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Why doesn't anyone make this?... Monitor Controllers
Old 9th December 2009
Gear Head


Brian -- Of course we care! I just wasn't understanding you well enough. It really is a simple analog mixer. No AD/DA needed. That's all outboard. So, yes, I'm sure you'd have no trouble building it.

Songcatcher -- Yes, the mouse trap does exist, but it's not affordable. At the core, we're talking about an input selector, a two-input stereo mixer, and an output selector -- not rocket science. At the moment, it's clear that custom is the most affordable way to go. But it's also clear that:

*This unit would sell like hotcakes if someone would make it at a reasonable price.*

The SPL MTC is close, but I've read too many posts about it breaking and humming. The next choice is the D-Box, but that's $1400 and still missing an attenuator on the analog in. The Speck XtraMix and Aurora GTM are hugely impressive, but very expensive. Modular units from SSL, Tonelux, API, and ADT are also pricy.

Old 9th December 2009
Gear Head

Adt toolmst

The ADT audio TOOLMST is a really nice unit:

The complete Master and Monitor Section

Only 2720 EUR (= $4000 USD).
Old 9th December 2009
Gear Guru
u b k's Avatar

Originally Posted by Græmatter Audio View Post
...from what I gather the latency for simple AD/DA pass through on the Lynx card is under 3 samples (that is to say negligible) as it is reconverted directly and not via a buffer of any kind. I'd assume the same to be true for any interface which claims to be capable of zero latency monitoring.

It is interesting to note, though, that 'zero latency monitoring' doesn't actually mean 'zero latency', it means 'under 3 samples of latency,' or in your words 'negligible latency'.

In an era when information is stretched thin to the point of meaninglessness, I understand that some claims are often to be taken with a grain of salt. But when something as specific as "Zero" is invoked, I expect that to be the truth, because the meaning of Zero is not up for debate.

Apparently, though, it is up for creative interpretation in service of expedience and marketability.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 9th December 2009
Lives for gear
BradM's Avatar
I'm looking forward to avoiding any kind of "under 3 sample latency" interraction in 2010. heh

Old 10th December 2009
Originally Posted by u b k View Post
It is interesting to note, though, that 'zero latency monitoring' doesn't actually mean 'zero latency', it means 'under 3 samples of latency,' or in your words 'negligible latency'.

In an era when information is stretched thin to the point of meaninglessness, I understand that some claims are often to be taken with a grain of salt. But when something as specific as "Zero" is invoked, I expect that to be the truth, because the meaning of Zero is not up for debate.

Apparently, though, it is up for creative interpretation in service of expedience and marketability.


Gregory Scott - ubk

I assume you're being sarcastic, but hey...

...If you're not being sarcastic, than you're underscoring Peter's post about marketing...

I do apologize for being less responsive here this last week - David and I have both been busy, and I'm currently dealing with seeing my mom through surgery.

We'll have to return to these last few pages a bit more thoroughly ASAP.

There have been many good points made here - presenting the various options for our recording and monitoring scenario.

And yes, it does follow - as has been pointed out by quite a few of you - that obtaining something specific - even if it seems to us to be an obviously basic DAW recording / tracking / ZLM monitoring box with a few selectable ins and outs - would currently best be accomplished through DIY, or custom build.

Thank you all very much for contributing your ideas, so far. There have definitely been some very helpful suggestions!

Brian, Silvertone and Illacov, and a few others - you bring some stylish, logical and elegant options - especially, on the custom building front!

So, again - cheers, and thanks for all your wonderful help here! You guys rock!

Old 10th December 2009
Gear Guru
u b k's Avatar

Originally Posted by Sqye View Post
I assume you're being sarcastic, but hey...

Nope, I'm being serious. If something claims Zero X, then I'd like to be able to count on Zero X.

"But you said there was zero residual radiation in my home."

"Yes sir, there's not enough to be noticeable."

"But that's not the same as zero."

"It's negligible, there's no problem. It's as good as it can get."

