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Monitor Management for cheap Mixers (Analog)
Old 10th September 2011
  #1
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Monitor Management for cheap

Hey all,

So I'm realizing I need something to facilitate switching between different monitors when I'm mixing. I have ProTools, CD player, monitors, and a stereo system. I want to be able to switch between ProTools and the CD player, so I can check my mixes and I want to be able to switch between listening to the monitors and the stereo. I was thinking about this:

SM Pro Audio • M-Patch 2 •

But then I realized that I could kill 2 birds w one stone and get a Mackie 802-VLZ3 that I might use for other things as well...but I'm worried that my mixes going out of protools into the mackie and then into my monitors will be useless. If I just use line inputs on the mackie and keep everything at unity, using the mutes to switch between ProTools and CDplayer, how transparent will the mackie be? Has anyone ever used a mixing console as a monitor management system? Does anyone have any experience with the SM Pro Audio M-patch 2? It just seems like a passive switch box is a one trick pony and for the same price I can get something more versatile. Any advice?

Thanks!
Stillroast
Old 10th September 2011
  #2
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yoshimodular's Avatar
 

SM Pro passive monitor management boxes sound GREAT, way better than Mackie active's.
Old 10th September 2011
  #3
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But they're passive, how can they sound great?
Old 10th September 2011
  #4
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Traaansparent :D
Old 11th September 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yoshimodular View Post
Traaansparent :D
Awesome, i had wondered how transparent they are. I'm looking at monitor control solutions as well, pretty much narrowed it down to the m-patch 2. heh

@Stillroast, active monitor solutions cost £200+ so i think it's a good price for a system that won't colour the sound.
Old 13th September 2011
  #6
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thanks for the replies!

i'm still on the fence about getting this M-patch 2...it would be nice to get a small mixer, something i've been procrastinating on getting for a long time...i can only afford one piece at the moment...

how bad could it be to hook up monitors thru a mackie mixer? how bad will my mixes suffer if i'm using a small mixer to manage monitors? is that TOO low end? i'm sure its been done before...please let me know if any of you have tried it...or if you think its basically audio suicide...

Thanks again
s
Old 13th September 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stillroast View Post
It would be nice to get a small mixer, something i've been procrastinating on getting for a long time...i can only afford one piece at the moment.
What's that old saying .. A Chain is as Strong as it's Weakest Link .. A small Mackie mixer is a perfectly "acceptable" piece of equipment to use for certain functions (Pre's/Bussing/Summing/Auxs .. etc). So, given that you can only get one right now, I'd probably go for the Mackie as a Latency free Signal Router. It will be fine for a while ..

However, the path between your DAW/Playback to your monitors is one of the most critical paths in your setup. I wouldn't leave the Mackie for too long in that chain if I was expecting to make any critical monitoring decisions. I don't know if you're wanting to engineer, or just do songwriting (in which case just the Mackie would be fine), but for me, The SM Controllers are some of the best value passive monitor controllers around to fulfill this critical function .. In the long run, I'd aim to get one ..
Old 13th September 2011
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic View Post
What's that old saying .. A Chain is as Strong as it's Weakest Link .. A small Mackie mixer is a perfectly "acceptable" piece of equipment to use for certain functions (Pre's/Bussing/Summing/Auxs .. etc). So, given that you can only get one right now, I'd probably go for the Mackie as a Latency free Signal Router. It will be fine for a while ..

However, the path between your DAW/Playback to your monitors is one of the most critical paths in your setup. I wouldn't leave the Mackie for too long in that chain if I was expecting to make any critical monitoring decisions. I don't know if you're wanting to engineer, or just do songwriting (in which case just the Mackie would be fine), but for me, The SM Controllers are some of the best value passive monitor controllers around to fulfill this critical function .. In the long run, I'd aim to get one ..
Yeah i would be using the mixer/controller to engineer full mixes, not to write songs. I would be switching back and forth between CD player and DAW to get a good reference on my mix using classic albums that I want my mix to sound similar to...and switching between my stereo system and monitors to check the mix...

