Review: Monogram Creative Console – a refinement of our favorite modular editing hardware

Monogram Creative Console
from $248 | Monogram

The Monogram Creative Console includes a series of modular units which attach magnetically to each other in a configuration of your choosing.

The Monogram Creative Console is a new set of modular, customizable controls that magnetically attach to one another. They work nicely with a wide variety of programs and apps, offering direct tactile shortcuts for most-used tasks and operations.

Key specs

  • Modular design
  • Each unit attaches via strong magnets
  • Solid Construction with no-slip base
  • 5 different module categories: Core module (required/provides power), Slider module, Dial module, Keys module, and the new pressure-sensitive Orbiter module
  • 3 different starter kits – Traveler ($399), Studio ($499) and Master ($799)
  • Compatible with any program/app offering keyboard shortcuts
  • Windows and Mac compatible
  • USB-powered

Monogram is formerly known as Palette Gear, and these controls represent an update to the original offering. Backward compatible, they provide greater customization in terms of control sensitivity, a slimmer design and a new control module: the pressure-sensitive ‘Orbiter’.

Compared to peers

Customizable RGB lighting helps with grouping controls together. Left is the new Orbiter module.

This design of the Creative Console has one key advantage over just about any other product in this category including the Loupdeck CT, Tourbox and Sensel Morph – modularity.

Also, unlike some of its peers, there are no labels or names on individual Creative Console controls. Which is to say, the product seems especially well-suited for a professional user with a dedicated workflow, rather than casual users. However it does feature adjustable and assignable RGB lighting around each key, which can be used as a visual cue when grouping similar functions together.

You can mix and match up to a total of 12 modules

The modular design also means you can choose the exact number controls you need and expand later if necessary. For example, a basic setup with a Core module and a Dials module (with 3 dials) costs $248 (one Core module is needed to run/power the console) . Monogram allows you to mix and match up to a total of 12 modules. It’s worth noting, the three available kits offer greater value versus purchasing each piece individually.

Design

The controls are fairly minimalist in design and feel very well-built. The top surface of each control is machined aluminum and the underside of each has a non-slip rubber ring. I was pleased to see the control points don’t show fingerprints very easily, despite being matte black.

The most unique aspect of the products’ design is the fact that you can re-arrange the layout of the controls to suit your individual preference

The most unique aspect of the products’ design is the fact that you can rearrange the layout of the controls to suit your individual preference. There are some physical limitations, down to fact that the modules connect via pins and pads. But the modularity of the Creative Console is still a huge advantage over other products in this arena.

In use

There are 5 different modules. Upper left is (Screen+ 2 buttons) is the Core module, which connects and powers the rest. The other modules include a set of 3 dials, a set of 3 buttons, a set of 3 sliders (not shown) and a pressure-sensitive ‘orbiter’ with outer click wheel.

Note: I reviewed the ‘Studio Kit’ which includes everything shown above. The unit was pre-production and the software was in an alpha state of development at the time (now released).

The Monogram Creative Console takes some time to set up, not only to decide what functions to assign where, but also to find out ergonomically what works. It took me about 6 different layout iterations to work out what suited me best. It took a matter of 5 minutes each time to realize that a certain physical layout could be improved and seconds to reorganize the controls (which you can do without powering them off). You can save different configurations for different programs/apps, but will obviously have to physically reorient the modules when switching.

It took me about 6 different layout iterations to work out what suited me best

One small thing that made me smile was the inclusion of a 2 meter USB-C cable in the box, which provides power as well as a data connection. All too often the included cables in these sort of products are a little too short for those of us who have their desktop computer on the floor.

The included software can be setup to suit multiple tools and workflows

Monogram was specifically developed for the following Creative Cloud apps:

  • Lightroom Classic
  • Lightroom 6
  • Photoshop CC
  • Premiere Pro CC
  • After Effects CC
  • Audition CC
  • Illustrator CC
  • InDesign CC

These can be used as supplied or they can adapted to your preferred workflow. It can also be used with any other app that uses keyboard shortcuts, MIDI or even joystick functions. And I was pleased to find that there is a good tactile response to all of the controls.