"Actually, it isn't."

"Hey, look over there!"

Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 10th December 2009
Gear Addict

Originally Posted by Sqye View Post

... the perfect higher quality zero-latency monitoring unit,

... Am I missing something? ...

Yes, You forgot that all digital sound processing in digital devices take time for computing.

However, analogue devices transport audio signals in light speed at circa 186,000 miles per second, in other words, when you monitor behind the moon, the latency would be circa 1 second.
Old 10th December 2009
Gear Addict

oh, almost forgot,

there is a device where you can dial that the signal arrives before it left, but i'm not gonna tell what it is...
Old 10th December 2009
Gear Nut

I agree that the term "zero latency" may arguably be a misnomer (that's why I initially qualified it as "(near) ZLM" - see my initial entry in this thread) - however any individual who has been working professionally with a DAW and associated interfaces for any length of time should be in a position to understand what the term does (and does not) imply.

The question of establishing consensus on the meaning and usage of the term "Zero" aside - it remains my contention that 3 samples of (additional) monitoring latency is not significant in this application. I cannot conceive of nor have I encountered any situation where it could possibly have a greater impact on total source monitoring latency than e.g. any physically possible amount of variation (i.e. a question of millimetres) in distance from performer/sound source to microphone, or distance from monitor speaker to listener.

Bear in mind we're talking about 3 samples of latency - not 3 ms. For values in the milliseconds (i.e. where actual buffering of the digital signal is involved) then sure, there may be cause for concern.

I'm not suggesting that 3 samples of monitoring latency makes precisely no measurable difference whatsoever, just that any effect it may have is of no consequence in this context. This is true especially when you consider its impact relative to any of thousands of other variables, common to all types of recording scenarios, which will have a far greater material effect on the outcome.

Of course there are circumstances where 3 samples of latency may have an audible, and potentially undesirable consequence - i.e. in dealing with multiple signals with static degrees of correlation. But this is why we have sample delay plug-ins, plug-in delay compensation on the back-end of DAWS, and why we don't split multi-mic'd sources across multiple AD/DA interfaces with different amounts of converter latency, etc. etc.

Anyway, I'm not here to argue against an all-analog monitoring solution if that's the preference on the grounds of the other types of utility it brings to the table... I'm just suggesting that an alternative solution shouldn't be dismissed solely on the basis of it's incorporation of an onboard "Not Precisely Zero, But-So-Small-An-Amount-Of-Latency-As-To-Be-Utterly-Inconsequential-For-The-Task-At-Hand-Mixer."


Originally Posted by u b k View Post
It is interesting to note, though, that 'zero latency monitoring' doesn't actually mean 'zero latency', it means 'under 3 samples of latency,' or in your words 'negligible latency'.

In an era when information is stretched thin to the point of meaninglessness, I understand that some claims are often to be taken with a grain of salt. But when something as specific as "Zero" is invoked, I expect that to be the truth, because the meaning of Zero is not up for debate.

Apparently, though, it is up for creative interpretation in service of expedience and marketability.


Gregory Scott - ubk
Old 10th December 2009
Lives for gear
brianroth's Avatar

OK, I did a quick/dirty CAD sketch for a proposed analog box (and for some reason had slight problems generating this PDF):

Some design ideas:

1. The box has six stereo inputs, each individually selected to the three stereo outputs.

2. The CR section has outputs for four speakers, the two Aux outs are switchable to two possible destinations each.

3. Both the input and output selectors can be "double punched", meaning that if you push two or more selectors within a switch section at the same time, than those two or more sources or destinations will be simultaneously activated until another switch(es) are punched. The input sources will mix, and the outputs will merely produce the same signal to the desired destinations.

4. For grins, I put the talkback mic XLR on the front panel to allow a self-contained gooseneck mic to be used.

5. I scaled the pushbuttons at 1/2" square, the CR level pot at 1" diameter, and the other knobs at 3/4" diameter. I don't think my XLR is to-scale <grin> was a quickie CAD!