I'm confused when you say the Mackie mixer will be fine for a while. Do you mean until I have better gear or until I'm ready to finalize a mixdown? Right now, I'm REALLY low end. i'm using the original MBox with an ancient version of ProTools into KRK Rokit 5s, so maybe whether its a Mackie mixer or the SM Audio M-patch 2 doesn't really matter?

but yeah I'm using this setup to finalize mixes for a record to send to a mastering guy and ultimately press some vinyl

Hoping to head to the shop today and make a purchase. Speak now or forever hold your peace/piece!
Old 13th September 2011
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musikmaschine View Post
Awesome, i had wondered how transparent they are. I'm looking at monitor control solutions as well, pretty much narrowed it down to the m-patch 2. heh

@Stillroast, active monitor solutions cost £200+ so i think it's a good price for a system that won't colour the sound.
all control systems, active or passive, color the sound.
Old 13th September 2011
  #10
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why not just rip the reference CDs to the computer as waves, invclude them in your edit decision lists, and mute them when not referencing them? That way you buy NOTHING.
Old 14th September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
why not just rip the reference CDs to the computer as waves, invclude them in your edit decision lists, and mute them when not referencing them? That way you buy NOTHING.
Haha !! heh This only requires a tiny piece of lateral thinking and is (of-course) an excellent idea

Depending on how you view it, passing the Reference mix through your DA might eliminate some differences between Your Mixes and the Ref Mixes, or it might highlight some differences.

More than anything, it gives you less reasons to blame another piece of Gear in your signal chain, for any perceived shortcomings in Your Mixes.
Old 14th September 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
why not just rip the reference CDs to the computer as waves, invclude them in your edit decision lists, and mute them when not referencing them? That way you buy NOTHING.
I've done this before, but I find that it complicates things. It cuts down on processing power and it becomes annoying when you want to compare a mix to several different songs. All of a sudden, you have 5 songs with 5 stereo tracks all imported into your DAW and you have to keep soloing and muting...i dunno maybe i'm just lazy...

also it doesn't solve the problem of being able to switch between diff monitors

the question remains, i know its not optimal, but how bad is it to have a small mixer in between the DAW output and your monitors? Assuming you are mixing something to give to mastering...is it just a little bad or will it lead to terrible mixes?
Old 14th September 2011
  #13
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Blue Bee's Avatar
Wouldnt the small soundcraft mixers be a better choice than a mackie, they are going for $50 on musicians friend. Thats what i went with after reading too many bad reviews for just about every monitor controller priced under $300. And i have had way better experiences with soundcraft mixers over mackie.
Old 14th September 2011
  #14
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coleman makes a 3:1 passive switcher for about $100. no volume control on it, just a selector but it's passive
Old 14th September 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by branbolio View Post
Wouldnt the small soundcraft mixers be a better choice than a mackie, they are going for $50 on musicians friend. Thats what i went with after reading too many bad reviews for just about every monitor controller priced under $300. And i have had way better experiences with soundcraft mixers over mackie.
Was just about to suggest this. I picked up a 124fx (the most expensive of these models, cost me all of $99) and it's working out great. Nice to have a bunch of stereo line inputs.

It's bizarre how Mackie stuff is just as expensive as Soundcraft and sometimes more. I guess Mackie just has a lot of brand recognition in the low-end market.

If you get something with a little more output flexibility, you can also use a mixer setup like this as a low-latency monitoring solution for overdubs. The old Soundcraft Compact 10 was actually designed to be used that way, I think.

JSL
Old 14th September 2011
  #16
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The M-Patch 2 has served me well. I use it in my rehearsal/recording/mixing room setup.

Main Input<--DAW
Aux Input<--PA Mixer L/R
Output 1-->KRK VXT4 Monitors
Output 2-->Headphone Amp-->PA Monitors

I've been debating about adding another set of mixing monitors to my rig, which would require a controller with more outputs, but meanwhile, the M-Patch-2 is doing fine for my needs
Old 14th September 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
all control systems, active or passive, color the sound.
Isn't it more of an issue with active systems though?
Old 14th September 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricF View Post
The M-Patch 2 has served me well. I use it in my rehearsal/recording/mixing room setup.

