Monitor controllers are a crucial aspect of any studio, whether it’s new or old. A monitor controller is a must-have piece of gear if you plan on using more than one set of monitors, or even if you just want to hear your stereo mix in mono or mid-side quickly. When you have a powerful studio setup with a number of various inputs, outputs, audio systems, amps, and studio monitors, it may quickly become confusing for the person in charge of the equipment.
Studio monitor controllers (also known as “studio monitor management systems” or simply “volume controllers”) allow you to control the volume of your monitors independently of your PC’s soundcard, you can scale your workflow to handle multiple sound outputs (monitors) while mixing and modifying in the studio.
That’s when innovative devices like studio monitor controllers might come in handy. By allowing you to control all of your studio monitors from a single desktop box, you can make changes with a single button press. So, the major reasons to invest in a good studio monitor controller are ease and practicality.
Table of Contents
Burl Audio B26 Orca – Control Room Monitor
- Control Room Monitor
- Serious Monitoring Control Monitor Controller
- Monitor Controller with Three Stereo Mix Inputs, Two Stereo Return Inputs, RCA Stereo Input, and Con
The B26 Orca is a 2RU-height all-analog “monitor controller” that lets you route your choice of input to your choice of output. Three mix inputs, two return inputs, two speaker outputs, and an output for driving outside meters are all available on the back panel through XLR connectors in stereo pairs. A single XLR input for a talkback mic is also included. A consumer-level (-10 dBV) stereo input is also provided via a pair of RCAs.
The unit is separated into two halves from the start. The artist is served by the left side, designated “Studio,” while the engineer is served by the right side, named “Control Room.” Both monitor outputs sides contain similar source-selection switches (Mix A/B/C, 2 Track A/B, and RCA) as well as a set of LEDs that change color depending on the signal strength (green, yellow, orange, red).
The level of the management room is controlled by a large knob that turns a stepped attenuation with audiophile-grade, 0.1 percent matched resistors, while the artist side will have separate studio quantity and headphone level potentiometers. A headphone jack will be available on both sides (Studio Phones and CR Phones). A button and level knob for talkback are included in the center of the machine, along with controls for speaker selection, mono monitoring, and selecting a studio or control room for the meter output. This is the Best Monitor Controller in 2023.
Dangerous Music D-BOX+
- Summing and Monitoring System with 8-channel Analog Summing Mixer
- Programmable Speaker Selector
- Bluetooth Wireless Streaming
The Dangerous Music D-BOX Summing Monitor Mixer and D/A Converter is a 1U rack-mountable equipment that combines the functions of a summing mixer, a monitoring system with talkback, and a dedicated digital to analog converter.
A 25-pin D-sub connector on the back of the machine is used to send eight channels of analog inputs (like headphone amplifier) into the mixer for summing. Within your Digital to Audio Workstation, you adjust the panning position and stage of each channel, then the overall stage of the stereo analog sum using the unit’s sum output volume management. The sum can then be sent back to your DAW via a balanced XLR pair of stereo sum outputs from your analog to digital converter.
The equipment includes two stereo pairs of balanced XLR outputs in your monitors, as well as an alternate reference audio system for monitoring. A front-panel alt speaker button switches between the two outputs, and an array of input choice buttons lets you choose from the mixer sum, a stereo pair of analog inputs, or one of two AES/SPDIF lockable digital inputs from a supply that looks like a DAW or CD player. This is the Best Studio Monitor Controllers in 2023.
Mackie Big Knob Studio+ Monitor Controller
The Big Knob Studio Plus is a well-made product. The monitor controller is housed in a durable metal enclosure with external dimensions of 302 x 173 x 81 mm and a weight of 2.1 kg. The housing is made up of two separate components that are tightly screwed together. No sharp edges protrude from the casing since all screws are embedded.
All of the control pieces are constructed of plastic and are haptically appealing. The large volume wheel fits comfortably in the hand and provides enough “contact surface” with a diameter of little more than 4 cm. The 2 16 LED meter is directly above it. The applied input level is shown in green, yellow, and red. Below the volume wheel are the buttons Mono, Mute (-60 dB), and Dim (-20 dB).
The volume of the rear stereo outputs A, B, and C is initially controlled by the right side of the monitor controller. The Big Knob Studio Plus can control up to three pairs of studio monitors. Alternatively, a subwoofer can be attached to one of the outputs and controlled by the monitor controller. At the same time, all three outputs can be active. They can be simply decreased by up to 12 dB in loudness from the ideal listening position and so synchronised with one another.
The built-in USB audio interface, which can operate at sampling rates up to 24-bit, 192 kHz without the need for external DA conversion, is one of the most notable new features of the most recent iteration. Furthermore, a pair of Mackie’s Onyx preamps have effectively replaced the unique model’s phono preamp and may be routed back to the DAW for recording purposes. The front-mounted 1/8-inch input port, which makes it easy to reference mixes from the client’s smartphone, is another new feature that should not be overlooked.
