Like to work in the box, but want to add analog processing to your master bus? This new monitor controller makes that a piece of cake.
Review by paul vnuk jr.
Coleman Audio produces high quality speaker switchers, monitor controllers, old school analog VU meters, and other audio ephemera, all with the same build quality as one might expect in classic analog recording desks. As we learned in October 2017 when we reviewed the Coleman Audio CA500EQ, Glenn Coleman got his start building and servicing MCI consoles in Ft. Lauderdale in the 1970s.
The new Colman Audio TC4 is a DAW monitor controller and a mastering transfer console, depending on your needs. To achieve its double billing, The TC4 is equal parts monitor controller and an insert switching device. While many modern studios are strictly in the box, it’s common to add a few well-chosen analog processors to the stereo output or 2-bus. However, in many setups, integrating analog bus processing is no easy task, especially if your own setup makes use of a small channel count interface, or you lack a dedicated patch bay. The TC4 solves this issue with a design found in many mastering studios—the transfer console.
Switching It Up
The TC4 is a single space 19″ rack mount box. Like all Coleman Audio devices, it’s built with the utmost care and quality. It’s dressed in a dark gray matte finish with a pair of aluminum dials and twelve push-button controls.
As a monitor controller, the TC4 is functionally straightforward, offering the ability to select between two input sources and route them to a choice of two monitor setups. Like all of Glenn’s boxes, it’s a passive device with zero active circuitry or digital trickery.
The level is controlled with a large silver 47-position stepped attenuator that increments in .05dB steps. The monitor switching controls are on the right side of the unit and include six small round push buttons in white, grey, and red. Note that there’s a seventh button in this section, which we’ll skip for now as it relates to the insert section of the unit.
A button labeled ALT SPK (Alternate Speaker) switches from the main monitor outs to a secondary monitor speaker output. MONITOR INPUT 1/2 selects between your choice of two stereo analog input sources. The next button in red is the MONO button, which is pretty self-explanatory and standard on most monitor controllers. MUTE is handled by a pair of buttons labeled L and R. These allow you to mute each speaker individually, or the whole unit when selected together. Last is a button labeled 帚, which flips the polarity of the signal to check for phase issues. When pushed along with the MONO button, the signal becomes L minus R and allows you to remove center-mono information and listen to the side-stereo information.
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The left-side buttons on the TC4 are square white vintage console-style buttons that light up when pressed. Labeled 1 through 4, each one is tied to a stereo insert where you connect up to four of your favorite outboard devices such as EQs, compressors, de-essers, or whatever tickles your fancy.
Pushing one of the buttons inserts the connected processor into your chain. Note that the first two buttons also feature a FLIP 1/2 button, which does precisely that and flips their order in the chain; 3 and 4 are fixed. The small white button we skipped earlier is the PRE POST INSERT
button, which takes all four processes out of the signal path at once for making fast A/B comparisons.
The last control on the TC4 is the
ENGINEER HEADPHONE section with a 1/4” balanced headphone output and a butter-smooth variable volume pot. There’s also a front-side power switch.
Connections are made on the rear of the unit. The speaker outputs are via XLR as is the balanced Monitor 1 input. The Monitor 2 input comes on a pair of 1/4” balanced TRS sockets. There is also a pair of 1/4” TRS sockets for connecting a Coleman Audio VU Meter (pre monitor control, post inserts). There’s one more pair of balanced XLR outputs as well for the Master output, which would run back into your DAW or capture device. Finally, on the rear we have a pair of Tascam style DB-25 connectors for inserts 1/2 and 3/4 (both ins and outs; visit the Coleman Audio website for connection and wiring details).
In use, like all Coleman Audio products, the TC4 is a utilitarian design, with no bells, whistles or bling. Each button says what it does and does what it says, and it does it silently in two ways. First, as a passive device, the TC4 does not have a sound—it’s clean and transparent.
Second, all of the function buttons on the unit are dead silent when engaged or disengaged. There are no clicks, thumps, pops, or bumps in the audio path. I tried the TC4 with a number of my favorite compressors and stereo equalizers, and in each case, it was simple, effective, and a joy to use. While insert switching and stereo processor integration are the stars of the TC4, it’s no slouch as a monitor controller. While it’s a simple 2×2 device, it boasts a feature set that many controllers lack, such as its phase tricks, and especially the ability to mute individual speakers, which allows for true mono single speaker mixing.
The Coleman Audio TC4 is a solid box that allows for easy integration of stereo processors on the 2-bus, and it’s an easy to use, well thought-out monitor controller with excellent, transparent sound quality.
TC4 DAW Monitor Controller
MBP2 Dual VU Meter Module
More from: colemanaudio.com
MBP2 Dual VU Meter Module
Also for this review I received an MBP2 Dual VU Meter Module. This is a stereo, true analog VU meter. It measures 8″ x 3 1/4” x 6 1/4” x 6 1/4“, and it makes use of an internal power supply.
The MBP2 can be switched between -10dB and +4dB input levels, and a trim control is provided for each channel. In use, it can be placed anywhere in your chain for high quality analog metering—in this case, on the meter outs of the TC4.
The MBP2 also includes peak indication. When the peak level hits +18dB, the meter glows red (this is 2dB before clipping in a DAW). If it just winks at you it’s OK, but if it’s on for any duration your signal has been clipped.