Old 13th December 2009
Lives for gear
brianroth's Avatar

I've thought about this some more, and also noticed my "design specs" left a few holes.

First, the stereo line inputs would be need to be balanced. I am grappling with the line output design...perhaps using THAT OutSmart chips for the ability to drive just about anything? Output transformers would be cool, but price/space issues....and potential coloration in what should be a transparent signal path.

As far as all of the switching, I think I'd go with "low level" relays vs. FETs, but again...price/size issues. In theory, relays should be more transparent in the signal path, but I've worked up some pretty decent FET switching "circuit blocks".

I wonder if "-10/+4" level-strapping for the inputs would be required.

Also, a "control pod" that can be used externally from the actual signal router is the Studio Tech system mentioned in an earlier post. Yet, that would require VCAs in the signal path to control audio levels. I'm trying to think of the most pristine signal path, and VCAs are a potential problem.

Old 13th December 2009
Gear Nut

It's not really hi-end, but I think the Mindprint Trio comes close concept-wise, doesn't it?
Old 16th December 2009

Thanks, oneass.

Yes, I'm not necessarily expecting the TRIO to sound much better than Presonus gear. Also, they don't seem to be available for sale any longer, but I found a used one in the orig. box put aside for me at Rogue Music in NYC - for $95 (orig. new price @$400).

I remember speaking with the MP designers at AES a few years ago, regarding their channel strips at that time. Like most German designers (Elesia, RME, etc.) they seemed very serious.

Here's the SOS review:
Mindprint Trio

Old 17th December 2009
Gear Head

Brian's killer design

The Mindprint and the SeaSound Solo are both hugely impressive, because they address the *whole problem*, not just some convenient part of it.

Brian, here are some comments on your design:

* The switching matrix is great!

* Instead of double-punching, it's cleaner to have a separate switch that chooses between "independent" and "exclusive" selection modes. I learned this approach from Kevin O'Connor at London Power amps.

* Six stereo inputs and eight stereo outputs = 28 jacks. Does that fit in 2U ?

* The three output sections are great. I'm sure there are many possible destinations: control room, main room, cue mix, DAW record input. Any others?

* For ZLM, we need to control the mix of Playback and Tracking. The general case is to have separate Playback and Tracking level controls. That way, either can be adjusted down to match the other. Can people please tell me, in practice, which do we need to turn down, Playback or Tracking? [Okay, okay, I'm a software engineer. Sqye is the musician / recording engineer.]

* One way to control the Playback / Tracking mix is to add a "Aux1 to Control Room" and probably "Aux2 to Control Room" switches. These would probably be after the Aux1 and Aux2 level controls. Then we could mix Tracking (i.e. Aux1) into Playback (i.e. CR).

* Another approach is to use a 6x3 mixing matrix instead of a 6x3 switching matrix, with level controls instead of buttons. Of course, we can have both level controls *and* buttons.

* It would be great to add two headphone outputs with independent level controls. The source for each headphone output would selectable from CR, Aux1, and Aux2.

Really excellent design, Brian !
Old 17th December 2009

Wow, you guys are killing here. This is awesome.

Thanks for actually taking this to the next level, Brian and David!

and BTW, David - the "Gear Interested" title under your name, is HILARIOUS...

...anyone who knows you, knows your actual title should be "Gear Deranged"...heh

Old 19th December 2009
Lives for gear
brianroth's Avatar

Thanks to David and Sqye! I was just doing what I refer to as a "what-if...."

David, in reply to your comments:

I need to look at the Mindprint and Seasound items you mentioned; I haven't looked to see what they were doing, and instead trekked out on my own. <g>

Portions of my "what-if..." go beyond a typical x-y matrix switcher, as typically found in various audio and video applications, since in those apps you CANNOT assign multiple sources to a single destination.

