TC’s Monitor Pilot is a simple monitor controller with a small, wired remote control unit. The idea, of course, is that the main, folded‑steel unit which carries the connectors and the VCA gain control circuitry can be positioned remotely so that all the speaker and signal cables are kept out of sight, and your desktop is kept reasonably clear and tidy. Ideally the folded steel main unit would be fitted to the back edge of a desk, so that its controls and headphone output remain accessible. It does have a couple of flanges with screw slots to allow for more permanent fixing, though I reckon double‑sided tape would work well enough if you preferred not to make holes in your desk!
The Monitor Pilot’s primary function is to allow the user to switch between up to three sets of loudspeakers. There’s also a headphone output that becomes active when speaker three is selected (plugging in headphones does not mute the third speaker output, so it’s only really of real practical use when no speakers are connected to that output).
Simplicity is the name of the game here: there are no mono, dim or mute buttons, for example, and the only controls are speaker selection and volume. There are more feature‑laden options out there if you want more control, including from TC themselves, but it’s perhaps worth pointing out that in a modern DAW‑centric studio, it’s possible to perform most of the more complex monitoring functions in software. Indeed, I found myself wondering if TC might consider creating a dedicated plug‑in for that to accompany the Monitor Pilot!
Power comes from a separate mains adaptor, which is supplied, and the remote connects via a locking multi‑pin connector. Balanced XLRs on the main unit’s rear panel are used for the main input and speaker outputs, with a quarter‑inch TRS jack on the front to connect headphones. There’s also a mini‑jack input for connecting a further sound source such as a phone, and this is always active. Three trim pots on the front allow the levels from all three connected pairs of monitors to be matched.
Similar in size to a typical computer mouse, the remote unit has three buttons along the front edge to select the three outputs and a large, weighted control knob for adjusting the level. Small LEDs set into the switches show which speaker output is active. Despite its small size, the remote is reasonably weighty and has a very effective non‑slip rubber base that keeps it very firmly in place on any smooth surface. Its connecting cable is around the same thickness as a typical USB cable, while its minimalist styling and white casework fits in neatly alongside Apple products.
In a modern DAW‑centric studio, it’s possible to perform most of the more complex monitoring functions in software.
I had no issues at all with the sound quality or operation of the Monitor Pilot, though I found the headphone arrangement a touch frustrating — on just about every other monitor controller I’ve used, you can opt to have the headphones work independently of the monitor selection, and with an independent volume control too. If you have an audio interface with a headphone output, you may find it easier to use that for your phones.
Whether this is (or isn’t!) the right monitor controller for you really depends on how your studio is set up, and whether or not you feel the need for physical mono and mute buttons. The Monitor Pilot isn’t really a substitute for a fully-featured monitor controller — but if you value a tidy desktop and only need to switch between monitors or headphones with an easy‑access volume control, then the Monitor Pilot provides an affordable and very elegant solution, which sounds decent too.