This week I’ve just got one question. If you have any questions for me, please ask via the Ask Joe form.

Mike wrote:
Was thinking of getting an Apogee Rosetta 200 converter. Do my monitor speakers get connected to the outs on the converter?

xlr-connector

Photo by Y0si

Thanks Mike. This is a great question. First of all, kudos on picking the Rosetta 200. I’m a big fan of Apogee, and I think you’ll love the sound of the Rosetta.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Apogee Rosetta 200 is a two-channel converter from Apogee. It has two channels of analog-to-digital  converters and two channels of digital-to-analog converters.

The Rosetta is a standalone converter, meaning that it doesn’t have any sort of direct connection to your computer (although they do offer an additional firewire option). In most cases, the Rosetta connects to your audio interface via either a S/PDIF, ADAT, or AES connections.

For example, if I was going to buy a Rosetta 200 for my Pro Tools system, I would connect it to the S/PDIF inputs and outputs on the back of my 003. 

Why buy an external converter?

Before I answer Mike’s question, it’s important to address why one would even consider getting an external converter. After all, isn’t that what your audio interface is for? 

Well, it’s true, an audio interface does handle A/D and D/A conversion, but high-end converters like the Rosetta 200 take your audio signal to the next level. They have tighter bass, more detail, and the stereo image of your recordings becomes much wider once you run it through a high-end converter.

Does everyone need a Rosetta 200? No. In fact, I would bet that the majority of people who buy a Rosetta 200 would be better suited by investing in better mics, preamps, monitors, or acoustic treatment first.

My general rule of thumb is that all of your equipment should makes sense together. You shouldn’t use a $3,000 microphone with a $90 mixer or an $1800 converter with $200 studio monitors, and you should always connect your equipment with good cables. Okay, sermon’s over. Assuming Mike already has a lot of nice equipment, let’s move on.

Connecting the Rosetta 200 to Studio Monitors

If you take a look at the back panel of the Rosetta 200, you’ll see that it has XLR analog outputs. These can certainly connect directly to your studio monitors, but…how do you control the volume? A glance at the front panel will show you that there’s no volume knob. What to do?

This is pretty standard with most standalone converters. They simply provide line inputs and outputs, no volume control. Typically in this situation you’ll want to consider also buying some sort of monitor management box. These will accept various inputs from converters, CD players, iPods, etc., and play them back through one or more pair of speakers. Most importantly, they allow for volume control.

A few options:

  • Mackie Big Knob – I owned this for a while – very cool box. It has a ton of input and output connections and lots of bells and whistles.
  • PreSonus Central Station – This is a bit more professional box, with a completely passive signal path. This allows the signal to pass through the box without being altered by op-amps, etc.

There are quite a few more options, from the fancy Dangerous Music Monitor ST to the ridiculously simple and inexpensive TC Electronic Level Pilot. Any of these would work well on the back end of the Rosetta.

What about adjusting the master fader?

In the early Pro Tools days, there really weren’t a lot of options for monitor management. Engineers had historically controlled monitor volume through the monitor section of a big ‘ol recording console. 

With the advent of digital recording and Pro Tools, engineers realized that they could simply plug their converters directly into their studio monitors, bypassing the console entirely. However, they lost volume control, so they reverted to using the Master Fader in Pro Tools to control the volume.

This isn’t all that bad, except when you’re mixing, and you have a compressor or two instantiated on the master fader. Suddenly, if you turn down the master fader to listen at a lower volume, you completely change the level of signal hitting the compressor(s). This, in turn, changes the amount of compression, thus changing the sound of the entire mix.

This is why you need some sort of monitor management system.

I should note that my 003 has an “Aux Input” section that allows me to run a signal through the volume knob on the 003 itself. So, if you have a 003, you already have a little bit of monitor management built in.

Thanks for the question, Mike! I hope this helps. Anybody else have some advice? Please leave a comment.

  • CamBam

    PreSonus’s HP4 has a monitor through and you can adjust the level of the monitors from it too. Much cheaper than a Central Station or anything like that!

    • I own the HP4, the gain-staging is a little difficult, but it’s good.

