Two Show Controllers Face Off in an Epic Battle
When it comes to remote show control systems, two quickly rise to the top. I’m talking about Media Star Pro by Live Show Control and Media Monkey by Audio Ape. As a touring performer, I’ve used and enjoyed both. Often I see entertainers trying to decide which system to purchase, which is why I created this article.
My First Show Control Experience
My first ever show control system was the MediaStar (by ProMystic, at the time). I remember seeing David Kaplan use this in his act, when I was in my early 20’s. I was blown away watching him cue all sorts of odds and end using an ankle switch. I had to have one! While Kaplan made it look easy, I remember programming as a rather frustrating experience. The software worked but left much to be desired, in the way of user experience. The remote also had its issues. Sometimes the darn thing just didn’t fire. I can remember being 20 feet away from the unit onstage and firmly pressing the button to no avail. After having to walk over to the unit a couple of times in a show, I was done with it.
Needless to say, when the Media Star Pro came out, I was one of its biggest skeptics. Sure, I had heard electronic wizards and performers, like David Hira, sing its praises. People reassured me that this was lightyears ahead of the old technology. I was told how the creators were offered money left and right, by entertainers, just to take home a prototype. Still, I didn’t want anything to do with this unit. I had tried Media Star and was scarred by my embarrassing moment on stage. “Never again”, I said.
As someone who is a motivational speaker, illusionist, and production manager for multiple touring shows, I now rely on QLab. For many years, it’s been the software solution behind our video, music, live camera, and all other cues. For me, a remote system must be QLab compatible. No excuses.
Media Monkey by Audio Ape
The name Audio Ape has long been respected by magicians, jugglers, and other entertainers who rely on it to control music in their show. Founded by professional juggler Charles Peachock, it’s pretty clear that this would have to work in the toughest environments under the strictest conditions. How does a juggler even hit a cue button?
When I discovered the Media Monkey, I fell in love (don’t tell my wife). Finally, a remote system designed to control QLab. Media Monkey is built like a tank. It connects to your computer via USB and is designed to work long-range in the most challenging (and signal-noisy environments). I pushed this thing hard on tour. We’re talking 4-6 shows per day, all in different venues. During performances, it was stuck in the wings, way back in the lighting booth, and in a far closet in huge gymnasiums. I can only think of maybe one missed cue (that wasn’t my fault). It works like a dream!
Media Star Pro by Live Show Control
The guys at Live Show Control took their time releasing this – and for good reason. You’d be silly to even try and compare this with the original Media Star. It’s like comparing a Tesla with a Ford Model-T. The Media Star is tiny (just bigger than a flash drive) yet it’s connectivity, versatility, and reliability will turn the head of any pro entertainer.
There are numerous features built inside of this little system. It actually takes more work to wrap your head around the various ways to use it, than to actually use it than it does to use it. Plug it in or use a power bank. Connect your tablet, your smart phone or your computer, Use this adapter or that one. There’s a lot to consider. You’ll likely need to take some time considering and building the best workflow for your scenario. Still, I love the options. That’s what this unit does best. – It gives you many options and then does whatever you tell it to, REALLY well.
My Personal Favorite
First, let me start by saying that I’m a raving fan of both systems. I’ve toured with both and my personal preference all comes down to my usage scenario. As an entertainer in the education market, I’m in several venues per day with only minutes to setup and teardown in each. Since both systems are reliable, I choose my personal systems based on time, portability, and versatility. Sometimes I need to control other applications (like Power Point or Keynote). Ultimately I chose the Media Star Pro.
Being in and out of 3-6 venues per day, it fits in my pocket and is quickest to setup. The vibration of the buttons is another plus. Additionally, the Live Show Control team continually releases firmware updates to strengthen the product and offer additional functions. They are very active in their Facebook Group and often seek the feedback of the community, for product updates.
Media Monkey would win the award for the most rugged as the Media Star Pro Remotes aren’t as durable. If dropped, the battery will often fall out. This has happened to me twice. The Media Monkey remote is a bit bulkier but fits more naturally in the hand. You cannot accidentally switch it to another program because it only does one and does that one thing well.
While both systems can be triggered with a magnet, the Media Star Pro is the only one to do this out of the box. You’ll need to do some arts and crafts with reed switches to configure the Media Monkey,
Media Monkey has some hidden features that could help you in your usage. You can wire any buttons on M.M. remote to and switch, magnetic or tactile. Also there are 6 other hidden commands in addition to the 7 commands that correlate to the 5 built in buttons. So you can have 13 commands wired to any switches you like. You can also run M.M. receivers in parallel with one or more paired remotes. The free iOS Lab Monkey app by Audio Ape allows you to monitor show cues on an iPad or iPhone. It’s a great tool for QLab that I use in every show!