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Diogo C 19th April 2022 03:57 PM

Palmer: Monitoring & Monitoring Control Made Affordable
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Sponsored by Palmer Audio Tools/Adam Hall Group

Introducing the Palmer STUDIMON 5 Active Studio Monitors and Palmer MONICON XL Monitor Controller

As audio engineers and music producers we are defined by what we can hear. In our craft we can easily make the argument that monitors are only matched by microphones in terms of importance: they’re at both ends of the signal chain, what is captured by the mic ultimately ends up at the monitor, and we sit right in the middle of it. Our job is to make it all sound good! For many, monitors are the most important piece of studio gear you own. Just ask any mixing and mastering specialist or electronic music creator and there’s a very high chance they’ll agree.

For gear as crucial as monitors, one might think we have to spend high sums of money on them, but as we know we have to budget carefully to afford other pieces of gear: at the very least, a computer, an audio interface and some software are required (and that’s not to mention food, rent and general cost of living)! This is where Palmer steps in to offer a high-quality monitoring solution that was cleverly designed to keep costs in check without compromising the sound quality - a design so successful Palmer earned the 2020 Red Dot Design Award in the Audio category.

Let’s dive in and have a closer look at the Palmer STUDIMON 5 Active Studio Monitors and MONICON XL Monitor Controller.

Enter the STUDIMON 5

A perfect fit for small to middle-sized studios, the STUDIMON 5 active studio monitor is a rather compact (190mm Width x 268 Height x 215 Depth) speaker, but one that punches far above its weight. Thanks to its high-quality parts and design philosophy, the STUDIMON 5 exhibits a neutral sound that is ideal for critical listening and will help the user pinpoint issues in their productions, be it music creation, podcast editing or composing for film and games.

It starts with award-winning design and planning, followed by beautifully finished cabinets, a custom-made woofer, silk dome tweeters and highly efficient amplifiers, smartly put together in a cost-effective package. Down to the specifics, the STUDIMON 5 is equipped with a 5-inch woofer that reaches down to 50 Hz, and a bass reflex port in the rear helps to further enhance the low end. This makes it a viable choice for the bass-heaviest music styles of today. On the opposite end, the ¾-inch tweeter goes up to 20 kHz with a smooth yet precise response, offering a non-fatiguing character that allows the user to monitor for many consecutive hours without feeling burned out.

The woofer and tweeters are powered by two 30-watt class AB power bi-amplifiers for up to 103 dB SPL of loudness, which is plentiful for most common spaces. Overall system volume is set with a knob in the back panel, where we also find the balanced TRS (¼-inch) and XLR input connectors. It’s worth reminding that these jacks are wired in parallel and must be used one at a time.

As a safety precaution, Palmer has included a fuse in the power connector along with temperature and short circuit protections - we sincerely hope you never have to use them, but they are there just in case! The STUDIMON 5 is also magnetically shielded, so it can be used alongside old CRT monitors and other gear without worrying about interference.

Due to its size and volume output, this is a speaker that shines in small rooms and project studios requiring near-field monitors for tasks such as mixing, editing and monitoring while recording. As far as positioning is concerned, Palmer recommends using these monitors in the upright position, with the tweeters up at ear level, and with one meter of distance between them and the listening spot. Avoiding placing them near room corners will always help, as well as trying to distance as much as possible from reflection points such as sidewalls.

Take control with MONICON XL

Although the STUDIMON 5 provides volume control and most of the time that can also be done from an audio interface or computer, having a de-facto hardware monitor controller can be a lot more convenient, and allows for multiple speaker sets and headphones to be connected and controlled from a single point. The MONICON XL acts as a studio monitoring centerpiece housed in a professional desktop format.

This is a 3x3 monitor controller catering for three stereo audio inputs and three stereo audio outputs with several options for integrating both professional and consumer-grade audio equipment. Thanks to its pristine signal path, the MONICON XL is as neutral as it gets when it comes to sound quality and won’t color any incoming or outgoing signal, and since it’s essentially an analog device there’s no signal latency introduced in the process.

On the input side MONICON XL offers two stereo balanced TRS ¼-inch analog input channels, and a shared channel for the 1/10-inch and RCA stereo analog inputs alongside a SPDIF input, which makes it actually a bit more than a mere monitor controller since it provides a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and furthers the interfacing options.

On the output side, the back panel provides three sets of stereo balanced analog outputs on ¼-inch TRS jacks with individual gain trims and a summed output for on output number 03 is available for mono connections. Balanced connections (+4dB) are what we want when connecting professional equipment such as studio monitors, as they exhibit lower noise and allow for longer cable runs.

Two unbalanced stereo line outputs are also available on the back panel, one for the main output and one for the cue mix. Having unbalanced (-10dB) outputs is helpful for connecting “consumer” sound systems such as home stereo sets and also handy for feeding some amplifiers, including those designed for headphones. Speaking of which, a monitor controller wouldn’t be complete without headphones outputs, so Palmer included not only one but two of them on the front panel, each with its own dedicated volume control and cue/main source button for total flexibility.

Operating the MONICON XL is quite a breeze: simply select the desired input to be monitored, then select the desired output and control the volume with the big knob at the center of the unit. Thanks to its control-per-function layout where everything has its own dedicated knob or button, the MONICON XL makes it a breeze to flip between sources and speaker destinations, and also a breeze to quickly mute or dim the sound level. Need to make a mono-check to ensure your work is translating well? Easily done with the touch of a button or you can also take advantage of output 03’s sum jack and switch to that output. Quickly dim the monitors to check your work at low levels? That 's covered. Besides the large gain knob at the center of the unit, it offers an attenuator from 0 to -30dB for trimming down the output gain when the DIM button is engaged, and a level knob for input 03 is also provided alongside the analog/digital input selection button.

The MONICON XL also offers a handy onboard talkback mic for communicating with the talent in the recording room and three cue sources. Headphones can easily alternate between cue or main sources through the button below their volume control, so it’s possible to distribute different input sources to each headphone output. Last but not least, the Palmer has also included stereo meters with eight LED segments each to display left/right output levels from -24 to 0dB and stereo correlation information. It’s important to note that these meters can be calibrated to +4, +10 or 18dBU (default calibration) by switching the unit off and holding each of the cue buttons while turning it on.

Integrating the MONICON XL

Below is a practical real-world example of MONICON XL in use as a studio monitoring central with the following configuration:
  • Inputs: Mixer feeds into the balanced TRS/XLR line inputs 01 or 02, mobile phone on input 03’s 1/10 jack, and a Computer/Audio Interface feeds into the balanced line inputs 01 or 02. Alternatively, the coaxial SPDIF on input 03 can be used for any device with a digital output such as mixers or audio interfaces.
  • Outputs: Two pairs of stereo monitors on the balanced outputs 01 and 02, one mono “mix-check” speaker using the sum jack from output 3 and two headphones on the front panel outputs. A home stereo system can also be connected to one of the unbalanced line outputs if required for further mix translation checks.

Pricing and availability

The Palmer STUDIMON5 and the MONICON XL are readily available to purchase on a large selection of retailers across the globe, click here to find one near you. Both the price STUDIMON5 and the MONICON XL are affordably-priced, with an excellent performance per price ratio that will be very hard, if impossible, to match.

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