You are here

Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby CS70 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 9:47 pm

I use an M-Patch 2 myself, but as Hugh says, very short cable runs and active speakers.

I also use it to switch to an Auratone, driven by a Cambridge Audio Azur 340A integrated amp and that works as well for me... but I wouldn't have a clue how a "clean" Cube sounds anwyay! :D
User avatar
CS70
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2942
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video  and the FB page

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Mar 08, 2018 9:50 pm

Forum Admin wrote:The original review is potentially misleading (I, for one, misunderstood), so if you wish to edit the article to clarify the points you made, go ahead

Done.

...useful when you wish to locate the original version of the NASA website prior to them removing the video footage of 'sound' on the Moon... ;)

Oh dear... :lol: :roll: :beamup:

H
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 21952
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:11 pm

Just a small comment. I've never regretted getting my MC2.1 and Drawmer's after sales support when I had problems was exemplary (and very personal, I was corresponding with people like the support manager, not some minion in a call centre) . But the CMC2 wasn't available when I got the MC2.1. Since I don't need a talkback mic the CMC2 would have met my needs exactly. They should be selling these by the container full.

CC
User avatar
ConcertinaChap
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6155
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 12:00 am
Location: Bradford on Avon
Making music: Eagle Alley, recording music: Mr Punch's Studio
Disclaimer: I don't claim to know anything at all.

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:54 pm

ConcertinaChap wrote:....after sales support when I had problems was exemplary (and very personal, I was corresponding with people like the support manager, not some minion in a call centre) ...

This is something which is, I think, quite common among many small (in terms of staff numbers) manufacturers who are genuinely passionate about what they do -- I think you'd get the same kind of personal support response from the likes of Audient, Focusrite, ATC, PMC, Quested, Rycote, and many others, for example.

H
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 21952
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby zenguitar » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:25 am

Forum Admin wrote:Anyone wanna buy my M-Patch2?

Of all people you are the last person who should need reminding that we have Reader's Ads for this Ian !!

;) :lol: :angel:

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 8745
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby jimjazzdad » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:07 pm

I built one of these a few years ago and it has served my studio well: http://www.audiotechnology.com.au/wp/index.php/on-the-bench-diy-monitor-controller/ (hope its OK to link). Not to take away from the excellent products discussed here, but passive monitor controllers are pretty simple to build and sound great when using a bit of care and quality components. I built mine as a balanced unit using TRS jacks in an angled aluminum encolsure, so it look a bit different than the one in the DIY article. I also added a in/out switch for a sub. All for less than $100 and a pleasant afternoon of tinkering.
User avatar
jimjazzdad
Poster
Posts: 31
Joined: Sun Dec 15, 2013 1:00 am
Halifax, NS, CANADA

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:32 pm

I am not a great fan of passive controllers for all the reasons so far mentioned but, the main drawback that I can see is the higher than desirable output resistance and its variability? A couple of balanced line drivers would solve that in short order and allow the passives to drive long lines to monitors.

Talk will no doubt follow about "transparency"? Well a couple of unity gain NE5532s are probably as spring water compared to the front ends in most sub £1000 monitors!

Oh! And I would LOVE someone to tell me how and what causes the Big K to be "coloured"?

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9560
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Dan B » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:09 pm

Thanks again for all the responses.

Ok, now I'm a little confused! :)

My only concern here is fidelity. Given that I can operate either a c. 3m balanced or c. 1m unbalanced lead (and it's usually the latter) from the output of the controller to the power amps, I'm guessing that the disadvantages of a passive system aren't much of an issue here? Or there might be solved by a line driver?

At the input end, there's an unavoidably long run from the RME soundcard to the C500, but by using a passive or active monitor controller would enable me to switch that to a balanced one. Which in itself should provide a little benefit.

Many users of inexpensive passive controllers (like the new Big Knob passive or the M Patch 2) report that they're far from transparent. This is a concern as it may not be a step up from the C500.

My budget for a volume control is limited. Well, unless it was really going to make a night and day difference - but I suspect that kind of money would be better spend upgrading amps, speaker or D/A (currently an RME UCX, although I could use - but don't - a Focusrite Clarett Octopre). So it seems we're either looking at

(i) staying with the status quo (hurray - no £££ or time spent rewiring required);
(ii) a cheap passive controller (£50-100); or
(iii) an active controller (pick of the bunch on a budget seems to be the CMC2 for £215).

