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Best Studio Monitor Controllers 2023: 10+ For Ultimate Control!!

What does a studio monitor controller do? Here's why it's such an essential studio accessory...

If you want complete control over your sound (no Native Instruments pun intended), then to invest in the best studio monitor controller you can get your hands on, would be a wise move.

We personally like to think of them as ‘Audio Interface 2.0’ – a helpful add-on that takes the capabilities of an AI and expands them even further! For those who’re after the most in-depth level of monitoring (mix engineers for instance), monitor controllers truly are the holy grail. Maybe even a necessity!

Want to adjust the volume of each studio monitor independently? Or perhaps feed two versions of the same mix into two independent studio monitors? With some of the best studio monitor controllers you can do just that. Not to mention adjust the level of specific headphone outputs, the level of ‘kick’ given by your subwoofers or even govern the level of talkback in-between you and an artist in the booth.

All very clever stuff, that for any workflow-aholic is a complete god-send! However, not all studio monitor controllers are that straight forward. In fact, if you’re after the best studio monitor controller for your setup, you’ll be hard-pushed to do it in one. Which is why we’ve picked apart 13 of the best studio monitors on the market. That way you should be able to clearly suss which is right for you in a matter of minutes. Sound like a plan? All you have to do is read on.

After something specific about studio monitor controllers and how they relate to your setup? Or just curious what is the best monitor controller for mixing? Use the menu below to get all the answers you need in just 1 click…

audio gear hooked up to a monitor controller

NOTE: Curious about more than just studio monitor controllers? Be sure to also check out our rundowns of the Best Studio Monitor Speakers + the Most Popular Studio Headphones For Mixing.

Hunting down the best studio monitor controllers is NOT easy.

Why being because (spoiler alert) there isn’t 1 ‘best’ monitor controller out there. Which is best really all depends on you & how much control you’re after. Are you just after a large volume knob, or a whole bunch of other settings? Plus, there’s aldso other factors to consider too like budget & build quality.

Not that you should let it worry you though, as we’ve done 90% of the legwork for you. Simply read on & we’ll reveal what we believe to be the best studio monitor controllers you can buy today…

1: Mackie Big Knob Studio+ monitor controller

2: Audient Nero monitor controller

music studio equipped with studio monitors & a dedicated controller

3: PreSonus Monitor Station V2 monitor

4: TC Electronic Level Pilot X

5: JBL Professional Active-1 Precision monitor controller

6: M-Audio AIR|HUB monitor management system

close up of the knob on a monitor controller

7: PreSonus MicroStation BT 2.1 monitor system

8: Palmer PMONICON passive studio monitor controller

9: Behringer Xenyx Control2USB master controller

monitor controller being used to control levels while an artist is recording in a booth

10: Dynasty ProAudio PMC-2 passive monitor controller

11: Senal PMC-II passive monitor controller

In the case you’re a beginner, you’re likely going to be after a studio monitor controller that’s reliable, high quality & affordable, yet doesn’t drown you in 10k features. Besides, if you’re never going to use them, where’s the point in paying for them – right?

Exactly why we’ve made this budget studio monitor controller by Behringer our number 1 choice for any beginner…

12: Behringer MONITOR1 passive studio monitor controller

reviews of studio monitor controllers

The best studio monitor controller really all depends on what you’re after. Are you a mix engineer who’d benefit from cut, dim and mono features? If so, then an active studio monitor controller is likely going to be your best bet, especially if you’re recording with artists on a regular basis. The talkback features you get with most of these devices make them ideal choice for the studio. Otherwise, a passive studio monitor controller would likely suffice.

And this has left us as at a bit of a conundrum. You see, we can’t really say one is ‘best’ if there’s two types of people who’d buy a studio monitor controller. So with that being said, we’ve decided to split our conclusion into two parts: the best passive studio monitor controller & the best active controller. That way you’re doubly sure that you’re considering the best studio monitor controller for your setup.

In which case then, we think that if you’re a pro mix engineer, the best studio management system out there for you is…

Mackie Big Knob Studio+ = Best Studio Monitor Controller For Mixing

As far as studio monitor controllers go, we’d say the Big Knob Plus very much lives up to its name and is the undisputed Daddy of sound management. And that’s because this active controller is one of ‘the’ most flexible ways to control your audio.

Aside from virtually every input and output that you could desire, the Big knob also boasts a whole host of built-in features too. The Onyx preamps for instance, are top notch. So much so that if you wanted to use this as a standalone unit, it’d be ideal. That built-in talkback microphone isn’t half bad too. Perfect in fact for communicating with an artist in the booth.