I was pleased to find that there is a good tactile response to all of the controls

The new Orbiter is particularly cool: The inner surface can be tilted in the X and Y axis and you can assign different functions to each. One example of this, when working in Lightroom, is to have one axis assigned to color temperature and the other, tint. The Orbiter also has an outer ring that can be assigned to control a different function.

And perhaps most important: the sensitivity and range of the Orbiter, as well as the Slider modules, can be adjusted individually.

The new ‘orbiter’ (right), consists of a pressure-sensitive center disk that tilts in the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ axis, surrounded by an outer click wheel.

The dials themselves do not have detents – which I actually preferred – and there are no hard stops. The buttons press inward offering nice tactile response. However I did have some trouble remembering which buttons I assigned to which functions.

I’d like to see a way of splitting the controls for left and right hands, possibly via two core modules

There are a couple of things I think could Monogram could offer that would add great workflow improvement. One is an additional module with a touchpad, so that I could do away with my mouse. I’d also like to see a way of splitting the controls for left and right hands, possibly via two core modules. This could also open up more options for those with different mobility needs. That said, it’s refreshing to see a product that doesn’t disadvantage people using either hand (or both).

The small screen only shows which program/app and which profile is currently selected.

Conclusion

Monogram clearly learned some key lessons from their initial Palette Gear offering and the latest iteration provides more creative potential and more precision, along with a smaller footprint on one’s desk. The new Orbiter module is particularly cool/useful, especially for tasks like color and exposure adjustments in Lightroom.

Of course, these modules aren’t cheap, and there’s a definitely a learning curve. But like similar products, the up-front time investment can pay big productivity dividends in the long run.

What we like

  • Modularity
  • Build quality
  • Overall design
  • Detachable USB Type-C to Type-A Cable
  • Wide Range of compatibility

What we don’t like

  • Pricey
  • Currently Adobe Camera Raw preset has to be manually configured
  • Takes some time to setup and successfully integrate into workflow

Monogram Creative Consolefrom $248 | Monogram

The Monogram Creative Console includes a series of modular units which attach magnetically to each other in a configuration of your choosing.

The Monogram Creative Console is a new set of modular, customizable controls that magnetically attach to one another. They work nicely with a wide variety of programs and apps, offering direct tactile shortcuts for most-used tasks and operations.
Key specs

Modular design
Each unit attaches via strong magnets
Solid Construction with no-slip base
5 different module categories: Core module (required/provides power), Slider module, Dial module, Keys module, and the new pressure-sensitive Orbiter module
3 different starter kits – Traveler ($399), Studio ($499) and Master ($799)

Compatible with any program/app offering keyboard shortcuts
Windows and Mac compatible
USB-powered

Monogram is formerly known as Palette Gear, and these controls represent an update to the original offering. Backward compatible, they provide greater customization in terms of control sensitivity, a slimmer design and a new control module: the pressure-sensitive ‘Orbiter’.
Compared to peers

Customizable RGB lighting helps with grouping controls together. Left is the new Orbiter module.

This design of the Creative Console has one key advantage over just about any other product in this category including the Loupdeck CT, Tourbox and Sensel Morph – modularity.
Also, unlike some of its peers, there are no labels or names on individual Creative Console controls. Which is to say, the product seems especially well-suited for a professional user with a dedicated workflow, rather than casual users. However it does feature adjustable and assignable RGB lighting around each key, which can be used as a visual cue when grouping similar functions together.
You can mix and match up to a total of 12 modules
The modular design also means you can choose the exact number controls you need and expand later if necessary. For example, a basic setup with a Core module and a Dials module (with 3 dials) costs $248 (one Core module is needed to run/power the console) . Monogram allows you to mix and match up to a total of 12 modules. It’s worth noting, the three available kits offer greater value versus purchasing each piece individually.
Design

