Add big Mixer Features and a nice D\A
Converter to your Mixerless Rig
of us have gone mixerless
in the past few years.
As soon as you do, you can't help but
miss some of the convenience features of the mixer. We were used to
having a knob to set the volume on the control room outs, and if you owned
a bigger mixer you had studio outs and a talkback facility that could pipe
your voice into the studio room where the performers wait for your cue.
The smaller audio interfaces become even more difficult. The volume
control may be buried in a menu or worse, only accessible by a control panel
on the computer, where a simple slip of the mouse while wearing headphones
could take you to the threshold of pain.
And finally, if it does have a volume control,
the audio interface has to be at a low output volume when running powered
speakers, or you'll blast yourself out of your chair. The d\a converters,
which transform the digital numbers in the computer back to an analog signal,
may be further muddied by the output electronics that are needed to attenuate
the signal. The cheaper the audio interface, the more likely you will
hear some distortion, or perhaps more accurately, won't hear, the transparency
of your audio.
Switch 3 sets of monitors in and
out (A and C or B and C can be active simultaneously, but not A
Switch between 5 sources (2 stereo
TRS, 1 Stereo Aux, Coax and Optical Stereo s/pdif. You can
select any one of the five for both the Main and Cue section
Use 2 headphones switchable between
main outs and cue outputs
If you use a digital output from
your audio interface to the central station, you will benefit from
the central stations high quality D\A converters.
Use the talkback mic to talk to
the performers wearing headphones (when the phones are switched
Connecting a mixdown recorder
like a DAT, Cassette, MiniDisk or CDR deck.
Accurately meter your inputs
in 0dbVU and 0dbFs scales. The meters are fast acting and
have a calibration control. 30 segments.
The Central Station is easy to setup.
I looked at the manual for less than 2 minutes and had no problem setting
up the device. I ran outputs 1 and 2 from my MOTU 828mk2 into the
TRS1 jacks and also ran the s/pdif out to the coax in on the Central station.
The monitor outs were connected to mackie HR824s. Using either the analog
or digital inputs the sound was a marked improvement over the 828mk2.
The sound was clearer and more life-like. Switching between TRS and
digital, I could compare the Presonus D\A with that of the MOTU. I
detected some subtle differences. The MOTU had a heavier bass coloration
that the PreSonus did not have, but I liked both, and again, both sounded
better than going straight out of the 828mk2. Of course I had to wonder
why that was the case.
The Central Station is the ultimate
studio-monitoring interface for the modern digital studio.
The Central Station features 3 sets of stereo analog
inputs to switch between input sources such as: DAW,
mixer, CD/DAT/Tape player, or keyboards/samplers. Two
stereo analog inputs feature TRS balanced and the 3rd
stereo input features RCA inputs with trim control for
level matching of input signals. In addition, the Central
Station will accommodate 2 digital inputs via S/PDIF
or TOSLINK providing D/A conversion up to 24Bit/192kHz.
Mackie Big Knob Studio Control Center
Big Knob is perfectly suited to a range of applications
beyond desktop music making, including home stereo systems,
keyboard/guitar rigs, high-end multimedia systems, archiving
LP’s to CD, classrooms and boardrooms, and more.
The Central Station Remote Control
(CSR-1) can be connected to the rear of the Central
Station via DB9 connector to control Volume, Talkback,
Mute, input source switching and speaker output switching
functions. Keep the Central Station in your rack with
your gear and use the CSR-1 for ultimate control and
Presonus says the Central Station uses
a purely passive signal path and the highest quality components. They
explain that the amplifier stages, op amps and active integrated circuits
in common audio devices "add noise, distortion and give that pinched sound"
and may cause ear fatigue. Well, I can say my HR824s have not sounded
this good before. My second day with the unit I went through hours
of my music collection, thrilled at the new detail I was hearing.
Presonus claims the 24bit digital
inputs will sync at 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192k and will automatically
read and lock to the incoming digital stream. That worked as advertised
here. There were no clock issues and i did not have to change any settings
on my MOTU.
The unit overall appears attractive with
blue LEDs that light up as you press buttons. The knobs have a sturdy
feel and offer resistance as you twist them. The small knobs are the
finely detented variety and the volume knob is smooth. The whole box
seems rugged and the jacks have a positive feel. You can connect an
external dynamic mic to an XLR jack on the back if you are father away from
the rack to replace the onboard talkback mic.
Speaking of getting farther away, there
is an optional CSR1 Remote. The remote is a handy device, particularly
for those who want to switch monitors without leaving the mix position.
The talkback mic is duplicated on the remote, as are the input switches,
the mute dim and mono buttons and volume knob. Everyone I have spoken
to about this machine says "make sure you get the remote". I did and
I see why.
Summing up, the Central Station is a worthy
piece for the mixerless studio. I think the piece best fits in for
those who have audio interfaces and want to improve their output and gain
their switching abilities. However, I can definitely see the value
as a high quality D\A converter for the back end of large digital mixers
and for expanding the possibilities of a simple 2x2 soundcard with s/pdif.
However you use it, the Central Station can remove one more veil of crud
between you and your sound.