Emotiva Control Freak replacement?

Sadly, the Control Freak was lost due to being discontinued, depriving future generations of Audiophiles from enjoying such a simple and well built physical volume knob right on their desk… Well, at least that’s what I’ve felt trying to look for a pre-amp. Along comes the TC Electronic Level Pilot…s.
Anywho, there are three variants:
Pilot - uses dual 3 pin XLR (Claims fully balanced)
Pilot C - uses 3.5mm TRS connections
Pilot X - Um… yeah… I can’t find any differences between this and the original…
Luckily, Monoprice can save the day with cheap XLR to RCA adapters:

Now that we’ve got the craziness out of the way, has anyone had a chance to use these? If so, can you give any feedback to them?

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Interesting, that does look like a good alternative to the control freak

XLR is balanced. RCA is unbalanced.
To get unbalanced to be balanced, there are DI-Boxes.

So… Why should the reverse just work?

As for the TC El. Level Pilot, the reviews on Thomann.de (Big instrument, Studio equipment and PA retailer in Germany/Europe), the thing is kind of cheap shit in expensive shell.

Checking thomann I don’t see the reviews you are talking about, are they not shown?

Typically I would recommend something like the mackie big knob passive, jbl nano patch + or the Fostex PC-1 if someone wanted a monitor control

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I would be feeding from an unbalanced source to begin with, so as far as I know, I should be okay in this use case.
When I tried looking around, it bounced around from people liking it, to reviews being non-existant, to bad reviews… You get the picture.

You can convert a balanced signal to unbalanced pretty easily, but like you said converting unbalanced to balanced typically requires a converter box of some sort

Maybe because they are in German?

From what I see, the internal potentiometer gives up after 3 to 10 months of use.

Speaking from my hobby electrician perspective, strongly depends.

  • Transformer balance is fine with having one leg grounded.
  • Electronic balance with differential op-amps should leave one leg “floating” i.e. unconnected. Else the signal available will be cut in half.
  • Impedance balance does not care as it is “fake balance” in a way (still balanced though)

Ah, that could be it. On the us site it does not show those reviews, well thanks for the info because I wouldn’t have known that lol (not german)

I guess if you were really dedicated, you could replace the internal pot lol


Generally for both consumer and pro audio, you shouldn’t have any issues getting a properly wired balanced to unbalanced connector, and there shouldn’t be a huge difference, but the signal will be unbalanced of course. I mainly mean using a balanced switcher with unbalanced connections, a balanced headphone with an xlr to 3.5 mm converter, or something like a cable with xlr female on one end and rca male on the other

Going with those options, I’d have to use at least one of the following options, or use adapters… I don’t know the electrical side of things, but should there be any impact on changing from 3.5mm or 1/4" to RCA?

With the Big Knob Passive, I’d have to result to multiple adapters or different cables… I guess my bigger concern is if I retire the pre-amp, or swap to something else, not having a use for the cable

There really shouldn’t be an issue/difference. But for the models with 1/4 inch inputs, you would want something like this

Edit: that’s a different thumbnail and title then what I linked lol

GND stays GND, Left stay Left, Right stay Right

My personal cable mess includes a 3/8 stereo to 1/4 mono, several 3/8 to rca, rca to 1/4 and one 1/4 stereo to 2x 1/4 mono.