With all the talk of studio monitors in this issue, it’s important to talk about another integral part of your monitor signal chain - a monitor controller. Used to switch between multiple sets of monitors with ease, to dim, control volume and headphone cues, the Audient Nero is a controller that really has it all.
After using many Audient products, I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the features packed into a well-sized and sturdy unit. Featuring four headphone outs, all with independent controls, as well as multiple inputs, and options for three simultaneous speakers and a sub, the Nero really is a box ready for even the most professional and/or intricately routed studios.
Beginning with the inputs, the Nero has separate left and right cue inputs that feed all the headphone outputs. There’s an RCA auxiliary inputs, as well as left and right for source one and two, for referencing or feeding any there signal you may want to hear. There’s also an extra XLR input for an external talkback microphone that features phantom power. Once you’ve got signal hitting the Nero, it needs to go somewhere. The stereo main monitor outputs are situated next to the ‘Alt 1’ and ‘Alt 2’ outputs which all provide response from 20Hz up to 22kHz. Beside them are the three stereo headphone outs and your sub output. For a potentially complicated piece of gear, it’s been laid out and designed beautifully. For extra connectivity, there’s a SPDIF input and optical just in case. The unit is powered by the included +12VDC adapter, with the socket also situated on the rear of the unit. Weighing about 2kg and taking up only 255mm (w) x 155mm (d) of desk space, the Nero could be your final monitoring solution.
Four large and well labelled pots take up most of the right side of the Nero’s front faceplate. Volume 1-4 for the headphone outs are a godsend on a monitor controller, a feature most other monitor controllers do away with. You can switch between sources for each headphone independently (so you can feed artists an alternate mix from the auxiliary in, for example, if the alternate cue mix isn’t already enough) or control different musicians’ headphone feeds for live monitoring while recording. It’s also useful for playback when revising mixes so everyone in the band can have a set of headphones. Next on the faceplate, between the big master/control room volume and input meters, is output selection. You can toggle between having your sub on and off as well as having further routing and preset options and the ‘Main’ or ‘Alt 1’ and ‘Alt 2’ speakers. Below these toggles (that can latch when required), are the mono and polarity switches, used for checking mixes on the fly. The big control room volume knob also sits above the dim and cut buttons that can switch off the speakers entirely when needed. You can also toggle between your input sources, control the volume of your talkback mic, and control the input of your alt inputs like the RCA auxiliary and optical.
Overall, the Nero really is a solution to monitoring. It’s a no frills design, giving it room to be about as practical as can be, which is exactly what you want from a monitor controller. It features plenty of inputs, plenty of outputs, as well as multiple input types so you can do away with adapters when connecting antiquated or even digital gear. The faceplate is well laid out, and easy to understand so the Nero won’t get in your way. You’ve got everything you could need to monitor at your fingertips, which is where you want it when checking mixes on the fly. The Nero is solid and sturdy, both physically and electronically, well-built and trustworthy. Your whole studio can be hooked up with some inputs to spare for inevitable future investments, and the Nero will keep you monitoring, dimming, switching between sources, mono-ing and talking back.
Hits and Misses
Well laid out
Well designed, plenty of inputs
Backlit buttons when pressed in