What a filter!
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Post by Jeff White » Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:20 am

Jim Williams wrote:Those Presonus Central Stations sounded horrible when I auditioned one here. What a filter!
This is exactly what I'm worried about.

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Post by Electricide » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:30 pm

isn't proco still making monitor switchers?

*looks*

nope, sm pro. Well it had a pro in it somewhere. So it's totally pro!

http://www.smproaudio.com/index.php/en/ ... ontrollers

I don't use these, I'm still using the Onyx Satellite for monitor and headphone mixing.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:15 pm

Well, the Central Station has been great for us, but we had a pretty flimsy monitoring chain prior; not used to (at least at our place) working with Neve/SSL/Amek, etc., etc.

Us mortal humans dig the Central Station, and even tend to think of it as "filterless," if you will... :roll: :wink: :roll:

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Post by jgimbel » Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:54 pm

RoyMatthews wrote:I'm pretty sure it's discontinued right?
Nope, the Central Station is just as available as ever! They go for decent rates used too. I'll shell out for the Central Station if it's worth it over the Monitor Station.

While I have come across an occasional non-fan of the Central Station, they seem generally well-favored. The speaker outs are passive. I've seen a couple people say they didn't love the headphone amp, but I'm not sure if those people are just used to coming from much higher end pieces of gear, or even just from monitoring only from speakers. I'm not looking to find the most high end piece of gear ever, and my $50 Rolls headphone amp has been fantastic for years. If the Monitor Station or Central Station would be a lateral move then I'm happy, and I'm assuming it would be or possibly even a small step up. Right now my headphone amp is powered by my Firestudio Project, and the headphone out on that thing sounds great to me.

Anyone know for sure if the Main/Cue Out on the Central Station and Monitor Station can go to a headphone amp? I'd imagine so since the speaker outs are separate jacks, in fact I assume this is what they're for, I just don't find a whole lot of info only about what people are using the Main/Cue Outs for. The Monitor Station would give me the onboard 4 headphone outs plus the 4 I have in the Rolls if I can indeed connect that. The Central Station would do the same but with just 2 onboard headphone outs, which would still be an improvement for when bigger live bands track here.
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Post by Jim Williams » Tue Oct 22, 2013 4:39 pm

I've had a few Coleman boxes through the shop. Now those sounded good.
Costs a bit more, but worth it if you want honest monitoring.

Poor monitoring causes production mistakes in my experience.
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Post by kslight » Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:48 pm

Color me crazy, but I'm willing to bet that the target audience of the Presonus Monitor Station/Central Station/other budget boxes undoubtedly have (several) much weaker links in their monitoring chain than the supposed sonic artifacts induced by said boxes, not to mention their room, etc... But you've got to start somewhere.

I'm no cork sniffer :roll: but for my purposes the lowly Presonus Monitor Station is doing its job fine, has enough features for me, and didn't leave an enormous hole in my pocket like some of the monitor controllers would with their nice box, a relatively simple circuit and an overpriced knob.

YMMV of course. :wink:

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Post by chris harris » Wed Oct 23, 2013 8:55 am

One of my first "big" purchases was a Cranesong Avocet. Having a good stereo DA converter improved everything I was doing at the time (working ITB).

It's great and I love it. And, it's obviously way more expensive than the Presonus. That said, there's another studio in town with a Presonus, and it's never stood in my way when I've worked there.

I agree with the comment about other potential weak links in the monitoring chain/environment. We all do the best with what we have and upgrade things when we can and when we need to.

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Post by digitaldrummer » Wed Oct 23, 2013 9:53 am

I had built a totally passive monitor switchbox and it worked great. while planning to change my converter/interface I sold it (actually I had two of them and sold both!). That was apparently a little premature as I ended up going back to my BLA modded 002r.

so now I've got the Presonus Central Station. I've done comparisons of using the analog inputs (which are supposedly also 100% passive) and the S/PDIF inputs and other than a slight level change (which may be due to the Digi 002r rather than the CS inputs) I have not noticed any difference. I also have not noticed any difference from the passive switcher I had been using. so my personal assessment of the Central Station is that it is OK.

And btw, I currently have the cue output from the CS going into a separate headphone amp. Since it all feeds from the main S/PDIF L/R mix from Pro Tools it is the same mix that I can monitor through the CS headphone amp though. I'm sure I could create a separate mix and send it out 3/4 on my digi into the cue inputs (but then I lose the low latency feature of PT).


