Having precise volume control at your fingertips during a mix is essential, but in a small or home studio, it can be difficult to achieve. Anyone who has spent time fumbling around for the monitor level knob on their audio interface, or trying to pull down the master fader in a DAW using a laptop trackpad has dealt with this issue. TC Electronic has come up with a simple and elegant answer to this problem, and it’s called Level Pilot ($99.99).
Level Pilot is an analog master volume controller for your studio that takes the form of a hefty sandblasted aluminum knob just under 2 inches in diameter with a rubberized bottom that sits anywhere in your workspace without slipping. A cable running from the knob breaks out into two pairs of male and female XLR connectors, which are inserted between your audio interface or mixer, and a pair of active speakers. The Level Pilot requires no power, and affects the signal after digital to analog conversion, so there won’t be any degradation in audio quality. Also, since it operates independently from your computer, you will always have volume control even if your computer freezes or your DAW crashes.
While the design is simple, it’s extremely well executed: the controller looks and feels both sturdy and professional. The knob has a smooth glide when you turn it, and the action is fast enough that you could use your whole hand or just a finger to control the level, like you would with a jog wheel. Its size allows you to place it wherever it’s needed, yet it’s large enough to be noticed (and with its stylish appearance you can bet everyone else will notice it too). While it works with both balanced and unbalanced audio, its only downside is that it isn’t compatible with passive monitors, so anyone with Yamaha NS-10’s is out of luck with this product.
Overall, the Level Pilot is an inexpensive, high quality solution for a small studio or home recording setup that is in need of precise volume control. After using it for mixing and editing, it’s hard to imagine working without it. In addition, its sleek design and professional feel make it impossible to keep your hands off it, giving you one more reason to crank up the volume. For more details about Level Pilot check out www.tcelectronic.com.
by Mike Bauer