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Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:44 pm

Forum Admin wrote: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.


Well, I won't give everything away in advance! But a few things that are really useful about this one are that it offers greater precision than MIDI controllers or a mouse scroll wheel, more precise physical control than a mouse/trackpad, and the ability to recall/reposition windows from multiple applications to bring parameters under instant control. I'll leave it at that for now — I'm derailing the thread!
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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Forum Admin » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:49 pm

Matt Houghton wrote:...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!

I currently do something similar in Studio One Pro controlling the Studio 192. But doing it in the DAW is fine for mixes/tracking, but there are times I like to have my CD player routed to my 'B' speakers without the computer turned on, when I'm using it for background music while re-stringing a guitar, or tidying up cables etc.

Horses for courses.
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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:51 pm

Forum Admin wrote:
Matt Houghton wrote:...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!

I currently do something similar in Studio One Pro controlling the Studio 192. But doing it in the DAW is fine for mixes/tracking, but there are times I like to have my CD player routed to my 'B' speakers without the computer turned on, when I'm using it for background music while re-stringing a guitar, or tidying up cables etc.

Horses for courses.

Yeah, I have it set up so I can use the monitor controller for source/speaker selection without firing up the computer. But I can also switch more advanced functions on the main set of monitors — hooked up via the DBox — from Cubase. Best of both worlds :)
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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Forum Admin » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:58 pm

Matt Houghton wrote:Best of both worlds :)

Yes, isn't it great we can do all this nowadays? I like the flexibility to work in different ways, and Studio One with my Studio 192 and a monitor controller - in tangent with iPad control via Studio One Remote or UC Surface apps allows this.

Look forward to reading your nOb review.
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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:04 pm

That sounds like the DFA knob on my desk......
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Drawmer CMC2 trumps M-Patch2

Postby Forum Admin » Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:21 pm

After Hugh's glowing review a while back and comments in this thread, I bought a Drawmer CMC2 monitor controller to use instead of my SM Pro M-Patch2.

It arrived today and I swapped them over, powered up the CMC2 and a veil of dullness was instantly removed from any mix I played through the CMC. It really is as transparent as Hugh stated in his review. There's a noticeable sheen at the top end on my Sceptre 8s that was lacking with the passive M-Patch2.

So, one happy bunny. :thumbup:
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Re: Drawmer CMC2 trumps M-Patch2

Postby jimjazzdad » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:19 pm

Forum Admin wrote:After Hugh's glowing review a while back and comments in this thread, I bought a Drawmer CMC2 monitor controller to use instead of my SM Pro M-Patch2.

It arrived today and I swapped them over, powered up the CMC2 and a veil of dullness was instantly removed from any mix I played through the CMC. It really is as transparent as Hugh stated in his review. There's a noticeable sheen at the top end on my Sceptre 8s that was lacking with the passive M-Patch2.

So, one happy bunny. :thumbup:
Its always great when you patch in a new piece of gear and notice a change for the better! But I can't help playing devil's advocate: when you see a "sheen" on the water it may be pretty, but it usually means something has been added to the water :shock:
Danish mastering engineer Holger Lagerfeldt has a pretty good video out about why he loves his passive monitor controller (albeit an expensive passive controller - the 2400 Audio Imperium): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qrYl3Do9ec I think if one manages to keep sensitive to cable length and has good amplifiers with high impedance inputs, the whole high frequency loss thing goes away. One does lose a few dB of gain, but that's not usually an issue either. Passive works for me anyway. Can't comment on the M-Patch2 or the CMC2 as I have never had the pleasure of auditioning either.

Cheers!
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Re: Drawmer CMC2 trumps M-Patch2

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:37 pm

Forum Admin wrote:It really is as transparent as Hugh stated in his review.

Phew! :-)

H
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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:11 am

A HIGHER input impedance actually makes cable HF loss worse!

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Re: Drawmer CMC2 trumps M-Patch2

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Mar 14, 2018 10:26 am

jimjazzdad wrote:But I can't help playing devil's advocate

Indeed! :-)

There's nothing fundamentally 'wrong' with the concept of a passive controller -- it just comes down to the implementation and installation, same as it does with an active controller. It's all swings and roundabouts...