Then there’s the inputs themselves, which are some of the most intuitive that you’ll find. The fact you can toggle them on/ off with the touch of a button is really nice. A perk that means you could hook up a subwoofer and listen to a track both with and without it. Invaluable for when it comes to finalising and getting an all-rounded sense of your mix. Couple that with the direct monitoring and dim feature you get with the Mackie, and it’s actually quite hard to fault.

Yes, in comparison to a passive controller, the Big Knob Plus does appear to be pricy, but that’s because you get SO much more with the Mackie. Hence why it’s no stranger to a professional studio & if you ask us, the best studio monitor controller for mixing and mastering.

However, if you recognise the perks of the Mackie, but know deep down you won’t use half the features, then we’d recommend checking out the…

TC Electronic Level Pilot X = Best Studio Management System For Beginners

If you’re just in the market for an extra volume controller then the Pilot X is really all you need. As far as passive monitor controllers go it’s one of the best built that you can get. To hold, the Mackie feels super solid and moves nice and smoothly. And what’s more, being passive means that there’s no chance of it creating any extra sound colouration. Something that you may incur with active monitor controllers, although we haven’t to date.

And while the Pilot does appear to be nothing more than a glorified volume knob, it’s the flexibility it gives you that makes it SO useful. Get your hands on a Pilot X and you’ll no longer have to reach around the back of your monitors to turn them off, every time you want to listen through your headphones. You can even hook the Pilot up to other hardware like synths and mixers too. Therefore, during a session this plucky little device can do wonders for your workflow.

Exactly why we’d say it’s best passive monitor controller you can get. Yes, it’s by no means the starship enterprise, but due to its sheer ease of use, this volume controller will soon pay itself off in time.

Enjoy this review of the best studio monitor controllers & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our Audio Gear Reviews, as well as our latest Music Production Advice. Recently, we also did a rundown of the Best Audio Interface For ANY Budget + another on a bunch of good 8 Inch Studio Monitors For Sale, which may also be a good read.

producers hand on a monitor controller

Or, if you’ve still trying to decide what type of studio monitor controller is best for your setup, keep reading & we’ll answer even more of your burning questions…

Think of a studio monitor controller as the control centre/ manager for your entire setup.

While your audio interface deals with all the processing and amplification, your monitor controller decides how and where this audio will be distributed. Call it the fine tuning of how the sound is actually output. A small technicality that really can make all the difference in maximising your capabilities as a producer, beat-maker or mix engineer.

From talking to producers and mixing in the booth ourselves, we’ve really found the extra control you get with a studio monitor controller to help a lot in tightening your final mix. Not to mention helping to compare and contrast different parts of different mixes to asses improvements + spot any grey areas.

And yes, the best studio monitor controllers aren’t exactly cheap, but consider the difference they make to not only your overall mix, but their workflow perks too, and we’d say that (in the long run) a monitor controller is worth every penny.

If you want to be/ are a professional producer, beat-maker or mix engineer, then yes – a studio monitor controller is an essential part of your setup. Especially if your current audio interface doesn’t allow you to switch in-between speakers. Or doesn’t feature controls such as dim & cut. Being able to monitor in mono is nice touch too!

All control that you really do need when virtually your entire job revolves around monitoring and sculpting sound. To not have the best idea of the sound your sculpting simply puts you at a disadvantage and makes it even harder for you to explore your ideas and achieve your desired result. Hardly the best outcome.

And yes, you can produce and mix perfectly well without a studio monitor controller – we’re not saying that without one your tracks will sound like nails being dragged down a chalkboard. But with the extra control you get with one of these nifty devices, there is a good chance that your standard of production will increase.

Perks of being able to explore/ test your ideas in more depth and fine tune your audio setup to suit your creative process. All of which makes investing in the best studio monitor controller that you can get your hands on, a pretty wise move. Yes, if you just want to produce, it’s by no means a necessity, but if you want to produce to the best of your ability, then we’d say a monitor controller is essential.

* For anyone who’s workflow-obsessed, studio monitor controllers are a total ‘must’.

Passive monitor controllers work slightly differently to their active counterparts.

While active studio monitor controllers use active amps and electrical circuits to give you control over audio, passive monitors act more like a bypass. They don’t use any electrical components. So your typical passive monitor controller will offer you less features, but will come at a cheaper price tag. A trade-off that you may benefit you if you’re a beginner.