The only testing I can currently do is to take the C500 out of the picture completely to see if that sounds noticeable more transparent, but (a) that'll still be running on a long unbalanced cable and, more importantly (b) given the time that takes, my audio memory is likely to be totally unreliable to measure that kind of difference. Is there a more scientific approach I should adopt here?

Yours confusedly,
Dan

(As always, I'm probably looking for simple objectively verifiable answers, when the answer is probably "it's complicated"! :?: :headbang: :lol: )
Dan B
Regular
Posts: 142
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2001 1:00 am
Location: London

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby James Perrett » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:36 pm

Dan B wrote:My only concern here is fidelity. Given that I can operate either a c. 3m balanced or c. 1m unbalanced lead (and it's usually the latter) from the output of the controller to the power amps, I'm guessing that the disadvantages of a passive system aren't much of an issue here? Or there might be solved by a line driver?

That unbalanced connection on the output is going to make the whole system unbalanced with a passive controller - this really points to you needing an active controller like the Drawmer.

Personally I'd try the direct route first. If you really hear a difference then it would be worth replacing the Cambridge amp but I'm less worried that Hugh is about long unbalanced connections provided the driving end has a suitably low output impedance (which the RME will have) so I'm not sure that you'll hear a huge quality difference.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 7606
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:09 pm

Sorry if I have confused you Dan!
My view like others is you either stay as you are or splash for a 'proper' active controller.

My impudent interjection was meant for someone who perhaps had a cheap passive controller and was a bit worried about the output drive situation.

I had myself considered getting a passive box but with the mod I outlined (got a PCB somewhere with chip drivers already made up) However, that was when I was running a 2496 card my main PC now runs the NI KA6 most of the time and that has the handy BK on top!

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9560
Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 12:00 am
Location: northampton uk

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Dan B » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:21 pm

Thanks. Looks like I'm down to the CMC2 or status quo. Will try to do some experimenting, though if there's a more scientific approach I can adopt, I'm up for trying that too!

Off topic, but the upshot of my earlier post today led me to check out RME specs vs Focusrite Clarett. That might lead to a more appreciable (and free!) difference. I've been using a RME UCX for my D/A, but could run ADAT out of the RME into the Clarett Octopre, clocked to the RME (master) over Wordclock, for my D/A instead. Based on the spec below, that ought objectively to be an improvement (unless there's something not covered by the spec above that might contribute to the sonic performance of the D/A...?).


Focusrite Clarett
Cirrus Logic CS4398 Stereo DAC - AK4413 DAC for multi line outs, CS4398 for Monitor out (but no monitor out on the Octopre).

Dynamic range ADC 116 dB
THD+N 0.005% = -86 dB

Dynamic Range DAC 119 dB (Line Outputs)
Dynamic Range DAC 117 dB (Monitor Outputs)
THD+N 0.0007% = -103 dB

RME Fireface UC (I assume the same as my UCX)

Dynamic range ADC 113 dB
THD+N 0.0012 % = -98 dB

Dynamic range DAC 113 dB
THD+N 0.0015 % = -96 dB
Dan B
Regular
Posts: 142
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2001 1:00 am
Location: London

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby James Perrett » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:34 pm

Personally I wouldn't bother with the added complexity as both would appear to perform to a high standard given those numbers. However, those numbers also only tell part of the story as things like output impedance over the whole frequency range are also going to make a (very very) slight difference with the long cable run. You also need to check whether any weighting has been used to improve the numbers.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 7606
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:50 pm

You seem to want to change the setup just for the sake of changing the setup -- but if what you have does what you need/want, why mess with it?

Your current preamp is a quality hifi design from a company that knows what it's doing, and it clearly does what you need as a source switcher and volume control. A passive controller design may be fractionally more transparent, but I'm not convinced you'd be able to hear the difference as it would be pretty small, but the very real downside is that it may also introduce equipment matching problems which you don't currently have... or it might not if you can work with short cables and appropriate impedances.

And while there is a marginal difference in tech specs between your interfaces, you'd need very much better monitors than you have -- and a very well sorted room -- to hear that tiny difference.