I "grew up" with "double punching" switchers, dating back to the mechanical switches on various mixing desks, which were mechanically interlocked. IOW, if you had one source or destination "punched", and punched another, then the originally selected switch would "spring back" into off/idle, and the new source/destination would be then selected. However, with many of those mechanical switches, you COULD press two or more sources/destinations for the new choice, and then all of them would be engaged.

I also see a possible ergonomic reason to have an additional "select one/select many" switch function, but me, it's intuitive for the switches within a given bank to allow more than one switch to be pressed at the same time! <g>

Part of my thinking came from a MCI JH-636 desk that I operated both as a "fader pusher" (aka session engineer), as well as the Main Monkey who Maintained the desk....1980's era! The monitor sources were selected via mechanically interlocked (but "not locked out") Schadow pushbuttons, and I also added the same "logic" mechanical pushbuttons for the multiple loudspeaker destinations via a custom addition to that desk. Hence, "double punching" became a normal mode for me and the other folks who worked there.

In later years, that same studio bought an Otari Concept-One (now for sale CHEAP! email me....), and IIRC, the two monitoring selectors DO allow at least a single "double punch"..IE, two simultaneous sources to be selected at once. I added on a "CR stereo out to one-or-more amps" electronic switcher, but used an electronic (FET) circuit. One twist was designing the logic to allow "double punching", and if you have enough fingers, ALL six destinations from that gizmo can be simultaneously engaged. To "go back to reality", all you have to do is merely press the desired single-destination button...the other destinations mute.

(Footnote: One of my "to-do" projects as the Otari desk is retired is "splicing" my speaker selector gizmo into the new CR (via the Avid xmon box) which will have a D-Command "ES-24" control surface along with the HD-192's. The guys running the place love their multiple monitors (which are NOT being retired), and want the same switching capabilities.)

Moving along...

David...egads! You raise a GREAT point re. the I/O jacks on the rear panel, especially if they are all XLRs!! Balanced 1/4" or "Tascam" DB-25's might be required.

And, I am slightly puzzled about the other routing ideas that you suggest. Can you draw a signal flow diagram? Even a simple drawing done in pencil and scanned can help my Olde brain to think! <g!)


Old 19th December 2009


Well, I scored the Mindprint Trio box this morning from Rogue in midtown (NYC).

...Used for $95 (all you high-enders can grimace now heh).

So far, the build quality is, at best, pro-sumer - knobs, buttons, etc.

...sort of like a POD with Behringer 'quality' knobs/pots...(yikes).

We'll see what it sounds like, when I plug it in (this may not be before the holiday's end).

Again, I'm not expecting much better than Presonus, but I'm open to surprises heh

Hmmmmmm....and on second look, the build quality might actually be better than I thought...

Cheers, y'all!

Old 19th December 2009
Gear Head


We want to mix the DAW Playback input with the Tracking source. But we don't want to double-punch "DAW" and "Vocals" or "DAW" and "Guitar" to select both of these at once, because that's the common case.

So we make a row of exclusive buttons to select the Tracking source:

Mic1 Mic2 Guitar1 Guitar2 Keys1 Keys2

And we have one independent button to mix in the DAW Playback:


[Probably the DAW button is always engaged, because you always want to hear the DAW.]

So you pick *one* of the Tracking buttons -- double-punching is possible, but is rarely needed, because you're usually tracking just one input. Similarly, double-punching is fine for monitor selection, because you usually select just one pair.

More later...
Old 20th December 2009

If you're seriously considering this "double-punching" method, you might want to apply it for Mic1 Mic2, for example. And Mic1 Gtr1. Mic1 Keys 1, etc.

Helpful for the obvious application of tracking vocals and guitar simultaneously, vocals and mic'ed acoustic or cab simlutaneously, vox and keys simultaneously, etc.

...Great for songwriter roughs / scratches / demos, etc. tracking and monitoring.

And David, in response to your question about mixing in the Tracking or Playback signal - if I'm understanding you correctly - most of us would likely want to be able to mix both signals - sometimes one, sometimes the other - depends on volume of playback, and volume of source material. They're not mutually exclusive.