Mixdown decks were an especially essential element of studio processes when the distinctive Big Knob was created, therefore there were practically three different analog output pairs devoted to printing mixes. This has been reduced to a single pair of speakers, as well as the built-in USB interface.
The Big Knob Studio and Studio+ appear to continue to outperform their lower-priced counterparts. The PreSonus Monitor Station V2 and the Behringer Control2USB appear to be the only competitors, with the Behringer Control2USB’s rear panel resembling the unique Big Knob. The original Big Knobs have been eclipsed by the brand new Big Knobs. This is the Best Monitor Controllers in 2023.
PreSonus Monitor Station V2 Desktop Studio Control Center (MONITO STAT V2)
- 4 stereo input pairs plus one S/PDIF digital input into three selectable sources
- 3 stereo pairs of individually selectable speaker outputs with level controls
- Cue section with Source select and input- and output - level control
PreSonus is a major player in the audio technology world, and for good reason. It offers a wide range of well-made audio products aimed at both home and professional studios, and some of these products can be used in either environment. The PreSonus Monitor Station V2 is a good example. The device is the successor to the groundbreaking PreSonus Monitor Station, and it comes with a whole new color scheme as well as a boatload of excellent new capabilities. Is the $299 price tag, however, justified? We put it to the test to see what would happen.
On the back of the gadget, you’ll find a variety of inputs and outputs that are well-organized and straightforward to use. Two stereo inputs, three stereo speaker outputs, and two stereo line outputs are all available through TRS connections. An auxiliary input is also available via RCS inputs or a 3.5mm connector.
The PreSonus Monitor Station V2 is really well-designed. Those with varying levels of knowledge will be able to understand the device quickly and easily, and those who are already familiar with monitor control devices may find it much easier. The build quality is also commendable. The case is made of steel and is 2.5′′ x 8.5′′ x 9′′. (63.5 mm x 216 mm x 228.6 mm). It is 6 pounds or 2.72 kilograms in weight.
- Studio Monit Controller with VCA Control USB Audio Interface
- All-in-one Master Volume controller, Source selector, Monitor switcher and Talkback box
- Premium, ultra-low noise and high headroom studio control and communication center
The Behringer Xenyx Control2USB Control & Communication Center is a high-end studio management and communication equipment with a USB audio interface and VCA management. When recording or mixing in a studio, it can be utilized to put master volume, talkback, source selection, and monitor management right at your fingertips.
It has a large control knob that allows you to make minute volume adjustments. The Control2USB allows you to rapidly and precisely set levels, which is important for getting the best sound when mastering a critical task. A high-end Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA) is also used to provide far more exact level changes.
The Control2USB’s control surface is characterized by a 7 cm volume control. A glowing wreath of numbers surrounds it, which you may use to orient yourself due to the white marker on the rotating wheel. When you crank the wheel to position 0 or 100, however, the marking deviates by 1 mm (position 0) or 2 mm (position 100). (position 100). As a result, the potentiometer and number ring aren’t nearly the same. When the rotary knob reaches the end, the signal is only completely muted. The rotating wheel is simple to operate. I would have preferred a little more rigidity and overall grip in this area.
Above the volume wheel are three self-explanatory function keys: Mono, Mute, and Dim (-20 dB). The internal talkback microphone has a volume control on the right, as well as the two buttons “To 2-Track” and “To Phones/Studio,” which allocate the talkback signal to the appropriate outputs as long as the appropriate button is engaged.
Furthermore, the built-in USB audio interface enables you to connect to your computer and digital library without the need for additional hardware or drivers. The Control2USB also allows you to switch between three pairs of studio monitors. With the push of a button, you can add or remove a subwoofer and listen via small monitors or another combination.
Mackie Big Knob Passive 2×2 Studio Monitor Controller
- Mackie Big Knob Passive 2x2 Studio Monitor Controller - Mackie 1 Year Limited Warranty - 2x 6' 1/4 " TRS to 1/4 " TRS Balanced Instrument Cable -...
- Excruciatingly simple 2x2 monitor controller
- Classic Big Knob volume control
The Mackie Big Knob Passive’s design is the first thing you’ll notice about it, and it’s quite attractive. It is designed in the same style as the Big Knob Studio, but on a much smaller size. The “huge knob” on the front of the device, which takes up a significant section of the front panel, is the main attraction right now.
Aside from the black-painted metallic body, there’s a source select button with two options; mono, mute, and dim buttons; and a monitor select button with two options. A headphone jack would have been a nice addition, but we guess it wasn’t added because the device can’t power headphones because it’s passive. When it comes to passive, you’ll see there’s no power input, which is due to the fact that the Big Knob Passive doesn’t require one. It does mean you’ll need to make sure your various gadgets, headphone amps, and audio system are all powered, but most home-studio-quality audio equipment is.
As the name implies, the Big Knob Passive employs passive circuitry, which means that the output signal may be extremely near, if not identical, to the input signal. This is a consideration for audiophiles who require monitoring equipment that does not color their sound in any way.