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Post by leigh » Wed Oct 23, 2013 11:06 am

I built a custom monitor controller some years back, and it has worked well.

All-passive, balanced audio path. 3 ins, 3 outs (each done with a 4P3T rotary switch, Digikey 451-1030-ND if my notes are correct) -- and for an attenuator, there is a Dantimax stepped relay board between them.

There are some shots of it here:
http://fishboytech.tumblr.com/tagged/monitor-controller

I also have a mixing board with its own monitor section, but I like having an external, super clean monitor controller. When mixing on the board (which for me means coming out of Pro Tools, and then recording back to a Pro Tools track), I can listen to the mix right off the board, or switch to monitoring the playback from Pro Tools (helpful if I want to use any plug-ins for mix buss processing).

A board with a "2-track" input can do the same switching, but this way I know I'm not adding any other coloration by hitting the board again. What I'm hearing is a direct path from DA converter to speakers. And because of the stepped relay board, there is always the same balance between the L and R sides (which can drift when using a dual potentiometer as an attenuator).

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Post by jgimbel » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:43 pm

kslight if you're on this thread, it's been a few days - how have you been liking the Monitor Station?

leigh, looks like a very nice build!

I'm relatively set on just picking up a Central Station, but I'm doing some last minute looking around. I'm coming across the Coleman stuff, which is more than I had intended to spend but I don't want to ignore better options if they're out there. The Coleman M3PH could be a contender, if a pair of the outputs can work for going to a headphone amp, rather than just going to speakers. Anyone know anything about that? Even as a general question, are the speaker outs for going to active speakers fine for going to a headphone amp, or are they a different kind of output and wouldn't be working quite right?

The Coleman TB4 has a separate "cue out" so I assume that could go to a headphone amp while one of the two pairs of outputs could go to the monitors. Maybe the unused pair of outputs could even go to a headphone amp, but that brings me to the last question I had, if those outputs intended I assume to go to monitors can be used to go to a headphone amp, or if they're something else entirely. The TB4's talkback mic would be useful too. It seems in a way to be like a nicer version of the Central Station - headphone output (one, rather than two), multiple outputs, talkback. But I've yet to decide, if this would indeed would for me, if I'm willing to spend about twice the amount on it I'd spend on a new Central Station on, or over three times what I'd probably pay on a used one.

Thoughts?

There's also the SM Pro Audio M-Patch 4M (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/8 ... OLLER.html) which seems like it has features I could use but I'm not sure it's the same level of quality as even the Central Station.
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Post by kslight » Wed Oct 30, 2013 4:57 am

jgimbel wrote:kslight if you're on this thread, it's been a few days - how have you been liking the Monitor Station?

leigh, looks like a very nice build!

I'm relatively set on just picking up a Central Station, but I'm doing some last minute looking around. I'm coming across the Coleman stuff, which is more than I had intended to spend but I don't want to ignore better options if they're out there. The Coleman M3PH could be a contender, if a pair of the outputs can work for going to a headphone amp, rather than just going to speakers. Anyone know anything about that? Even as a general question, are the speaker outs for going to active speakers fine for going to a headphone amp, or are they a different kind of output and wouldn't be working quite right?

The Coleman TB4 has a separate "cue out" so I assume that could go to a headphone amp while one of the two pairs of outputs could go to the monitors. Maybe the unused pair of outputs could even go to a headphone amp, but that brings me to the last question I had, if those outputs intended I assume to go to monitors can be used to go to a headphone amp, or if they're something else entirely. The TB4's talkback mic would be useful too. It seems in a way to be like a nicer version of the Central Station - headphone output (one, rather than two), multiple outputs, talkback. But I've yet to decide, if this would indeed would for me, if I'm willing to spend about twice the amount on it I'd spend on a new Central Station on, or over three times what I'd probably pay on a used one.

Thoughts?

There's also the SM Pro Audio M-Patch 4M (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/8 ... OLLER.html) which seems like it has features I could use but I'm not sure it's the same level of quality as even the Central Station.

The Monitor Station works fine so far for me.

As far as outputs go, there is dedicated set of Cue outputs for driving a headphone amp, but I imagine you can use the speaker outputs for anything?

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