  • Rich vergona

    I have Mac book pro, pt10 ,mboxpro. Bought the Rosetta 200 , presonus monitor station. I see how to hook up the wires, but the setting up of the 200 , well I’m lacking in experience in that area. EX. What is double wire, I have the two s/PDF wires( look like RCA cables. ) does that mean double wire.? And so on and so forth down the line, setting up the parameters, calibration etc. is there a manual to explain all the terminology and procedures? I have excellent mics and pre-amps so I want to get the best sound possible. Also I’m wondering when I bounce to disk should I run the signal through the 200 again, and how do I do that, or is it do it automatically. I’m enjoying your site, yup seem to be the only light on this matter. Rich v

  • Joe, what are your thoughts on using high-end converters at the front end?  Please forgive me if you have already addressed this issue.  
    I have been using MOTU’s 2408 and their 24i/o to bring ALL my audio into my DAW (DP7).  I have pretty decent mics and mic pres and cables.  I am “happy” with my recordings but, I have always noticed more “depth” and “texture” to the tone in professional recordings.  I have been thinking it may be time to look into a different way of getting my audio into the DAW.  What are your thoughts?  What would you recommend ? 

  • You said you used to have a Big Knob, what are you using these days?

    Damn you for mentioning that TC E. Level Pilot. I’d just about gotten over my gear lust for that thing. LOL.
    My Profire 2626 has the WORST volume knob, it’s small and poor resolution. It controls the output voltage of the DAC rather than a variable resister in the monitor path. The one benefit of it is, the one knob can be assigned to any and all of the 8 analog outs.

    Getting the Level Pilot would get me a LARGE easy to reach volume control that works post DAC.
    What puts me off it is the included connections are XLR, and my outs and almost all audio interfaces have TRS jack, meaning I’d need an adapter.
    Also the cables on the thing only have a 1ft splay, so you still need another pair of monitor cables. So I’d go from having a crappy volume knob and 2 cables, to a good volume knob with 4 cables, tangles and clutter.

    *Sigh*

    ~JoN~

    • Now I’m using the monitor section of my 003. It has the capability of monitoring the main outputs or an “Aux” input. It also let’s you switch between two different sets of monitors. It also let’s you mute the monitors, and there’s a Mono button, so it’s pretty functional!

      Yeah, the Level Pilot is cool, but you do need a handful of cables to get it connected.

      • That’s some of the things I miss about my 002R. The mono and mute were used often. I also swapped the volume knob with a large one from a stereo, much easier to make slight adjustments with a larger knob.

        The Central Station has a nice DAC in it with the S/PDIF connection. That can make a huge improvement in sound quality. Even your 003 might sound better through the S/PDIF out.

    • Alex

      Hi, Just read your post. I have a profire2626 and i buyed a rosetta 200. I connect all digital in and outs by spdif optical port b of my profire. The outputs of rosetta to my speakers. I can control the headphones knobs of profire but not the volume master knob. How can i do it? Can i control the volume of the analog outputs of the rosetta 200 using the volume knob of my profire2626? Thanks in advance!! Alex

      • I don’t think you can. You need some sort of volume control between the outputs of the Rosetta and the speakers.

        • Alex

          Mhm yes… I have 2 options i think… 1. Connect the outputs of rosetta to analog ins of my profire and relative otputs to my speakers 2. Connect my speakers to a pair of outs of my profire 2626…but in this case i don’t listen the DA conversion of the rosetta.. Is it right??

          • Going back into the ProFire is a bad idea, then you’re going through ANOTHER set of AD/DA conversions.

            You need a monitor controller…a separate piece of gear. Here are a few I’ve used:

            http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MonitorStat/

            http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/CentralStPl

            • Alex

              Oh yes, i know. Thanks for your help, i have to buy a monitor controller. I have in my rosetta a firewire card installed but i don’t use it because i need to connect my 3 analog synths…so i use ins of profire. One solution will be use apogee with his firewire card connect to my mac plus monitor controller (to control speakers and headphones) and 1 patch bay to connect my synths. Is it a good idea for you?