Danish mastering engineer Holger Lagerfeldt has a pretty good video out about why he loves his passive monitor controller

Looks well-designed... but some of his claims and graphs are a little misleading IMHO. The problems he highlighted in the active controllers either come down to poor implementation (like the mains hum artefacts), or are irrelevant and grossly misleading (like the D-A noise floor at -123dBu, which is bordering on technical perfection). And some of the shouty purists might get sniffy about the idea of all that sharp-edged digital control floating around next to the precious analogue! :lol:

I think if one manages to keep sensitive to cable length and has good amplifiers with high impedance inputs, the whole high frequency loss thing goes away.

Very low source output impedance is important too (and that can become a significant problem in a passive design at high volume attenuation), but yes, I agree that if the implementation and installation is done well it can work fine -- and I have been known to use a passive controller myself from time to time...

The use of switched attenuators make the biggest difference in performance terms IMHO -- although the Drawmer design uses a clever four-gang pot to improve stereo tracking compared to most standard designs.

H
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Re: Drawmer CMC2 trumps M-Patch2

Postby jimjazzdad » Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:33 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:There's nothing fundamentally 'wrong' with the concept of a passive controller -- it just comes down to the implementation and installation, same as it does with an active controller. It's all swings and roundabouts...
Thank you. Exactly my point.
The problems he (Lagerfeldt) highlighted in the active controllers either come down to poor implementation (like the mains hum artefacts), or are irrelevant and grossly misleading (like the D-A noise floor at -123dBu, which is bordering on technical perfection). And some of the shouty purists might get sniffy about the idea of all that sharp-edged digital control floating around next to the precious analogue! :lol:
Appreciate your critique on his video. The rarefied air of a mastering studio is very different than the reality of my home studio - its good have another professional opinion; as you said in the beginning, its all about the implementation!
The use of switched attenuators make the biggest difference in performance terms IMHO -- although the Drawmer design uses a clever four-gang pot to improve stereo tracking compared to most standard designs.

H
Good point. I had planned to upgrade from a high quality Alps pot to a stepped attenuator in my passive controller, but perhaps it is best to put the money towards a good controller like the Drawmer so I can do some AB comparisons of my own. I know this thread has drifted away from the OP's question, but it has been very enlightening for me (and hopefully the OP!) so thanks to all who contributed. :thumbup:
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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:08 pm

"I think if one manages to keep sensitive to cable length and has good amplifiers with high impedance inputs, the whole high frequency loss thing goes away."

Am I chopped liver? Do the numbers. We know that a GUITAR pickup needs a high input Z because it is a (sort of) inductive source. The output of a passive attenuator is purely resistive and the lower the load on that the lower the attenuation at HF. This is obvious, into a short there is infinite attenuation at all frequencies!

To my mind passive attenuators are in the same 'camp' as "True Bypass" pedals. Devices that depend on the source and sink impedances for their electrical performance.

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:57 pm

ef37a wrote:To my mind passive attenuators are in the same 'camp' as "True Bypass" pedals. Devices that depend on the source and sink impedances for their electrical performance.

Yes... I think we're all agreed on that. But that doesn't mean they 'can't work', it just means they have to be designed, implemented, and installed with care as there is a greater risk of things not performing as hoped.

Active designs can remove some of those risks, but can also introduce other potential problems instead...

Swings and roundabouts.

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:13 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
ef37a wrote:To my mind passive attenuators are in the same 'camp' as "True Bypass" pedals. Devices that depend on the source and sink impedances for their electrical performance.

Yes... I think we're all agreed on that. But that doesn't mean they 'can't work', it just means they have to be designed, implemented, and installed with care as there is a greater risk of things not performing as hoped.

Active designs can remove some of those risks, but can also introduce other potential problems instead...

Swings and roundabouts.

H

My post was really just to correct the impression that might be formed that a higher input Z is needed to avoid cable capacitance effects when the opposite is the case.

