PreSonus HP60 by Enlightened Hand
So imagine you have a recording studio right?
Now imagine you have a band come in to record and they want to lay everything down in a live take, simultaneously. Lets say you have to spread them apart to tame the bleed in the mics. They need to hear each other and themselves equally well. But you can't have them close enough to each other less the bleed get unruly and totally ruin your recording. In cometh the cue mix system idea.
Everybody wants a cue mix system until they find out how much those things usually cost. Try multiple thousands for the ones that have stations for each performer to tweak a mini-mixdown, independently for their own fold back. Try at lest a few thousand for the budget versions of that. Then there is cabling, headphones, stands for the stations to sit on and of course this is all for the (unfortunately increasingly rare) circumstance of ensemble live tracking in a controlled, studio environment. What shall you do? You don't have the kind of coin necessary to drop another 6 grand just so you can do the thing that you can already do in bits and pieces through overdubs. But the band insists, so what do you do?
Fortunately the good folks at (the often unfairly maligned) PreSonus have seen fit to find the gap and step in with a clever little device for cue mix distribution known as the HP60.
The HP60 isn't just a headphone amp. It's SIX independent headphone amps in a single rack space unit. It has dual main stereo inputs that can be auditioned from any of the six headphone outs. It has talk back. It has independent volume control for each headphone out and on top of all that it has independent, additional stereo input for EACH headphone amp on top of the two main stereo inputs. Furthermore any of those individual stereo inputs can be summed to mono with a press of any of the "mono" buttons on the front panel of each independent headphone channel. The thing is literally teeming with useful inputs. But to top it off it also has stereo line outputs jacks on each headphone output channel that carries a copy of that channel's mix to whatever other recording or monitoring device you want to hear in on.
What all this means in use is that assuming you have an interface with enough analog outputs you can send a main stereo mix to the "A" stereo main input on the unit. You can then send either another alternate stereo mix or just a mono click track to the "B" stereo main input on the unit. With both of those inputs activated the performers on any of the six independent channels can then be toggled between a blend of "A" and "B" input with a turn of any of the knobs labeled "mix" on any one of the headphone channels. That way if the guy on channel one wants to hear more main mix and less click you can turn his "mix" knob more to the "A" side and less from the "B" side, thus giving what he hears in his headphones more main mix and less click. Being that all the channels are completely independent the output on each channel can be completely different including the blend between the main stereo inputs and the level of each headphone out.
But it goes further than just blending between the two main stereo inputs. As I mentioned before there is a third stereo input available for each headphone channel, independently. To that input you can send an independent stereo mix for the performer to have their own custom mix created in a sequencer or software mixer utility, or on an actual dedicated hardware mixer. You can then control the volume of this mix to the headphones on each channel independently with it's own dedicated volume knob. Furthermore you can use this input exclusively for the headphone channel and mute the main stereo input mixes with the press of the "mute" button located on the front panel. Or you can use all three inputs (main stereo "A", "B" and the independent channel stereo input) and monitor them simultaneously. It is also possible to make the independent channel stereo input sum to mono and use it as a "more me" channel, while monitoring it and the main stereo inputs, balancing each in level with the controls on the front panel.
I've had an HP60 for years and it's worth it's weight in gold. It's absolutely the cheapest, simple solution for cue mix in the studio when performers are working simultaneously and you need reliable, clear headphone output and flexible mixing features. It works exactly as it's supposed to and the usefulness of being able to quickly get performers the mix they need without the cost of traditional cue mix systems is priceless.
I often run the standard mix configuration with a main mix in input "A" a click on "B" and each individual performer's instrument output on the independent stereo input of their individual channel, summed to mono so they can always hear enough of themselves. I have found that most of the time performers aren't all that picky about the mix so long as they can control how much of themselves they hear against everyone else. The extra ability to create a separate mixdown is really not needed in most cases. But if it is, I still use the HP60 and I'll simply create the mix in my interface's software mixer utility and bus the stereo output of each individual mix to each channel of the HP60 and the problem is solved. That this kind of headphone distribution flexibility, as well as clear clean sound can be had at $300 is an absolute steal and an incredible bargain IMO. I highly recommend the HP60 if you're looking for a cue mix problem solver that leaves you options and won't break the bank.