What’s more, passive controllers tend to have far less of an affect on sound, as they contain no active amp of sorts. In other words, there’s nothing in a passive amp that’s designed to alter the audio signal. It’s merely allows you to distribute and control your audio in different ways. Whereas active monitor controllers go a step further.

With an active monitor controller, you tend to get a lot more in the way of functionality, albeit at a slightly steeper price. That’s because active studio monitor controllers do use electrical components. All of which offers you an ever greater level of control & flexibility when recording. From a professional perspective, these are some of the best studio monitor controllers you can get your hands on, thanks to features like talkback and mono summing.

Which type of monitor controller you go for in the ‘passive VS active’ debate really depends on how much control you’re after. If you’re happy as you are, but would benefit from a bit more flexibility in terms of volume, then a passive monitor controller is likely the way to go. Whereas if you’re after a monitor controller for use in a professional studio, we’d encourage you to choose active every day of the week.

Connecting your monitor controller to your audio interface sounds simple, but can be quite a headache if you don’t know how.

So instead of us explaining all the ‘ins and outs’ of how it’s done, here’s a video of an audio fanatic walking you through how to do exactly that…

The main difference between a studio monitor controller and an audio interface is in what they do.

An audio interface takes audio signals from equipment like a condenser microphone, electric guitar etc. and amplifies them to a level of your choosing. It also converts this audio into a format that your computer can understand and sends it into your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Whereas studio monitor controllers are slightly different.

Unlike an audio interface, the majority of monitor controllers (passive) don’t process audio to anywhere near the degree of your audio interface. Their job is to distribute this audio through various channels and devices in a way that you see fit. So for instance, an audio interface will process and amplify the audio from condenser microphone, but will automatically push this audio through 1 set of studio monitors.

Whereas if you were to integrate a studio monitor controller, you could send this exact same signal to 2, 3, maybe even 4 sets of monitors. That way you can get a clear idea of what your mix will sound like across multiple sets of speakers. In other words, you have full control over the monitoring path. Very clever. However, some of the best studio monitor controllers (active) differ even further from an audio interface.

Aside from just a volume knob, they also boast cut, dim, dim attenuation and mono features, which can also be really useful when mixing! What’s more, yelling at an artist who’s in the booth can get a bit tiresome. Hence some of the best monitor management systems also include talkback features too. That way you can quietly whisper into their headphones. Ask us and for any pro, a talkback mic is essential.

None of which we may add, you’ll find on an audio interface.

Monitor management is the means of managing playback through your monitors via a studio monitor control system.

What makes monitor management necessary is that unlike you can with an audio interface, with a monitor controller you can send 1 channel simultaneously to multiple sets of speakers. Ideal for mixing. Not to mention the fact that it also makes your communication with artists smoother too. Invest in a good monitor control system and you’ll find you also get the option to add a talkback mic.

Safe to say if you’re looking to streamline your setup + boost your workflow, then monitor management should be high up on your list of priorities.

When it comes to deciding on the best studio monitor controller for your setup, there’s a fair few characteristics you should bear in mind. That’s because while studio monitor controllers may look pretty similar, they’re all made for a slightly different type of producer. So with that in mind, here’s 3 things to look for when buying a studio monitor controller…

  • Ease of use – With a monitor controller being specifically designed to give you optimum control over your sound, the last thing you want is a controller that’s awkward to operate. So be sure to have an idea of where it’ll go before you swipe your credit card. If that place is stacked in-between your audio interface or mixing console, then chances are controls located to side would be your best bet. However if the controller is going to be sat on your desk, then top mounted would likely be the easiest to operate.
  • Is it Active/ Passive – Controllers that are active tend to come with a LOT more features than controllers that are passive. So before buying a studio monitor controller, you first need to establish whether those extra features are features you actually need. If you’re a pro producer/ mix engineer, we’re convinced you’ll say yes to an active controller, but if you’re unsure, be sure to check out the FAQ on the difference between the too (above).
  • Build quality – While some studio monitor controllers may seem to be priced quite highly, it’s important to consider the build quality of any studio monitor controller, especially if you want it to last. Now, the majority of studio monitor controllers are housed in some sort of plastic, however there are a few that incorporate metal into their design too. Also, be sure to take into account the quality of the switchgear, as it’s this that determines how you interact with the controller full stop.

* Go through a couple of badly built cheap monitor controllers and you could end up spending the same as if you’d bought a more pricy (but better made) controller first time round. Hence why we’d always advise you to invest in quality