Fostex Pc-1e Volume Controller
The Fostex PC-1e is a compact volume controller that is perfect for all mobile applications. When tucked inside your shirt pocket, it almost vanishes. It’s also a nice, low-cost option for computers with a highly usable sound card built in, such as the MacBook or iMac. It is not essential to use an external D/A converter.
White is also an option for the PC-1e. The external design is just stunning. A nearly imperceptibly small metal box emerges from its nearly imperceptibly small cardboard packaging. For the input signal, there is a mini-jack input (stereo). There’s also a stereo output in the form of cinch sockets, as well as a volume rotary control.
The mini-jack input can be used to connect a notebook, PC, tablet, smartphone, MP3 player, or even a hi-fi device. Typically, these devices’ headphone output is used for this. The PC-1e already comes with a short connecting cord. A monitor speaker cinch cable has also been considered. The sound quality of the little PC-1e is always determined by the sound card or sound chip of the PC or player. The level is just reduced in this case, but the Fostex PC-1e does so without causing any discernible sound modifications.
If you want to manage the volume on your computer, you must do so first on a digital level. This means that the coarser the resolution of the audio signal is, the lower the volume is set there. Only by selecting a high volume on the first level will you be able to avoid this. However, the active speakers must be able to alter this. And that is precisely what such monitor controllers are for: You run the audio signals as “hot” as possible and send them to a separate controller in a well-resolved manner. The volume on the analog level is then adjusted and sent to the loudspeakers.
The rock-solid construction and outstanding stability with connected wires were particularly obvious in the Pc-1e. I really enjoyed the device’s volume control, which operated with a comfortable resistance. There is no On/Off switch on the Fostex Pc-1e Volume Controller. There is also a slight volume imbalance in the volume control. It only comes to a point of equilibrium around 8 o’clock.
The device is for anyone who is bored of tinkering with the volume on their computer, tablet, or iPad. It’s for individuals who desire a nice, full volume control, similar to what you’d get on a hi-fi system. It can be used in studios, but it’s best for audiophiles who want simple access to their audio right at their desk.
SPL 2Control Monitor Controller
- Dual-channel Monit Controller with Active Circuits; 2 x Headphone Amplifiers; Crossfeed Control; Source
- Dim Switches; Balanced Unbalanced I/O
The Crossfeed control for each headphone output, which was taken from the high-end headphone amplifier Phonitor, is a fresh new feature of the SPL 2Control. The disadvantage of headphones is that they produce a superb stereo image. The stereo panorama is corrected using the Crossfeed function. The crossfeed can be adjusted to match the stereo imaging of the audio system based largely on the imaging of a speaker set positioned at a 30 degree angle. When speaker monitoring is not possible or if monitoring that is distinct from speaker monitoring is desired, the 2Control allows for headphones mixes.
Two sources, two stereo speaker units, and two headphones can all be connected to the 2Control. The personal balancing stage pushes each of the three speaker outputs (2 stereo units, 1 mono speaker). Each headphone output has its own amplifier, allowing for entirely unbiased operation of two headphones. Analog monitoring stage management is not available on the majority of D/A converters and sound cards. Instead, they reduce the bit rate, resulting in a reduction in audio quality.
The advantages of an analog monitoring controller become more apparent when used in conjunction with popular audio and video production software such as ProTools, Nuendo, Cubase, Logic, Deck, and so on. Monitor ranges and supply management can be handled without the use of software and with no loss of quality. Furthermore, when changing monitor ranges, you won’t have to worry about overdriving or underdriving the converters.
JBL Professional Active-1 Precision Monitor Control
- 4 inputs 4 outputs
- USB Input and Output
- 2 headphone amps
If you have numerous connections set up with speakers, this talkback controller is a fairly great utility. The Active-1’s A/B switching allows for seamless switching of speaker systems like subwoofer output and input sources like . It comes with USB I/O. When connected to a computer’s audio system, this is helpful for direct digital recording and playback.
The precision controller also has four stereo outputs that can be used to monitor up to four stereo sources like drawmer mc 2.1 or headphone outputs. This guarantees that it can provide audio monitoring features including precise volume control, muting, dimming, and mono summing. The footswitch can be used to activate the built-in TalkBack functionality. You also have a condenser microphone with configurable routing on board. As a result, it’s ideal for a wide range of studio production applications. The Active-1 is a small, light, and portable device. It measures 13.0 inches x 7.5 inches x 5.0 inches and weighs less than 1 kilogram.
The display controller’s user interface is slanted forward for easy operation, so you can see everything at all times. The Monitor Station’s control elements are constructed of plastic, despite they appear to be made of metal. Never mind; they’re fluted all the way around on the sides and have a great haptic feel to them. Thankfully, the buttons aren’t the more common “very soft buttons,” which tend to wobble left and right. You get the slightly harsher version here, as well as a nice pressure point. This is the best desktop monitor controller.