Main Input<--DAW
Aux Input<--PA Mixer L/R
Output 1-->KRK VXT4 Monitors
Output 2-->Headphone Amp-->PA Monitors

I've been debating about adding another set of mixing monitors to my rig, which would require a controller with more outputs, but meanwhile, the M-Patch-2 is doing fine for my needs
So you can comment as to it's 'transparency'? Any obvious coloration of the sound?
Old 14th September 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musikmaschine View Post
So you can comment as to it's 'transparency'? Any obvious coloration of the sound?
Since I've used my monitors only through this device, I don't have a basis of comparison as to coloration or not.
Old 14th September 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musikmaschine View Post
Isn't it more of an issue with active systems though?
It is not as straightforward as that. It would be nice if it was. The generalizations won't work without lots of detail.

(My active stepped attenuator is high quality, repeatable levels, and cost about $800 to build. It is 'better' than many options, passive or active.)
Old 14th September 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jslevin View Post
Was just about to suggest this. I picked up a 124fx (the most expensive of these models, cost me all of $99) and it's working out great. Nice to have a bunch of stereo line inputs.
I've looked at the 124fx before but the problem is that the channels are not mutable which would make switching between inputs a pain in the neck if i used it to switch between cd player and DAW when i'm mixing...

the next best option as far as soundcraft goes is the EPM6. Its got 2 stereo channels so i could plug in my DAW into one and the cd player into the other, then i could use the main outs to go to the monitors and the monitor outs to go to my stereo...but i read that the stereo input jacks are unbalanced, so thats not so great either...

are any of you using these soundcraft mixers as a monitor controller?
Old 15th September 2011
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricF View Post
Since I've used my monitors only through this device, I don't have a basis of comparison as to coloration or not.
I guess it can't be that obvious then.
Old 15th September 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
It is not as straightforward as that. It would be nice if it was. The generalizations won't work without lots of detail.

(My active stepped attenuator is high quality, repeatable levels, and cost about $800 to build. It is 'better' than many options, passive or active.)
So what's the advantage of passive, doesn't need power? Are you talking about obvious coloration? I read in a couple of places that active systems like the monitor station color the sound slightly...
Old 15th September 2011
  #24
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I have the older M-patch and a Soundtracs console in my studio at home.

I have DAW, CD, Keyboards, etc going into the Soundtracs and then into the M-Patch and then to my powered monitors.

But when I am mixing ITB, I send the DAW directly into the M-Patch on the alternate input. The Soundtracs is a decent console, but the coloration of its electronics becomes obvious as soon as I bypass it. When I go DAW > M-Patch > Monitors I can hear farther back into the mix. Cleaner and less grainy.

Of course, when I am not bypassing the console, I am hearing the accumulated effect of both the console and the M Patch, but I before I had the M-Patch, I just ran console >> speakers, so I have a pretty good idea of where most of the coloration is coming from.

My understanding is that passive attenuators have coloration too, and it is more pronounced as you turn them down. My casual experience seems to back that up, though I have not really tested it blindfolded. I have my powered monitors on their lowest setting, so I can keep the M-Patch relatively high.

For such an inexpensive device, the M-Patch is pretty clean.
Old 15th September 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musikmaschine View Post
So what's the advantage of passive, doesn't need power? Are you talking about obvious coloration? I read in a couple of places that active systems like the monitor station color the sound slightly...
Take out the issue of cost. As far as I am concerned, all of the budget monitoring control systems are garbage, which is why I went a different route. You can build your own, look into options from DACT or Goldpoint (or Micheal Percy Audio, where I bought many of the parts for mine...), check with Coleman Audio (they offer many passive and active solutions to cover the needs of most studio setups)... Dangerous, Cranesong.... none of these solutions is 'cheap', but I'm a bit of a monitoring snob, I want to hear what I am doing, and how can you do that if your monitoring chain screws you?

If you research passive and active monitoring systems you will find that many pros with electronics backgrounds fall on either side of the issue, each willing to live with the limitations or compromises required with their personal choice. Active or passive, BOTH COLOR the sound. There are other issues involved, as well. But you cannot say, "active is better than passive" (or vice versa) as a flat out generalization. I'd love to be able to give you a simple answer, but there isn't one. When I started to research mine I talked to some of the brightest minds I could find and could not get a consensus on which was best or why.
Old 16th September 2011
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
I have the older M-patch and a Soundtracs console in my studio at home.

I have DAW, CD, Keyboards, etc going into the Soundtracs and then into the M-Patch and then to my powered monitors.

