It is possible that one of the most inconspicuous tools in any recording studio is the monitor controller. Regardless of whether it is built into your console or control panel, this is the part with which you interact most (with the possible exception of a computer keyboard and mouse). With this in mind, we will look at seven key features that good controllers should have.
1. Many connectivity options
It goes without saying that the controller must have a sufficient number of high-quality analog and digital connections. Usually there should be outputs to the main monitors and a pair of near field. A good device should allow switching between them (and even better – between three pairs or more). Controllers can often control more than just monitors. Two or more headphone outputs are also convenient (especially if they have volume control). Audient Nero has 4 headphone outputs, each with its own control.
This studio element is the ultimate hub for all audio sources heading to all types of speakers. Nowadays, one has to worry not only about a permanently installed kit, for example, a sound card, but often customers are asked to connect phones, laptops or other portable devices to control installations. A good monitor controller should be able to connect at least 3-4 sources and direct them to any sound medium.
Digital inputs are now also becoming a welcome addition. The most expensive devices, such as the Crane Song Avocet, are equipped with AES / EBU I / O, but the SPDIF or optical port on the rear panel is most often visible. Again, Audient Nero is equipped with SPDIF and an optical input.
2. Clear sound
You send to your monitor monitor a balanced signal of the best quality that you can pass through the audio interface or other playback devices, and if your amplifier or active speaker system is connected correctly, you will win. But if the controller introduces distortion into the signal at any level, then the final result will not be correct. We often use the term “distortion” to mean overload or cutoff of a signal. Distortion is an unwanted signal change, and in most cases this is a problem. The monitor controller you choose should have a clean and clear sound path.
3. Many headphone outputs
As we noted earlier, a good monitor controller should also offer you at least 2 pairs of controllable stereo headphone outputs. One exit waiting for an engineer, the other for an assistant or a client working with you in the control room.
4. Stable stereo image
It may seem ridiculous to add this as a “required” feature, but you will be surprised that many devices have stereo issues. It is enough to turn on the low frequencies of the track, and then switch to high frequencies to notice how different the stereo image is. This may be due to many factors, but the main one is the signal passing through the device and the quality of the components used to control the level of the output signal.
We asked Audient to comment on the stereo image problem and how they circumvented this problem:
“Most low-cost monitor controllers use traditional dual-channel banks, which tend to result in level mismatches between the left and right channels. Instead, Nero uses digitally-controlled analog attenuation for all volume controls using precision-matched relay resistor chains. This technology also allows us to implement features such as programmable speaker tweaks, which eliminates the user’s concern about the volume of the left and right channels. “
5. Dedicated subwoofer control
Many mix and test mixes using a subwoofer. The ability to control the routing and disabling of this speaker will be a useful addition.
6. Clean, clear and easy to use
This section really speaks for itself. If the device performing the control is difficult or not intuitive, then it does not fulfill its role to the full. There should be a large solid knob with a button for mono control so you can check for mono compatibility. There should be buttons to decrease the volume by a preset value, as well as to mute the sound or individual pairs. Both of the above devices have all of the above. Nero is easy to use and configure, while the Crane Song Avocet is a more sophisticated module with a remote control.
7. Microphone input and control
The ability to talk to your artist in the studio through headphones or through monitors is very important. Having a built-in microphone or an output for it is a great way to speed up the workflow and eliminate the hassle of talking with artists (especially if the recording booth is remote or in another room).
5.1, 7.1 and more
Most budget controllers work only with stereo sources. However, there are many devices that will work with 5.1-channel surround outputs (up to 7.1), and some of the more expensive systems will work on a full Dolby Atmos installation from 9.1.2 and higher.