Sound Performance Labs has a long history of providing slick new products that do something completely different, such as its acclaimed Transient Designer. Now, SPL offers an elegant solution to the mundane, everyday issue of multichannel monitor management with the Model 2380 Surround Monitor Controller (SMC).
Housed in a single unit, the SMC is a multichannel volume control and source-switching selector for 5.1 and stereo listening environments, especially those where playback is from a DAW or console that lacks playback level control of 5.1 material.
The front panel is dominated by the large volume control and also has surround/stereo input selectors; in/out switches that double as Solo/Mute buttons for any of the individual 5.1 (and stereo) speakers; -20dB attenuator/dim switch, switches for summing either the L/R stereo fronts of Ls/Rs rears to a single mono playback; and a Mute-All switch that doubles as a panic button.
On the rear
are the connections for the 5.1 speaker outputs (all balanced 1/4-inch TRS), the surround “A” and stereo “C” inputs (+4dB balanced on D25 subs in the 8-channel Tascam DA-88 format) and a “slave” D25 sub mirroring the “A” and “C” inputs to connect to a recording device. Input “B” has six RCA jacks for monitoring unbalanced sources, such as a reference DVD player, and input “D” is stereo unbalanced on RCA jacks. For ease of hookup, SPL screened the IDs for all of the connections both rightside-up and upside-down (for looking over the unit)— nice!
In the studio, the unit's maximum of 16 individual lines, two D25 sub snakes and IEC power cord can make for a messy setup when used as an on-console controller. Mine was much better in the classic “sit on meterbridge” and “set off to the side” modes, allowing for cleaner cable management.
But the best part about the SMC was its sound,
or rather lack of sound. Instead of taking the easy, lo-fi route of using VCAs or DCAs to control volume, SPL opted for a discrete, six-level potentiometer with a minimalist approach to components throughout to maximize transparency. Frequency response extends to 100 kHz (-3 dB), the action of the pot was smooth and the essential switching of the individual speaker buses was glitchless. At its price this could be the solution you need right now.
Designed to provide only the necessary functions with excellent audio quality, the SMC offers a uniquely cost-effective speaker and source management solution.
Users & Applications
The advantages of the SMC become especially apparent in combination with modern audio and video production tools such as ProTools™, Nuendo™, Cubase™, Logic™, Deck™ etc. Monitor levels and source management can be handled independently of the software and with virtually no loss in quality. You no longer need to set up additional aux sends or an alternative surround master for monitoring. In addition, you won't have to worry about over- or underdriving the converters due to monitor levels.
One of the SMC's biggest advantages is the possibility to manage several input sources: comparing and monitoring SACD or DVD material is much easier than having to import all of your audio files and set up monitor mixes – not to mention the conversion of multichannel audio.
Standard A/V receivers are often used for this task. The problem with this is that the audio has to be either AD/DA converted or manipulated by signal-degenerating control circuitry (VCA's, DAC's etc.) for volume control, so you never hear the unadulterated audio – especially frustrating when you're working on SACD or DVD-A projects.
The SMC's rugged and ergonomic steel-blue desktop enclosure with its slanted front panel harmonizes perfectly with the desktop production environment and can be placed exactly where control is needed.
Rear Panel & Connections
In addition to a surround speaker set, a stereo pair can be connected to and managed by the SMC. A Sub-D input connector provides six surround and two stereo input channels. Eight additional RCA connectors allow easy connection of SACD, DVD, CD or DAT players. A slave output allows the stereo or surround input signal to be routed directly to a recording device. Volume control is handled by a discrete six-layer potentiometer and all switching functions by extremely durable precision pushbuttons.
Pin configuration of the DB25 sockets
SPL's renowned electronic balancing circuitry forms the basis for the SMC's I/O architecture. Its extended frequency range up to 100 kHz, exceptional dynamic spectrum and excellent common mode rejection ensure specs that exceed SACD standards, as only highest quality analog circuitry can provide.