Not sure which are the swing and which the roundabouts Hugh but a couple of extra LM4562s(say) in a audio line are going to have a virtually immeasurable effect on the sound. I defy any properly performed A/B test to detect them.

Pete Walker of Quad amplifier fame once said the 303 amplifier was "ten to one hundred times better than it needed to be" . Signal storage and transducers have come on a lot since those days but I wonder what he would have made of an amplifier with a THD of better than 0.001% ?

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:25 pm

ef37a wrote: ...a couple of extra LM4562s(say) in a audio line are going to have a virtually immeasurable effect on the sound. I defy any properly performed A/B test to detect them.

Sure... but it's not that simple, is it? Op-amps need power and three of the four monitor controllers examined in that video showed the presence of very obviously mains-related hum artefacts (some at a much lower level than others...).

So for your LM4562s to be inaudible the psu and the circuit board layouts have to be designed with great care... and we all know that's not always the case! So it's down to the implementation innit! ;-)

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:33 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
ef37a wrote: ...a couple of extra LM4562s(say) in a audio line are going to have a virtually immeasurable effect on the sound. I defy any properly performed A/B test to detect them.

Sure... but it's not that simple, is it? Op-amps need power and three of the four monitor controllers examined in that video showed the presence of very obviously mains-related hum artefacts (some at a much lower level than others...).

So for your LM4562s to be inaudible the psu and the circuit board layouts have to be designed with great care... and we all know that's not always the case! So it's down to the implementation innit! ;-)

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:44 pm

I know everything I say is worth repeating Dave, :lol: but surely you were planning to add something? :D

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:47 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
ef37a wrote: ...a couple of extra LM4562s(say) in a audio line are going to have a virtually immeasurable effect on the sound. I defy any properly performed A/B test to detect them.

Sure... but it's not that simple, is it? Op-amps need power and three of the four monitor controllers examined in that video showed the presence of very obviously mains-related hum artefacts (some at a much lower level than others...).

So for your LM4562s to be inaudible the psu and the circuit board layouts have to be designed with great care... and we all know that's not always the case! So it's down to the implementation innit! ;-)

H

It may not ALWAYS be the case Hugh but as one who has read just about every review of electronic gear in the last 13 years or so of SoS and ALWAYS yours I can say we rarely read of any mains related artefacts being audible? Indeed they figure so low in the speccs that they are only ever mentioned if they seem worse than the norm and that norm seems to be close to buggerall!

Just looking at baseline noise spectra of the very modest (by your standards!) equipment I own, my KA6, 8i6 and ZED10, it does not seem THAT hard to keep hum at bay, -100dBFS and nary a blip at 50,100,100 Hz or above. My venerable 2496 only manages about -95dBFS and that does have a 3dB blip at 50Hz.

Shoot! I know of a 5W guitar amplifier with a S/N ration of better than 80dB below 5W unweighted, I have measured them several times and hum is well below audibility. If we can do that for a mid priced guitar amp these days, a hum free, 'unity gain' controller should be a breeze!

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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:49 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I know everything I say is worth repeating Dave, :lol: but surely you were planning to add something? :D

H

Yes Hugh, MUCH better with valves than &^%g computers!
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Re: Hifi preamp vs passive monitor controllers

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:21 pm

ef37a wrote:...we rarely read of any mains related artefacts being audible? Indeed they figure so low in the speccs that they are only ever mentioned if they seem worse than the norm and that norm seems to be close to buggerall!

I agree. I can only think of a few cases where mains hum has been an issue at all, and most of those were in high-gain mic preamps, and the others had pin-1 problems.

Going back to that Danish mastering engineer's video, the worst example he gave (I suspect it was the Mackie BK) had extensive mains harmonic content sitting around -100dBFS on his display (we're not told what the analogue reference level was), so potentially audible in extremis but unlikely to be an issue in its intended application... The other two active controllers had mains far less mains-related harmonic content at around 30dB lower -- comfortably into the noise floor. As I said earlier -- an irrelevant and misleading demonstration!

...a hum free, 'unity gain' controller should be a breeze!

Yes, it should be... :-) And thankfully some manufacturers can manage it, even at budget prices.

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