Central Station

A couple new additions to my project studio. First, an inexpensive 100W/ch power amplifier, the ART SLA-1. This will be used to drive a second pair of speakers, Paradigm bookshelf speakers I’ve had for many years. These supplement my main monitors, Behringer Truth B-21 powered monitors.

It’s a good thing to have a variety of different monitors, so you can hear your mix in different ways, and not make a mix that’s overly-optimized for your particular setup. In another studio I visited earlier this year, they had a cheap, crappy boombox hooked up too, to hear your precious music the way the unwashed masses will hear it.

The other recent addition (just yesterday, in fact), is a Presonus Central Station. What does it do, you ask? Basically, nothing. It just switches audio signals from one place to another, has a volume control, and headphone outputs, and a talkback feature. These are all features that are built into an analog recording console, but generally lacking in a computer-based digital project studio. It’s main competition is the Mackie Big Knob.

You can read all about each product on their respective sites. But here’s why I chose the Central Station instead of the Big Knob:

  • All passive processing. Just switches, relays, and pots in the signal path. No active components to add noise.
  • Rack-mounted. I guess I just love rack gear. It can make a much cleaner assembly, when it’s all put together nice and professional-like. The Big Knob would add a whole lot of cable clutter to the desk-top.
  • It’s a pretty flexible component, can be used in various configurations. I think what I have in mind, should I continue developing the studio into the ultimate dream project studio, is something like this:

  • Speakers A and B would be control-room monitors (the Behringer Truths as ‘A’, and the Paradigm bookshelf speakers as ‘B’.
  • If I had a separate studio room, isolated from the control room, then I would get another power-amp and use the Cue output to drive loudspeakers in the studio. I considered using Speaker C for the studio, but the talkback only goes to Cue, not to Main, so it would not be heard on Speaker C.
  • The headphone outputs may not be used. I have a separate 8-channel headphone distribution amplifier already. If I get my patch-bay wired up nicely, I could use it to prepare custom headphone mixes for each musician. People usually want to hear themselves louder in their phones than they hear other people.
  • Second 1/4″ TRS input could be connected to another source, like probably a CD-player (rack-mounted, of course!). This would make it easy to just play a CD over the system, without having to rewire anything like I do now.
  • Digital inputs probably unused. Not sure what to do with them.
  • I also bought some cables and connectors at the local electronics hobbyist shop, Sayal Electronics. I highly recommend them for inexpensive but good quality computer and audio cables, and connectors. Don’t even think about buying a USB or Firewire cable at Future Shop! They’re overpriced to a degree that is downright insulting. And they have instrument, microphone and speaker cables of good quality, considerably cheaper than at the music shops.

    I bought a stock of spare connectors, 1/4″ and XLR, for cable repairs or to make up custom cables. Most of their stock is surplus stuff, very cheap, but all brand new and of good quality. I bought some long microphone cables, and extra connectors. I will split the cables, solder in new connectors, and get enough short-length balanced cables to hook up the new power-amp, Central Station. Also bought a couple speaker cables, with those weird Speakon professional P/A speaker connectors on them. I don’t need that connector, so I bought extra banana-plug connectors, so I can modify the cables to connect the Paradigm bookshelf speakers to the power-amp (banana plugs at both ends). All nice and tidy!

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