Probably more than ever, recording studios have seen a need for monitoring different inputs and routing these signals to a variety of speakers. In my studio, we monitor the DAW, console LR, console control room out, CD, iPod, and computer outputs. We listen through three different speaker/amp combos plus a subwoofer. Our old Allen & Heath console from the '80s is fine but only allows for two speaker selects and two stereo inputs. Routing had become tedious, and after looking at all the capacitors and crap in the signal path, I was starting to guess that I wasn't hearing all the music. When Dangerous unveiled the Monitor ST, I knew it was what I was looking for. There's a 1RU-height main unit with two DB-25 connectors on the rear for I/O, and a pair of XLR jacks for the Aux Input. On the front is a talkback mic, along with jacks for a remote talkback mic and headphones, as well as level knobs for headphones, talkback, main out to the cue outputs, aux input to cue, aux to main, and Input 4 (great for the CD player). The remote, which communicates with the main unit via CAT5 cable, is a handsome, aluminum, bridge-shaped block that can sit well on a console or desktop. The switches-and in particular the main volume knob-send info to the rack unit where routing and gain is adjusted via microprocessor-controlled relays-real step attenuation instead of cheap VCAs. You can hear the relays in the main unit physically click as you adjust volume (which seemed odd at first, but now it's a familiar audible cue for me when I'm changing levels). Backlit pushbuttons allow for speaker and input selection, speaker muting, talkback, mono collapse, dim, and programming. Programming allows for adjusting level of the inputs and speaker outputs, compensating for -10 dBV consumer gear, and even changing the mute dim mode.
The ST is a dream. With the ability to route four sources to three speaker outputs, plus control the sub, it allows us to easily jump between monitors and input sources for referencing mixes, moving between the console and Pro Tools, and such. From the minute we had it wired up and turned on, it felt natural and easy to use. After a little P-touch labeling, freelance engineers jumped right into using the ST without any questions. Audio quality is clearer than our console ever let us hear before. Being able to drag the remote around the listening area instead of being chained to the console allowed better ergonomic setups and less weird arm stretching. The talkback (as well as the other buttons too) features a unique operation: hold the button down and talk (like on most consoles), and the TB unlatches when done; tap the button, and the TB stays latched while you talk and edit tracks at the same time; hit it again to unlatch. Perfect. The Slate output on the rear of the main unit can be brought out to the patchbay and then sent to headphones (in our case, the Furman HDS-16 system reviewed in Tape Op #55) so that the players can hear you through the talkback. There's a jack for a secondary remote TB, so we built a little pushbutton/XLR switch; now we can use regular mic cables to put the remote TB switch as far from the console as needed. (Note that this remote TB jack doesn't dim the monitors.) There's even an input for a remote TB mic, handy if the main unit is not racked nearby. [Unfortunately, the jack for the remote mic is on the front while the jack for the remote switch is on the back! Kludgy wiring if you want to connect a purpose-built TB mic with a built-in switch. -AH]
The ST can be combined with the SR expansion (another 1RU-height device) so that surround speakers and inputs can be controlled in the same way, and calibrated accurately as well. Not bad for only $1499 MSRP for the SR.
Got more than one set of speakers? Want the assurance that your sources are getting to the speakers uncolored by your console? Got a few different sources to compare at mixdown? For its quality, features and thoughtful design, the ST can't be beat, and I'm having a hard time remembering how I got by without it.
($2,199 MSRP; www.dangerousmusic.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.