To make it simple, the answer to most of your questions, so far, is:
e) all of the above heh

Old 18th July 2011

UPDATE: 1.5+ years later

I have been (mostly successfully) using the Mindprint Trio as a monitor controller.
...along with the RME FF800 as my AD/DA and i/o.

So far, so good - although, the Mindprint isn't perfect, and the audio quality, design, build quality could use some improvement.
(i.e. I'd like to have higher quality detented knobs/sliders/buttons/lights, and XLR i/o, etc.)

I don't mind the controller as a table top device, but it would probably be better if it were a (remote) control surface,
linked to a rack for i/o and patching.

We are considering removing the Trio from the chain -
as we assume our audio monitoring signal path will improve, among other things.

We're also considering digital volume control (yes, I said it) with a controller for the FF800,
so as to keep our signal path clean and simple, and our hardware real estate concise.

We're also considering upgrading the FF800 to a (hopefully better) AD/DA, along with other things.

I know I have another thread about this here, but the gear I'm super happy with, atm,
is the Buzz Audio ARC 1.1 Channel Strip, and my Linkwitz Orion monitors (powered by two Emotiva XPA-5 surround amps).

My playback configuration has NEVER been better. The Orions are simply amazing speakers.

At any rate, back to [ZLM] DAW monitor controllers/basic studio tracking patch control.

I seem to recall Fletcher mentioning a monitor controller (back in 2009?) that he was designing
(or collaborating on)...with Great River, perhaps?

I'm wondering if that box was ever produced/released.

He wasn't speaking of the Great River Mix Master 20, I assume?

I don't see anything at Mercenary.

Thanks for any information, dudes.

Old 22nd August 2011
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
May I do not get it but all the RME stuff is doing this very simple.
Just route the input in the matrix to the output switch of the host software output and you have left a technically latency of 1 ms...

so fun for me I can track my vocalist without any latency and it works.

OK, so while we're working on our prototype, I'm temporarily using a Behringer BNC44 to control Total Mix on my Fireface 800.

This solves a few problems - like instant one touch access to all monitoring config setups for tracking and mixing.

It also gives me some volume knobs, master mutes (using dim), etc.

I've currently got two sets of monitors (soon to be three or four) plus HPs - on my FF800, controlled via MIDI in Total Mix.
...(Monitors are Linkwitz Orions, Tyler Linbrook and Mackie 824).

What this setup does NOT give me is a decent analog speaker selector, or analog master volume knob.

Total mix also does not allow me to control Total Mix input levels via MIDI
...Some of these options may be available using Mackie MIDI device protocol - but I'm not using a Mackie controller.

But all other problems have been solved - monitor mix configs at the touch of a button,
dedicated multiple monitor output volume control and master mute -
in the two small units.

So, to recap -

I'm at 1RU, plus a mini desktop MIDI controller.

I need:
An analog speaker selector
Master volume
Mixer input volume controls (potentially via Total Mix/MIDI)

Still trying to keep everything to a few RU max.

Old 23rd August 2011
Lives for gear
cdog's Avatar
How does this sound:

"The XXX audio interface is quite simply a monster. It boasts 30 total inputs (yes, 30!) and 34 outputs. Twelve of these inputs are mic/line preamps, enough to track a complete live band all in a single pass. On the output stage, you’ve got 8 discrete analogue outs for surround mixing, or to mix down discrete mix "stems.” The XXX also boasts the most fully equipped monitoring and signal routing architecture you’ll find in a recording interface, with 4 individual headphone outs, flexible control room options, and a fully customizable signal routing matrix. It’s also loaded with comprehensive digital I/O (AES/EBU, S/PDIF, 16 channels of ADAT Optical), WordClock, dual MIDI I/O jacks, Talkback, balanced sends/returns... Pretty much anything you can imagine — and everything you’ll need — is there.

