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Do I need a monitor controller?

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Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby monkfish » Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:13 pm

And if so, which one?

Hi all. I'm currently using a pair of Presonus Eris E5s as my main monitors. I'm looking to switch between these and a pair of small Harmon Kardon speakers. I may also add a sub at some point. The HKs are passive and powered by an old Arcam hifi amp. My DAW is Logic Pro X and my interface is a Focusrite Saffire Pro 26io

I can set up different outputs via Logic and the Saffire control software but would I be better with a dedicated unit? And if so, what would you recommend?
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:26 pm

Hi monkfish!

In my experience most people who decide they need/want a monitor controller tend to do so because:

a) They always want access to a handy hardware volume control in the event of digital glitches/feedback/unexpected noises, to safeguard their amps, monitor speakers and ears.

b) They are far more likely to audition their mixes through multiple playback systems (main monitors, mono grotboxes, and so on) if they can quickly switch between them rather than having to fiddle about with software mixers on audio interfaces and the like.

As for recommendations, that largely depends on what budget you have and more importantly what facilities you need, such as the number of switchable outputs and so on.

Hope this helps!


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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:40 pm

monkfish wrote:And if so, which one?

You may not, technically, need a monitor controller because many DAWs have pretty comprehensive monitor controller facilities built in these days... although Logic isn't one of them!

But personally, I find it rather comforting to have a control within arm's reach which can adjust the level from the speakers independently of the computer! I've been caught out far too often on other people's systems when computers lock up leaving me with no means of turning down the racket!

Also, it's sometimes handy to play other sources through the monitor controller into the monitors without having yo fire up the computer first.

As for recommendations, the best value for money are the Drawmer range of monitor controllers, without any doubt at all. Intelligent and versatile monitoring facilities, excellent sound quality, and I/O options and features to suit a wide range of requirements in the different models. I've reviewed a couple of them in the mag already:

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/drawmer-cmc2

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/drawmer-mc21
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby Ben Asaro » Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:47 pm

I use a passive monitor controller; when I'm mixing, it's my best friend!
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:42 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:As for recommendations, the best value for money are the Drawmer range of monitor controllers, without any doubt at all. Intelligent and versatile monitoring facilities, excellent sound quality, and I/O options and features to suit a wide range of requirements in the different models.

+1 to all of that. Plus they stand behind their kit to an extraordinary degree when it comes to support as I found out when my MC2.1 had problems (they fixed it for free even though it took a lot of work on their part and it was well out of warranty). I don't know what I'm missing in DAW monitor control because I'm a Logic user ;) but you definitely can't go wrong with a good hardware controller.

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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby Humble Bee » Sat Nov 03, 2018 11:07 am

Another happy Drawmer CMC2 user here! :thumbup:
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby CS70 » Sat Nov 03, 2018 11:41 am

What they say. A hardware monitor controller is priceless, and when you want to switch between speakers it's a no-brainer,
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby Humble Bee » Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:04 pm

And also to easily integrate other sources as iPhones turntables or cassette decks etc or other people's players without having to rewire your setup... (CMC2 aux in is a feature I use far more than I anticipated)
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby ef37a » Sat Nov 03, 2018 6:00 pm

As it happens I have just taken delivery of a Mackie Big Knob Passive. Birthday present from wife.

I am aware of the possible technical shotrcomings of passive controllers but my needs are simple and the device simply used to switch between Main 1/2 or 3/4 line outputs of my NI KA6 interface. Both outputs are at very low impedance and balanced and the cable runs each under 3mtrs.

The need comes about becomes because I have set things up to digitize some cassette and mini disc recordings and that feeds inputs 3/4 and I need to monitor the coressponding outputs.

I have had literally just 5 minutes "playtime" with the box after plugging it up but the pot is smooth and the switches positive. It is also quite a heavy, chunky bit of kit.

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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby jaminem » Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:57 pm

I have a Dangerous D-Box, Its one of the most important things in my studio.
Sounds great, works well - I thought it was sensible idea to invest a bit more money in something that everything goes through.

Just wish it had a few more speaker outs...
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby ken long » Thu Nov 08, 2018 1:41 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
monkfish wrote:And if so, which one?

You may not, technically, need a monitor controller because many DAWs have pretty comprehensive monitor controller facilities built in these days... although Logic isn't one of them!

But personally, I find it rather comforting to have a control within arm's reach which can adjust the level from the speakers independently of the computer! I've been caught out far too often on other people's systems when computers lock up leaving me with no means of turning down the racket!

Also, it's sometimes handy to play other sources through the monitor controller into the monitors without having yo fire up the computer first.

As for recommendations, the best value for money are the Drawmer range of monitor controllers, without any doubt at all. Intelligent and versatile monitoring facilities, excellent sound quality, and I/O options and features to suit a wide range of requirements in the different models. I've reviewed a couple of them in the mag already:

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/drawmer-cmc2

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/drawmer-mc21

I think I asked this question about a month ago and followed this advice. Couldn't be happier with the Drawmer.

I don't use it for switching between monitors but I do use it for monitoring in mono, or with phase reverse engaged.

Sure you can do that all on your DAW but it's clunky.
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Re: Do I need a monitor controller?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:09 pm

And a belated plus here for Drawmer. I’ve just installed a CMC2 after using passive controllers for many years and I’m well pleased.

Using a monitor controller is a no brainer really and the Drawmer are excellent value for the quality they deliver.

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