I've been hunting for a monitor controller for some time to deal with my needs to route several sources in to several monitoring destinations out. I wanted it to be rack mountable, partly because my desk is already cluttered with various desk based products and I also wanted to have a remote control for it to. The PreSonus Central Station PLUS seems to fit the bill perfectly with these features.
- Five inputs and three outputs for connecting multiple monitors
- Pure passive signal path for uncolored monitoring
- Included CSR-1 remote control brings monitor management to your desktop
- S/PDIF coax or TOSlink digital input
- Two balanced TRS jacks and two RCA inputs with trim control
- D/A conversion up to 24-bit/192kHz
- Dual fast-acting 30-segment digital LED meters
- Omnidirectional condenser microphone routed through CUE outputs
- When talkback is used, the cue mix is automatically dimmed
- Two headphone outputs, MUTE, DIM, INPUT select, CUE select and OUTPUT select
- Optional remote control for talkback, mute, dim, and I/O selection
So to summarise the list above that gives me 5 inputs and three outputs which I can trim, dual headphones and a remote control with talkback mic.
Setting up the PreSonus Central Station PLUS is easy, simply connect all your sources, connect all your outputs, these include speakers, headphones and line level outs and then connect the included remote. One thing I had to figure out was to use the remote a small button on the rear of the unit needs to be engaged, if you don't check that before screwing it into a rack then you might go nuts thinking your remote is not working - there's an LED on the front to tell you the remote is enabled.
There's a built in Talkback mic but if you wish you can use your own by plugging it into the XLR input and setting up the gain, as it is included I see little point in using another mic for talkback as the included mic seems adequate.
There are a comprehensive set of calibration tools to deal with both the input calibration and the speaker calibration. This ensures a consistent signal from all sources and also that those using multiple speakers don't find volume levels jumping when switching between them.
In use the PreSonus Central Station PLUS is easy to use, there's an input selector offering 2 TRS jack, one phono and two digital sources on SPDIF and TOS. Speaker selectors A/B are an either option with C being able to be switched on and off, useful for those who want to turn a sub on and off. There are mute, dim and mono options, as one would expect.
The talkback mic is both on the main unit and in the remote with a TB button and mic level.
Finally there's a nice metal volume control which is your master control.
One thing to note is that the Monitor Station does not use op-amps or ICs to route the sound, in the opinion of PreSonus this can add colourisation and distortion to the sound, they say;
"Many monitoring systems use op-amps or active integrated circuits (ICs) but these types of components typically add noise, color, and distortion and produce a “pinched” sound. The Central Station’s main audio path uses no amplification stages.
Signal routing is achieved using 34 sealed, mechanical relays (instead of active ICs). Extraneous electronics are hard-wire-bypassed, helping maintain a minimal signal path. Using relays ensures the most transparent signal path and maximizes dynamic range, frequency range, and headroom, while minimizing noise and coloration.
The Central Station uses the highest-quality passive components, including military-grade, 1% tolerance, metal-film resistors; multi-element potentiometers; and durable connectors to deliver the highest sonic performance."
It's nice to know that what goes into the Central Station comes out, after all one does not want their monitor controller to give colour the mix, so transparency is essential.
There's not a lot to say over and above the features and the use, other than to say that it works as expected and offers a lot of flexibility coupled with excellent sound quality at a very nice price. We often talk on Pro Tools Expert about the middle ground of audio, the space between the aspiring home user and the large studio facility - that space is growing rapidly mostly at the cost of the large facilities. However even if we are working from home we still need high quality tools that feel and work like the pro stuff we may use in large studios. In this case the monitor section of a large console, the PreSonus Central Station PLUS Monitor Controller fits the bill very nicely and at a very nice price of around $600 USD, £499 UK.
A couple of things to note - the first is that it is really aimed at stereo mixing so post professionals may not find it meets their needs. Secondly it would be nice to be able to engage the remote from the front panel and not the rear.
Minor gripes aside the PreSonus Central Station PLUS Monitor Controller is well worth considering for those who want big console monitorIng features but don't have either the space or the money for one. Highly recommended.