Sonic LAB: TC Electronic Level Pilot

Classy master volume knob for your studio      26/02/09

No flash plug

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4:11 mins
First of all, I'm going to give you full disclosure - TC handed me and Andy one of these things each at last months NAMM as some show swag, apart from having to destroy the packaging and secrete it in my camera case so security didn't give me a full cavity search after finding contraband, I managed to get this one home, where I've been using it in my setup ever since. And I like. I know y'all probably expect an endless stream of smutty innuendo based on the fact that it is a knob, well I refuse to take the bait, you'll have to go elsewhere for your cheap laughs. Cheap this certainly isn't. The Level Pilot is a quality chunk of metal - sand blasted aluminium actually, with a single, quad core, fully balanced cable that terminates in the two channels of XLR i / o for hooking into to your monitor system. What is this thing?
Simply, it's a fully balanced master volume control for your monitor system. Hook it up between your sound source - laptop or desktop PC soundcard, or mixer and your active monitors and you have a volume knob to control the overall monitoring level by attenuating the signal. This thing is also totally passive. There are no batteries, resistors transistors, or anything else in the way that could colour the sound – which I think is a pretty important aspect to something that affects the way you listen. Obviously if you work with a reasonably featured mixing console with a decent monitor section then you wont need one of these, but lots of us don't - I myself use the Mackie 1202 VLZ-3 which does not have independent level control for both headphones and speakers, so sometimes I want level in the cans but not the speakers – TC Level Pilot to the rescue. Upsides
This thing is Built - there's not denying the swish, chunky, form is pleasing on both the eye and the hand, the fact that it's made of solid alumnium with a rubber base pad, makes it stick to the desk and the smooth travel of the knob makes it nicely tactile. Its hard to hone in on any specific features as frankly, you turn it up and down and the volume adjusts correspondingly y'know? But one thing that is worth mentioning is that it is totally transparent – it doesn't change the sound in any way, at least as far as I can tell. Downsides
Attached cable tails are quite short, so you'll need to extend them to get any distance between your speakers and monitor source, also XLR connections only so if your system requires anything else, it's into the adapter pot for you my lad. The real problem may be in the price – at $99 it's not cheap. And this will of course put off a lot of people who can make do with reaching round the back of their active monitors, or fumble for the software control of the system volume – but not me, I'm a convert. TC Level Pilot available now $99 / €69 /£59


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13 Comments...  Post a comment    original story

really cool and useful piece of gear. i want one!

26-Feb-09 12:55 PM

karl    Said...

Resistors are passive devices. They dont require any power to operate. They also won't colour any signal that you pass through them. I can pretty much guarantee that resistors will have been used in this device.

It annoys me when writers comment on something that they clearly have no idea about!

26-Feb-09 02:05 PM

CV!    Said...

I have the SM Pro Nano Patch. It works but the build quality is pretty weak, it won't even sit on it 4 rubber feet because it's all warped, it's cheap chinese construction and it shows. Good for TC, it's nice to see more of these products.

26-Feb-09 02:58 PM

Nick B    Said...

Karl, I consider myself admonished - I meant transistors. Will you ever forgive me?

27-Feb-09 03:26 AM

Hans Scheffler    Said...

i am using a griffin powermate for the same purpose. looks just as sexy, doesnt color the sound,comes with a beautiful blue illumantion at the bottom, has lots of additional fuctions because you can assign anything over USB and costs 39$

27-Feb-09 05:24 AM

CV!    Said...

The Griffin Powermate is just a USB computer accessory, it reduces the bitrate when you lower the volume from software control so it's not recommended if you want full fidelity at less than full volume.

27-Feb-09 03:08 PM

Marc JX8P    Said...

Looks like a good product and certainly having a direct volume control available is immensely useful for quick adjustments. However, with this one I'm a bit worried about recreating volume levels as from what I can see there's only a slight mark on top to indicate the position its at and there's no raster so you can see what it's doing exactly.

28-Feb-09 08:11 PM

Hans Scheffler    Said...

i should have added that i am using the powermate in a fully digital environment so lowering the bitrate when reducing the volume cannot be avoided anyway. I am using a software from genelec that intelligently dithers the signal so there is no audible degradation.

01-Mar-09 01:50 AM

Kenneth Abildgaard    Said...

I bought it and I seriously love it very much. Best knob I ever bought :-)

01-Mar-09 01:58 PM

Oh Yeah    Said...

Will this knob finally be the one thats shuts my misses up ???

02-Mar-09 06:48 AM

RobR    Said...

I have bought two of them. Look here for measurements with DigiCheck of one unit: Left: 0 dB Sine wave output; Right: signal routed via Level Pilot to analog in 9/10 in Fireface 800. Second unit is also pretty bad at high attenuation level but in quite different way. My conclusion is: the attenuators in Level Pilot are not paired. So be prepared for different level in your speakers at attenuation higher than 40dB. "High quality" is written everywhere on TC website...

02-Apr-09 08:15 AM

Chris    Said...

Actually, resistors DO color the sound. ie. Carbon vs. Metal film resistors

22-May-09 09:14 AM

andy p    Said...

Brilliant piece of kit, just got one and solved my gain structure which has been bothering me for years

04-Sep-09 10:02 AM

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