The controls are fairly minimalist in design and feel very well-built. The top surface of each control is machined aluminum and the underside of each has a non-slip rubber ring. I was pleased to see the control points don’t show fingerprints very easily, despite being matte black.
The most unique aspect of the products’ design is the fact that you can re-arrange the layout of the controls to suit your individual preference
The most unique aspect of the products’ design is the fact that you can rearrange the layout of the controls to suit your individual preference. There are some physical limitations, down to fact that the modules connect via pins and pads. But the modularity of the Creative Console is still a huge advantage over other products in this arena.
In use

There are 5 different modules. Upper left is (Screen+ 2 buttons) is the Core module, which connects and powers the rest. The other modules include a set of 3 dials, a set of 3 buttons, a set of 3 sliders (not shown) and a pressure-sensitive ‘orbiter’ with outer click wheel.

Note: I reviewed the ‘Studio Kit’ which includes everything shown above. The unit was pre-production and the software was in an alpha state of development at the time (now released).
The Monogram Creative Console takes some time to set up, not only to decide what functions to assign where, but also to find out ergonomically what works. It took me about 6 different layout iterations to work out what suited me best. It took a matter of 5 minutes each time to realize that a certain physical layout could be improved and seconds to reorganize the controls (which you can do without powering them off). You can save different configurations for different programs/apps, but will obviously have to physically reorient the modules when switching.
It took me about 6 different layout iterations to work out what suited me best
One small thing that made me smile was the inclusion of a 2 meter USB-C cable in the box, which provides power as well as a data connection. All too often the included cables in these sort of products are a little too short for those of us who have their desktop computer on the floor.

The included software can be setup to suit multiple tools and workflows

Monogram was specifically developed for the following Creative Cloud apps:

Lightroom Classic
Lightroom 6
Photoshop CC
Premiere Pro CC
After Effects CC
Audition CC
Illustrator CC
InDesign CC

These can be used as supplied or they can adapted to your preferred workflow. It can also be used with any other app that uses keyboard shortcuts, MIDI or even joystick functions. And I was pleased to find that there is a good tactile response to all of the controls.
I was pleased to find that there is a good tactile response to all of the controls
The new Orbiter is particularly cool: The inner surface can be tilted in the X and Y axis and you can assign different functions to each. One example of this, when working in Lightroom, is to have one axis assigned to color temperature and the other, tint. The Orbiter also has an outer ring that can be assigned to control a different function.
And perhaps most important: the sensitivity and range of the Orbiter, as well as the Slider modules, can be adjusted individually.

The new ‘orbiter’ (right), consists of a pressure-sensitive center disk that tilts in the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ axis, surrounded by an outer click wheel.

The dials themselves do not have detents – which I actually preferred – and there are no hard stops. The buttons press inward offering nice tactile response. However I did have some trouble remembering which buttons I assigned to which functions.
I’d like to see a way of splitting the controls for left and right hands, possibly via two core modules
There are a couple of things I think could Monogram could offer that would add great workflow improvement. One is an additional module with a touchpad, so that I could do away with my mouse. I’d also like to see a way of splitting the controls for left and right hands, possibly via two core modules. This could also open up more options for those with different mobility needs. That said, it’s refreshing to see a product that doesn’t disadvantage people using either hand (or both).

The small screen only shows which program/app and which profile is currently selected.

Conclusion
Monogram clearly learned some key lessons from their initial Palette Gear offering and the latest iteration provides more creative potential and more precision, along with a smaller footprint on one’s desk. The new Orbiter module is particularly cool/useful, especially for tasks like color and exposure adjustments in Lightroom.
Of course, these modules aren’t cheap, and there’s a definitely a learning curve. But like similar products, the up-front time investment can pay big productivity dividends in the long run.
What we like

Modularity
Build quality
Overall design
Detachable USB Type-C to Type-A Cable
Wide Range of compatibility

What we don’t like

Pricey
Currently Adobe Camera Raw preset has to be manually configured
Takes some time to setup and successfully integrate into workflowRead MoreArticles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

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