But when I am mixing ITB, I send the DAW directly into the M-Patch on the alternate input. The Soundtracs is a decent console, but the coloration of its electronics becomes obvious as soon as I bypass it. When I go DAW > M-Patch > Monitors I can hear farther back into the mix. Cleaner and less grainy.

Of course, when I am not bypassing the console, I am hearing the accumulated effect of both the console and the M Patch, but I before I had the M-Patch, I just ran console >> speakers, so I have a pretty good idea of where most of the coloration is coming from.

My understanding is that passive attenuators have coloration too, and it is more pronounced as you turn them down. My casual experience seems to back that up, though I have not really tested it blindfolded. I have my powered monitors on their lowest setting, so I can keep the M-Patch relatively high.

For such an inexpensive device, the M-Patch is pretty clean.
If mixing console colors the output so much i think a cheap mixer would be worse? SM Pro maybe a one trick pony but it's how well it performs that trick. heh

I just did a quick google on mixer vs monitor controller and came across this Mackie 802 & 402 VLZ3

I guess if you need the extra functions a mixer can provide and can live with some coloration or degradation of the audio then get a mixer.

I'm not super anal about sound quality but i wouldn't want to put something in the signal path that would significantly degrade the sound. A mixer would give more options for patching other gear in though and even some outboard for processing. heh

I hadn't really considered a mixer but now i think maybe...
Old 17th September 2011
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Take out the issue of cost. As far as I am concerned, all of the budget monitoring control systems are garbage, which is why I went a different route. You can build your own, look into options from DACT or Goldpoint (or Micheal Percy Audio, where I bought many of the parts for mine...), check with Coleman Audio (they offer many passive and active solutions to cover the needs of most studio setups)... Dangerous, Cranesong.... none of these solutions is 'cheap', but I'm a bit of a monitoring snob, I want to hear what I am doing, and how can you do that if your monitoring chain screws you?

If you research passive and active monitoring systems you will find that many pros with electronics backgrounds fall on either side of the issue, each willing to live with the limitations or compromises required with their personal choice. Active or passive, BOTH COLOR the sound. There are other issues involved, as well. But you cannot say, "active is better than passive" (or vice versa) as a flat out generalization. I'd love to be able to give you a simple answer, but there isn't one. When I started to research mine I talked to some of the brightest minds I could find and could not get a consensus on which was best or why.
Trashing them all as garbage seems a bit harsh. I know you get better the more you spend and there are usually compromises on budget gear but i'm hearing good reports about the SM Pro stuff.

Anyway will look at some midrange options, £3,000 dangerous monitor controllers are way over my budget.

The tc konnekt 48 looks like a good solution. I've got a konnekt 6 which works as a monitor controller. Tried it recently and didn't notice a huge loss of quality or coloration of the sound. Much research to do anyway, cheers.
Old 17th September 2011
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musikmaschine View Post
Trashing them all as garbage seems a bit harsh.....
Here is the thing about monitor systems (including the room, the converters, the amps.....) EVERYTHING that we do, every decision we make about the audio that we hear is affected by the monitoring rig. Where everything else that we mighty like or do is a matter of our opinion, the monitoring rig either is or is not accurate. If it is accurate, then we are making decisions based upon what we are hearing. If it is not accurate, we are making incorrect decisions or approximations and hoping that they will work.

As I said above, I am a bit of a monitor snob.... not like my friend who spent $80,000 on his system but I did spend about $20k on the one in my studio. My home rig is going to end up somewhere between $9 and $15k depending upon what monitors I finally settle on. To me, anything else is like trying to paint a beautiful sunset while wearing dime store sunglasses. How can you make good choices when you cannot really see/hear what you are doing? I may save money here and there, but I want to put in as good a monitor rig as I can.
Old 17th September 2011
  #29
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Yeah i know but those monitor systems can't be that bad. If you're spending 15-20k on gear then fair enough! I wouldn't compromise on the signal chain with a £100 monitor controller, that would be insane! heh

Even on a budget i wouldn't want to put something in the signal path that would significantly affect the source and change what i was hearing thus affecting my mixing decisions but i've worked with far less than ideal gear in the past (amp and hifi speakers) and gotten good results. Granted that was before i knew what i knew now and blind luck may have been involved.
Old 17th September 2011
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musikmaschine View Post
... blind luck may have been involved.
I love blind luck. Far superior to snobbery or reverse snobbery of any ilk.
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