surround monitoring controller

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by niclaus, Dec 11, 2012.

  1. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member


    Our old monitoring controller is dying, and we are currently looking for a replacement.
    We are using a MAGTRAX surround controller, which offered us
    -3 analog 5.1 input, 1 analog 5.1 output and 2 analog stereo outputs.
    -Calibrated output level (CAL switch ON = 85dbC for PN@-20dbFS)
    -Mute, DIM and solo functions
    -Level metering output

    We saw several units such as the cranesong Avocet 5.1, Coleman, RTW... but they all are very expensive (more than 6500$)
    The dangerous music ((dead link removed)) with the surround option could be what we are looking for but we are bothered by the fact that the level control can not be precisely calibrated (or am i mistaking??)

    Anyway, what are you guys using?
    Can you think of other products that could do the trick?

    Thanks for your help.

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Not sure why you have not received a response as yet? However I did find your confusing question, leading me to believe, that it is expected of you, to tweak your amplifier levels as you see fit? Calibrate? Calibrate to what? Precisely calibrated? You have to know what you want to precisely calibrate to begin with. So your question is a bit of a non sequitur.

    A monitor controller is simply there to accept multiple inputs for monitoring along with the ability to switch between selected control room monitor speakers and sometimes with a Studio Address/Talkback and/or headphone cueing. And you take the output of the thing and plug it into your choice of amplifiers or reference powered monitors. What's there to calibrate? Sometimes your calibration is on the input side of whatever you plug the thing into. Meaning that you don't need the control at its output. Other folks build them differently. Perhaps taking a very high price tag on something that includes all of the gobbledygook you want. And then you pay dearly for it. Don't want to do that? Get yourself a couple of steps attenuators then? Available from your professional audio parts supplier. But then you might want some 10 turn trimmer pots, to provide for fine calibration adjustments? Also available at your local professional audio parts dealer. And they'll even have a soldering iron and solder you can buy! What more could you possibly need or want? Escargot? OK. I'll drink some wine to that.

    Cabernet Sauvignon?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    OK, thank you for that.
    Let me clarify.

    What i was trying to say was that we want to be able to go back to an exact listening level. That is, one position equals 85dbC for PN@-20dbfs, and i can easily go back to that exact position at anytime.
    But i'm sure it can be done with the dangerous monitor, using a marked position on the jog.
    So i guess we're going to go for this one.

    And i was just asking if anyone was using another device that they thought was worth checking out.

    Oh, and i hate Escargots!
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Really? Hate escargot? With all that butter and all that garlic? I'd still be happy with just the garlic and the French bread with the butter. The snails are just icing on the cake? Eewww... I see what you mean. Butter frosting might be a sweeter deal? And then ya can leave out the snails. LOL but then you'd have to give up on the Cabernet Sauvignon and probably have to go with a Chardonnay instead? Riesling? Wine with frosting? What could be bad? Cheap Chinese condenser microphones... that's what. Those don't even really taste well on recordings LOL.

    Time for lunch. Something more exotic like pizza?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Devices with all the features you want are EXPENSIVE for a reason.

    Look at Audiogon on the WWW or do a search on Ebay for a used surround controller. There was a person selling an Avocet 5.1 surround controller for just under 5K a couple of months ago. A REAL bargain...
  6. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    I also heard good things about the grace design m906...

    Yes the Avocet sure looks like a great device.
    But i'm not sure that we need all those features, like the 3 digital inputs for example. It's probably a little overdo for us. But if i could find a used one, why not...

    I'll keep looking, but so far, the dangerous is the number one on my list.


  7. mberry593

    mberry593 Active Member

    There is an inexpensive way to do this. You might consider using a home style preamp designed for home theater systems. Many are available used for relatively little money on ebay.

    They all have some way of calibrating the whole system to 85 at -20 (or 83 if you prefer). Most have detented controllers in 1dB steps. Many have balanced outputs on XL connectors.

    All have digital inputs for stereo. Unfortunately they are almost always SPDIF but adapting to AES is only 3 resistors. Here is how....

    Interfacing AES3 & S/PDIF

    Here is the tricky part. Not all of them have 6 connections in and out for surround. Many do, but not all. These days surround is usually obtained from an HDMI connection. I have been using an old Outlaw 950 which fortunately does have the individual connectors for surround.

    Here is the bad news. Unfortunately these things tend to be rather large taking up a lot more space than an Avocet or Grace control panel. The professional units have the good design of putting the circuitry in a separate box.....the home units take up quite a bit of space on your desk when all you really need is the knob.

    btw Bob Katz has kindly made available some files to make calibration easy. He has Rt, Lt, & pink noise at -20. Just what you need! Here is a lnk:

    Downloads - General
  8. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    Thank you for that. That could an idea, but, as you said it, we need the external box... Plus, i'm not sure the audio path would be as clean as it could be in a nice unit. As thomas said it, they are expensive for a reason.

    Anyway, I talk to the dangerous representative, and they are sending us a demo unit for us to try.
    I must say, they are really efficient.

    I'll let you know how it goes.

    Thank you all for your help.

  9. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    Hi everyone,
    Just to let you know, a couple of days after my last message, we received a demo unit (which was actually a brand new one), plugged it (after spending a couple of hours with an soldering iron) and played with it...
    We have been using it for 2 weeks now, and decided to buy it.

    The unit is really nice. It does what i needed (except for one thing, but we'll live without it), it sounds good, it looks solid, and it's really easier to use than what we had before.
    So far, we're happy with it.

    Thanks for your inputs...

  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I believe the Pre-Sonus product line is built very solidly. I've done some service work on a couple of their units and was very impressed with their excellent internal build quality. You don't find this kind of build quality at this price point, in other so-called professional consumer oriented pieces.

    So what was the one thing it doesn't do that you wanted it to do? And since you were sent a demonstration unit, did you think about contacting Pre-Sonus about this missing feature? And/or what they might suggest as a workaround? You could be delightfully surprised at the response?

    I think you made a good choice.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    To echo everyone else but, The Monitor ST is absolutely awesome. I own it and it has actually helped me learn more because it is designed so right. I cannot rave enough about it.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Just a hunch, but its looking like mercenary is having trouble. I'd be shopping elsewhere.
  13. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    Sorry Remy, i did not see your answer until now.
    The only thing missing is a quick recall of a certain monitoring level.
    We often have to go back and forth between 85dbC, and 79dbC (for pink noise@-20dbFS). On the old unit, we could simply press a switch that would toggle between those two reference levels.

    Another thing, I noticed that the maximum output level i could get, when the attenuator was at max output, was 3db less that the input. If i send a +4dbU signal, the max output i can get is +1dbU. The sellsperson told me that they had to put a 3db pad on the output of the unit for some reason...

    audiokid, well i guess it's too late, but thanks anyway. What kind of trouble? Financial trouble?

  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Dead links, rumors of not responding the inquiries etc. I have a feeling, Fletcher days are gone.
  15. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    Well, i don't know about other people but here is how things went for me :
    -on december 13th, i sent an email to their general email adress found on the dangerous website.
    -on december 14th, i got an answer telling me that they would get someone to get in touch with me to send me a demo unit.
    -2 hours later, i had someone on the phone letting me know that they were actually sending us a NEW unit.
    -a week later, the unit was plugged and working. It has been until then.

    So, as far as i am concerned, everything went super smooth for us....


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