The name BSS Audio (formerly known as Brooke-Siren Systems) conjures up images of ultrahigh-quality professional audio electronics: crossovers, DI boxes, EQs, delays, dynamics and power amps. The UK-based company’s latest entry into the digital speaker crossover/processor category, the MINIDRIVE, lives up to the BSS Audio legacy.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, installations
Key Features: Two-input/four- or six-output speaker crossover/processor; XLR connections; MIDI in/out/thru; individual output processing includes crossover filters, EQ, limiter and delay linking
Price: FDS 334: $1,250 FDS 366: $1,500
Contact: BSS Audio USA at 615-360-0277, BSS Audio UK at 44-1707-660-667; Web Site
+ Sound quality
+ Layout and design
+ Flexible routing and set up options
The Score: The BSS Audio FDS 336 MINIDRIVE is a high-quality speaker crossover/processor designed for a multitude of professional uses.
Designed for the live sound and fixed installation markets, the MINIDRIVE comes in two versions, the two-in/four-out FDS 334 ($1,250), and the two-in/six-out FDS 336 ($1,500), reviewed here. Both versions are a single rack space high. As with BSS Audio’s other digital speaker processors, the MINIDRIVE combines the time-tested layout of crossover filters with protection limiters, time offset delays, and EQ (both input and output) in a programmable, operator friendly package.
First, from left to right on the front panel is the LCD screen, which displays the name of the selected program and its associated parameters. Different parameters are accessed through use of a “NAVIPAD,” a four-direction navigational touch pad. As you scroll through the parameters, the NAVIPAD allows you to alter the displayed values in the window. Once you create a new program, you may title and lock it, preventing accidental erasure.
The FDS 336 functions in three basic editing modes: Input, Output and Utilities. The “Utilities” menu options include: crossover mode configurations (mono, three-way stereo [336 only] and a trio of two-ways [336 only]), linking functions, delay measurement units (feet, milliseconds, meters, frames.) lockout and password, screen contrast, program delete and several MIDI modes.
Direct access to edit the input parameters is gained via the A, B and SUM buttons. The MINIDRIVE features a simple input matrix whereby the operator can select from a standard left and right input for stereo operation. The user may also select the mono sum of both inputs or individually input A or B for various mono applications. The parameters for the A and B inputs include delay, and parametric EQ, delay only on the SUM.
Moving further to the right are six output LED meters, which indicate output level relative to the limiter threshold setting. Adjacent to each meter is a corresponding output trim knob. The primary function of these knobs is to allow instant access to gain adjustment for each corresponding output band +/-6 dB. Each knob also allows direct access to editing of the output parameters by pushing the control knob.
Editable output parameters include a variable threshold limiter, delay time, delay linking any two outputs (with or without delay offset), signal polarity, crossover point frequencies and filter slopes/shapes (up to 48 dB per octave). The rear panel contains all of the audio and MIDI I/O connections.
Audio input is through two female XLR connectors and audio output is through six male XLR connectors (four on the FDS334). Also on the rear panel, a standard complement of MIDI connections and an RS232 serial port to allow for future software upgrades via your PC as well as control via SIA SMAART LIVE and MINISTORE, a new program librarian available as download from the BSS Audio Web site.
I initially used the BSS MINIDRIVE [FDS 336] to control my Yorkville TX8 3-way speakers. Before hitting the road with the MINIDRIVE, I installed and tested the unit in my warehouse.
The single space processor mounted easily in the rack, and was quickly connected using standard XLR cables. There is no on/off switch to accidentally turn off during a show. The MINIDRIVE has protection relays to prevent start up thumps. As with all sound systems be sure to turn on all equipment prior to turning on your power amps.
The well-written user’s manual is a must-read. It offers plenty of information and tips to maximize use of the numerous functions. After the brief read and a few test runs, I was able to adjust bandwidth frequencies, levels and crossover slopes without referring to the manual. In just a short time, I felt completely comfortable with adjusting settings on the fly. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this unit is really the little brother of the BSS Audio OMNIDRIVE, a unit with which I am very familiar.
The combination of the three-way mains and the MINIDRIVE proved to be a flexible and powerful system. Over the course of several live events, the BSS unit performed flawlessly. I also tried the MINIDRIVE in other applications, including live monitor use with our Yorkville TX2M monitor system, and the results were the same: clean sound, concise control and familiar operation.
Once again, BSS Audio comes through with a winning product for live sound engineers. Although initial operation of the FDS 336 requires use of the manual, it does not take long to master the MINIDRIVE. I also found the audio quality superb, the connections simple, and the operation quite flexible.