Danish manufacturer DK-Audio is well known for its high-end audio metering systems employing high-resolution LCD screens. Though expensive, these meter systems are revered for their accurate displays and range of precision audio monitoring functions such as multiple format level metering, audio vector oscilloscope displays and phase metering.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, mastering, post production, broadcast
Key Features: Six-channel surround audio meter with Jelly-fish display; 11 customizable presets; phase meter; audio vector oscilloscope; level meter with seven selectable VU/PPM scales; FFT spectrum analyzer; 1/3-octave spectrum analyzer; VGA-output; bit stream analysis display
Contact: DK-Audio America at 800-421-0888 Web Site
+ Wide range of uses and functions
+ Unequalled metering displays
+ Highly customizable
– Required D-Sub to XLR cable not included
– No digital audio “thru”
The Score: The DK-Audio MSD600C-5.1 is a versatile and invaluable metering and audio analysis tool.
Since the introduction of DK-Audio’s first LCD-based stereo audio meter in 1993, the MSD550, the world of pro audio has undergone a multichannel revolution, embracing surround production with open arms. The company was right on the front line of the revolution when it debuted a now-familiar concept – its trademark “Jelly-Fish” surround display in previous models. Earlier this year, DK introduced its first dedicated surround metering system, the MSD600C-5.1 Master Display ($3,550).
The “MSD” in DK-Audio’s MSD range of metering products stands for Master Stereo Display. The range runs from the relatively inexpensive MSD100 series to the top of the line MSD600 series. The latter features color displays, multichannel PPM, FFT spectrum analysis, LEQ(m) loudness, and 1/3-octave and surround sound monitoring.
The MSD600C-5.1 model, despite retaining the MSD “Master Stereo Display” moniker, is specifically designed for 5.1 surround sound applications. The unit features six digital input channels (three AES/EBU digital pairs at sampling rates up to 96KHz) and the near-ubiquitous Jelly-Fish surround display. The MSD600C-5.1 can also be used as a “stereo x three” meter, displaying discreet digital audio stereo pairs next to each other for comparative or individual analysis.
As a testament to DK-Audio’s impressive presence in the audio metering market, several high-end board manufacturers, including Solid State Logic, have incorporated DK Audio’s displays as standard features in their consoles.
The meter unit, which measures 5 5/8 inches tall by 7 3/8 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches deep, comes with an adjustable swivel mounting bracket; an optional rack mount kit is available. The visible area of the color LCD screen window measures 4 inches high by 5.25 inches wide.
On the back of the unit, a female 15-pin connector allows connection to an external standard VGA monitor. Power to the unit is provided via a “line lump” transformer that attaches to the meter via a nine-pin RS232 connector and plugs into the power outlet using a standard IEC AC cable.
Audio input to the meter is via a female 25-pin D-Sub connector, also mounted on the rear of the unit. DK includes a bare male D-Sub connector and pin-out instructions so the user can make the cable (male 25-pin D-Sub to three female XLR connectors) required for making AES/EBU connections.
Although the primary function of the MSD600C-5.1 is as a six-channel surround audio meter and Jelly-fish display, it goes far beyond. Other notable features include a comprehensive phase meter, audio vector oscilloscope, FFT spectrum analyzer; 1/3-octave spectrum analyzer, seven selectable VU/PPM scales, 11 user-customizable presets and bit stream analysis display.
While DK-Audio did not make reviewing this product easy for me (manual was not completed so a stereo version was provided instead; had to solder my own D-sub to AES XLR x 3 cable to get audio to the unit), the MSD600C-5.1 quickly became an invaluable co-pilot in my increasingly frequent forays into the world of surround audio.
Though I have been working with surround audio for a few years, for myself, and perhaps the industry in general, it is still a relatively unfamiliar area with much yet to be charted. Even the most famous names in surround production admit there is much pioneering going on.
The MSD600C-5.1 needed no hype to endear itself to me. After familiarizing myself with its rather intuitive operations on a few of my own projects and later with clients (both stereo and surround audio/post production), its value in real-time metering and analysis was obvious. Further, the MSD600C-5.1 provided me with more technical confidence in making aesthetic surround choices and in mixing in general – not an easy feat to add significantly to the acumen of someone who has been mixing records for over 15 years!
Beyond my own impressions, the meter instilled confidence in clients as well (and if nothing else, they were certainly fascinated by the super-cool display – providing a side benefit I don’t need to spell out!).
Although I primarily stuck to the dual Jelly-Fish surround/six-channel level meter screen during mixing sessions, I also made good use of many of the display’s other features, most notably the FFT analyzer and the bit stream analysis display.
In fact, using the MSD600C-5.1’s bit stream analysis tool, I was able to confirm something that I had suspected but could not yet prove: that an album’s worth of material recorded on 24-track two-inch tape that a client had transferred to Pro Tools at another studio so I could mix was converted at 16-bit resolution instead of the claimed 24 bit. Busted!
In all cases, the MSD600C-5.1 functioned perfectly and proved its worth time and again, whether monitoring surround placement, verifying phase coherency, analyzing frequency content or checking digital audio data integrity.
I did have two issues of convenience with the MSD600C-5.1 as provided, neither interfering with the intended operation of the unit. The first is that there is no digital audio “thru” on this model, requiring some creative rethinking (or a digital distribution box – not an insignificant cost) in incorporating the unit in the exact same digital stream as that going to the stem recorder.
The other issue is that, with a unit in this price range, a specialized cable (D-Sub to three XLRs) required of its operation should be included in the package.
The DK-Audio MSD600C-5.1 is a near-necessity for most mixing, post and broadcast facilities – especially those working in 5.1 surround sound. At this point, I would be worried if I walked into a post or mastering facility with a client’s project and did not see a MSD600C-5.1 or one of its capable brethren on (or in) the console.