An often overlooked piece of gear for smaller studios is the monitor controller. Monitor controllers can be very beneficial in both small and large studios.
While a range of features can be found on different models, monitor controllers typically do two things: make switching between multiple inputs and outputs easy, and provide a transparent and high-quality signal to your monitors. While channel switching is pretty straightforward, what separates monitor controllers in price and quality is the latter feature: how well they provide a colorless sound.
Also, many producers like to have a piece of music to reference when mixing. In such cases, a monitor controller makes it easy to do A/B comparisons and switch back and forth between the reference track and the mix, hearing both in the same pair of monitors.
Here are four monitor controllers that are affordable and will likely enhance your mixing and mastering experience:
Presonus Monitor Station – $300
For the money, the Presonus Monitor Station offers a lot of features, including three stereo inputs, three stereo outputs, four headphone amps and a built-in talkback mic.
It fits easily on your desktop and offers an LED metering strip. Not a bad place to start for the studio on the budget.
Mackie Big Knob – $300
Similar to the Presonus, the Mackie Big Knob only has two headphone amps, but offers an extra input channel. You can’t go wrong with either one.
Drawmer MC2.1 – $600
Moving towards into the prosumer price range, the Drawmer MC2.1 offers a the same features with an extra dedicated subwoofer output and a cleaner, more transparent sound.
Dangerous D-Box – $1500
In the bottom of the professional level of monitor controllers, most models have built-in D/A converters on board, which can give you a much cleaner signal. It can also allow for your reference track and mix to share the exact same signal conversion, giving you a clearer picture of their comparison.
The Dangerous D-Box offers 2 headphone amps, 2 analog inputs and 2 digital inputs, a “mastering-grade” monitoring path and an 8-channel analog summing mixer, making it a nice all-in-one package for pro studios that don’t want to spend thousands of dollars.
The one downside, however, is that there is no desktop remote controller, which can make switching and adjusting the monitor volume inconvenient depending on where your rack is located in your studio.
Whatever the size of your studio, a monitor controller can help synergize your workflow, add precision to monitoring and enable you to do easy A/B comparisons with a reference track. Along with other features many models come with, picking up a monitor controller to enhance your mixing is a choice you’ll want to make sooner than later.