While the XXX’s specs may be ambitious, we know that’s only half the story. It also has to sound phenomenal. In addition to its pristine signal path, the XXX is fully HD ready, with mastering-grade AKM 24-bit, 192 kHz digital converters. Of course all this wouldn’t mean a thing if it didn’t have that legacy of quality craftsmanship, reliability, and intuitive ease of use.

The XXX audio interface brings everything together into a single, harmonious system to meet any challenge that comes your way."


Premium 30 input x 34 output near-zero latency audio interface

12 mic preamps with class-leading fidelity and dynamic range

8 balanced line outputs via 25-pin d-sub connector

16 x 16 ADAT I/O @ 96kHz (8x8 @ 192kHz, 4x4 @ 192kHz)

4 headphone outputs with volume control and discrete stereo feeds

AKM 24-bit/192kHz A/D and D/A converters

Powerful Onboard DSP Matrix Mixer: connect any input to any output at near-zero latency

Built-in control room functions include A/B Monitor Switching,Talkback, plus stereo and up to 7.1 surround output main volume control

Balanced TRS send and return insert jacks on Inputs 1 and 2

2x2 MIDI I/O plus Word Clock, stereo AES/EBU and stereo S/PDIF I/O

Stand-alone mixer functionality for field and studio use without computer

MSRP: $1999

Sounds amazing right? Unfortunately they are discontinued. The margins were too small and not enough people bought them. XXX
Old 23rd August 2011
Gear Head


Thanks for the fun guessing game. It's a lovely device, at least on paper, and I certainly lusted after it when it came out. Do you have one? How's the hardware? How's the software?

BTW, two rack spaces gives me a disproportionately bigger hard-on than one -- not sure why. I still lust after the MOTU 896 when I see photos, even though I'd never buy one!

The 1200F is a good attempt to do everything, and that's great. But I'd rather keep the gear modular so I can pick and choose (preamps, converters, monitoring, computer interface).

Unfortunately, Mackie doesn't stand behind their audio interfaces. It's a chicken / egg problem. I'll buy one when they stand behind it. They'll stand behind it when customers buy it in quantity.

For entertainment, I just looked at Mackie's current interfaces, the Blackjack and Blackbird. (1) Can you get behind those names? I really don't want to play "blackjack" with my audio. (2) They claim the bus-powered Blackjack is pro quality. I'm not convinced that anything bus powered is pro quality -- there's just not enough juice there for good headroom. (3) Sweetwater has a $100 rebate on the Blackbird, lowering the price to $400, which is 1/4 the price of a FF800. And I bet it's still not selling, because nobody takes Mackie seriously. I feel kind of sorry for their engineers -- it doesn't matter what they release. Until they have a five-year track record of making great audio interfaces, no one who wants pro equipment is gonna care. (4) Looks like they're taking zero-latency seriously. It's even analog! That's awesome. (5) Overall, it seems like a nice design. Two pairs of speaker outputs would have been nice. MIDI automation would have been nice.
Old 23rd August 2011

Thanks, guys.

Hilarious, David - playing blackjack with your audio heh

Old 26th August 2011
Lives for gear
WunderBro Flo's Avatar
Oh, too bad I came across this thread years too late. Cuz I would have suggested you look at the LA Audio SPX2 (maybe discontinued). It has everything you asked for and was pretty inexpensive.
The 19" one height unit device boasts 6 stereo inputs (one xlr (doubled on the front panel as balanced jacks), two balanced quarter inch jacks, three rca), one of those has a level control on the front panel. by pressing the select buttons of two inputs simultaneously they are being mixed together. This mix goes to two balanced jack outputs with their own on/off and level pots as well as a headphone jack. There is also an additional rca "record" output on the back. You also get a pan-balance pot, a mono and a dim switch. The only downside I found is that over the years the pots eventually started cracking when turning them. Apart from that a great unit for a silly price. Mabe woth getting used and cheap and paying a tech to replace the worn out parts.

Rock on!
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