H
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 21952
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Dan B » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:47 pm

Thanks all. Very happy to hear the "don't change what ain't broke", especially when that means not spending any more money! :)

I'm guessing that whatever marginal improvement (if any) might be had by the CMC2, it'd not a good value proposition for £215 odd.

My rooms as well treated as it can reasonably be... Perhaps if I'm going to spend anything, I should instead start saving for a monitor upgrade - not least as that just leads to generally improved enjoyment for day to day listening as well even when not working. I'd be lying if I wasn't a little tempted by the Neumann KH310... ;) A fair bit more than £200 odd mind...!
Dan B
Regular
Posts: 142
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2001 1:00 am
Location: London

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Forum Admin » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:59 pm

Dan B wrote:Thanks all. Very happy to hear the "don't change what ain't broke", especially when that means not spending any more money! :)

Well you might not have ended up spending any more money, but Hugh's ringing endorsement of the Drawmer CMC2 -- plus the fact my current mono-check setup is a little convoluted and the CMC2's dedicated Mono Out fits better -- has just resulted in me placing an order for an active CMC2 to replace my passive M-Patch2.

GAS...
User avatar
Forum Admin
Moderator
Posts: 2958
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: A studio deep in the fenlands of Cambridgeshire, UK
SEARCH 10,310 top articles: www.soundonsound.com/search
*NEW* SOS Tutorials: www.soundonsound.com/tutorials

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:32 pm

Forum Admin wrote:Glad their new versions are getting some attention. Look forward to reading it. Is it in April issue?

I think you misunderstood. It's not a new Mackie unit I was reviewing. It was another device entirely, which just happens to hold the same potential for innuendo: nOb

This isn't a monitor controller (but it is really good, and there's much more to it than a first impression might suggest...). But I digress...
Matt Houghton
Frequent Poster
Posts: 920
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 12:00 am
SOS Reviews Editor

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Forum Admin » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:38 pm

I've been doing a lot of misunderstanding of forum posts lately... always in a rush and skim-reading... bad habit.

nOb looks interesting. I've got a Faderport 8, macros, keyboard shortcuts and my mouse -- not forgetting my Novation RemoteSL controller -- so personally, I am unlikely to want another thing to twiddle plug-in controls, etc. But others might.
User avatar
Forum Admin
Moderator
Posts: 2958
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: A studio deep in the fenlands of Cambridgeshire, UK
SEARCH 10,310 top articles: www.soundonsound.com/search
*NEW* SOS Tutorials: www.soundonsound.com/tutorials

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:38 pm

Matt Houghton wrote:
Forum Admin wrote:Glad their new versions are getting some attention. Look forward to reading it. Is it in April issue?

I think you misunderstood. It's not a new Mackie unit I was reviewing. It was another device entirely, which just happens to hold the same potential for innuendo: nOb

This isn't a monitor controller (but it is really good, and there's much more to it than a first impression might suggest...). But I digress...

Ah great, it's that wonderful steampunky one! 8-)

Image

Looking forward to reading your review Matt , although I might be tempted to buy one just for its looks :beamup:


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 12824
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:40 pm

Forum Admin wrote:...the fact my current mono-check setup is a little convoluted...

My monitor controller is a quality one (Dangerous D-Box) but lacks a few facilities (e.g.: no mono to one speaker, just dual mono; no Sides solo). But rather than go on a hunt for the perfect controller, I decided to stick with the D-Box and enact all the tricky stuff in Cubase's Control Room. The advantage is that I can do it all with keyboard shortcuts — I don't even need to reach for a controller!
Matt Houghton
Frequent Poster
Posts: 920
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 12:00 am
SOS Reviews Editor

Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Forum Admin » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:42 pm

Every pro studio should own one and label it, "A&R Control" -- like they used to do in the '80s/'90s on SSL desks with a bus fader routed to nothing, just so the A&R man could twiddle it and convince himself that his level setting was better, and the mix should be printed like that!! (tee-hee)
User avatar
Forum Admin
Moderator
Posts: 2958
Joined: Mon Jul 21, 2003 11:00 pm
Location: A studio deep in the fenlands of Cambridgeshire, UK
SEARCH 10,310 top articles: www.soundonsound.com/search
*NEW* SOS Tutorials: www.soundonsound.com/tutorials

PreviousNext

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users