Presonus Central Station Monitor Controller
The category of monitor controller did not exist 10 years ago, but given the modern recording workflow these days, the need for what is essentially the equivalent of a pre-amplifier for studios was born. Prices for these products vary widely, from the relatively cheap to the ultra expensive.
Like all things in life you get what you pay for, there are no short cuts to quality so if your studio is setup to be the very best it can be, then move on. If however your budget is that of the average muso, then the Presonus Central Station may well be the ticket!
A monitor controller essentially allows you to select from the various inputs in your studio, such a a master recorder, your reference CD player perhaps, and most importably your DAW. Many studios have multiple monitors too, so you need to be able to select from your main monitors and perhaps a pair of smaller ‘consumer’ reference speakers like the infamous Yamaha NS-10’s or even a classic pair of old Auratones.
The Central Station does all of that and it does so very well. As well as analogue inputs, the Central Station also has a DAC built in to accept S/PDIF connections from another device, such as a reference CD player for example. It also provides a large set of VU meters which allow for calibration, as do the speaker outs to keep every thing balanced. Like any good pre-amp it also provides headphone outputs each with its own volume control.
A talkback mic is also built in to the front panel, when you press the TB button it dims the source to allow you to speak over it to the musician at the other end. And of course, you can select the cue mix separately to the main speaker outs.
Now this is all great, but it is a rack mounted unit and not all of us sit in front of a rack, and this is where the remote control unit comes in. The remote duplicates all the important controls you would normally use on the front panel, with the exception of speaker trims and headphone outputs.
Like so much gear these days, the Central Station is built in China, but I have to say, you would never know it in use. It has a very solid build quality, and all knobs turn with a smooth reassurance and the unit behaves perfectly well.
Thankfully the sound quality too is very good. Any pre-amplifier or monitor controller needs to be totally transparent and the CS is pretty damn close to being that. However, when using the Remote Control, the audio is run out through the very long DB15 cable to the volume pot on the remote, and this DOES degrade the sound quality a little.
Given it price is around the $700-$1000 mark depending on your geographical location, the Central Station offers an awful lot of bang for the buck. The feature count is high, the sound quality is very good and it is a thoroughly well designed and built unit. Yes there are cheaper units to be had, but seriously, save a little more money and stretch for the Presonus, you will not regret it!