Allen And Heath ME-1 Personal Mixing System

Screen shot 2013-02-01 at 6.57.33 PMGot some cool gadgets being announced at NAMM this year.  We’ve been looking at new personal mixing systems to upgrade our Aviom system.  The Roland caught our attention with it’s awesome ability to customize what inputs show up on what channel of the mixers.  Now Allen and Heath has a cool new system that looks very good and shares some of those features we liked.  Check out the video on their site, it’s just 2 minutes and walks through the highlights.

What stands out to me is the nice display for showing EQ and channel labels.  Ability to use their mixers on an Aviom network.  That would make upgrading easier and incremental if needed.  Ability to save to a jump drive is nice as well, no more having your preset recorded over.

Beyond that it’s like the Roland where you can group multiple inputs to one channel on the mixer.  This makes handling larger mixes very simple.  You can also set up each mixer with it’s own set of inputs custom to what each player needs.  Looks very promising!

Mackie HDA Speaker System

I got to check out Mackie’s new HDA arrayable speaker system today.  We are looking into it as an option at one of our satellite campuses.  I have to say we were pretty impressed with the sound right out of the box.

Basically these are self powered speakers with some processing already built in.  There’s an HDA top speaker that’s 110 degrees by 20 degrees with a 12″ low mid driver and two 1.7″ mid high drivers.  This matches up with the HD1801 subwoofer.

You can have a system as simple as one HDA and one HD1801 up to a flown system of two HD1801’s and four HDA’s.  (That’s the weight limit of the flying hardware.)  Ground stacked you could have as many subs as you want and up to 3 HDA’s stacked.  We are looking at two HDA’s and two HD1801’s per side ground stacked in our application.

We heard the HDA’s in a music store, not really an ideal setup, but it still let us know whether they were going to be an option or not.  They were set up with two HDA’s flown left and two flown right with two HD1801’s ground stacked.  All of the system processing was done in the boxes, no external processor was set up.

They sounded really nice.  Pretty smooth from front to back as you transitioned between boxes and very smooth from left to right.  Some line array systems transition very badly left to right with all kinds of weird phase issues in the middle of multiple hangs.  These aren’t really line arrays since you don’t couple the speakers but you get some of the benefits of a line array.  Being able to adjust the level between the HDA’s to better balance the level between the near and far seats is a benefit of an array style setup.

The built in processing resulted in a pretty smooth system response.  Nothing seemed like it was standing out or lacking.  Overall system EQ would still be needed to adjust for the room but out of the box you have a really nice starting point.

Price wise I’ve seen street prices of $1,800 per HDA and $1,000 per HD1801.  That means you could have a stereo rig with two HDA’s and two HD1801’s per side for about $11,200.  That’s a pretty rocking system for the money!  Some of our rooms have line array cabinets that cost thousands of dollars per speaker and you don’t have any amps or processing yet.

The HDA system is a great middle ground between powered speakers on sticks and a full blown line array system.  Both price wise and performance wise.  Now that we have heard these we are going to get an on-site demo and listen to them a little more critically.  I’m sure for the application we’re looking to use them for they’ll be great.

Check out Mackie’s site for more information on the HDA’s.  Also check out the Resolution coverage software.  It’s pretty easy to use and will let you plug in your room’s specs and see what kind of coverage you can expect from the system.

Smaart Live and Basic System Tuning

When you’re dialing in a system you’ll want something to reference along with your ears.  Smaart Live has been around a long time and offers a lot of features.  I use it with an Earthworks reference mic that gets it’s phantom power from an internal battery.  This allows me to use Smaart on my laptop and be completely portable without a board or power cables.  With a standard mic you’ll need to get phantom power from a board which usually ties you down to one spot.

Typically I’ll start tuning a PA with some pink noise and make some larger adjustments to get the PA in the ball park.  The software make this a quicker process than going by ear alone.  Once I make some tweaks with pink noise I’ll use the transfer function in Smaart.  This looks at the reference signal from the board and the measured signal from the mic and shows you the difference.  Now you can see the frequency response of the PA without listening to pink noise which can get annoying.

Once some large adjustments are in place I’ll listen to some music I know really well and tweak by ear.  Then go back to Smaart and see what’s happening. Listen, move locations, measure, repeat, etc.  I find that you don’t want to realy just on ears or software. Ears fatigue, software doesn’t.  That said I try to leave the “last word” to my ears.

Do you have to have measurement software to tune a PA?  No, but it will allow you to work much faster and be more precise.  And for dailing in system delays that are measured in milliseconds, you really need software.